Extreme Sports Clothing Company From Coeur d'Alene Creating A Big Buzz | Business
A clothing company in Coeur d'Alene is creating a buzz in the extreme sports world. I recently caught up with founder Brett Surplus to talk about building the brand. Brett is an outdoor enthusist who has a passion for extreme sports and his brand reflects that attitude.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into the MMA scene?
Well after becoming unemployed I was really tired of working for someone else, I felt that it seems these days most employers don't respect their employees like the should, and with me working those last few years in the telecommunications field I was gonna set out and start my own company.
I had an agreement set with Direct TV to be a Satellite Dealer and Installer under my own dealership. I would attend MMA Events on the weekends with co-workers who were fighters trying to make there way up the chain. What gave you the idea to start the company?
So I set out to put together a business card and thinking about what to call it, Growing up I was called "B" and my nieces and nephews all call me "Uncle B", so I decided to call it B's Electronics. I then met up with a old high school friend named Bart Mcalister who owned a sign shop in Coeur d' Alene.
I told him that I wanted a Bee for my mascot on my business card. We found a bee that I could use for my company and I bought the rights to use it. I had 1000 cards made and started distributing them out to potential clients. It was then that friends and people started asking me if i was gonna have shirts made because they loved the logo. The first "Bee" we used was sorta cartoonish and wasn't the current logo. After having so many requests for shirts I was staring at my business card and I realized something about it that threw me out of my seat. Around the "Bee" we had designed a metal Honeycomb pattern surrounding it. It was then that It dawned on me they were like MMA cages. I then spent that weekend researching any and all companies that were in the MMA industry using a Bee. After 3 days of non stop research and over 100 thousand pieces of information, I realized that there wasn't anything in the extreme sports Industry. I then had a design made for the first shirt, the first week we sold 137 alone on facebook. I then contacted my cousin in the Tri Cities that is a full time Sheriffs Deputy, but is also a graphics design major and together we came up with a newer original logo that has allot more tougher look to it. Him and I have been partners ever since.
What's up with the name?
Being from the northwest we all are pretty familiar with yellow jackets, there most of the time mean, if your stung it hurts and no matter how much you try to swat at them they keep trying to attack you,Great athletes don't give up on there opponent and in MMA every hit stings so it just seems fitting for MMA, Motorcross or any extreme sport in general. You had some issues with Georgia Tech, tell me about that?
When it comes to trademarks there are a lot of categories and in the Apparel category Georgia Tech owns the "Yellow Jackets" trademark, well with us were spelled singular and theirs is plural. So I reached out to the University and ask for permission, I was then contacted by the Licensing firm that handles the legal protection for the University. We discussed each others logos and was met with very friendly and helpful communication. The University was very appreciative that I made contact with them, they felt it was an upstanding thing to do, and in there view there wouldn't be any confusion between there logo and ours. They wished us the best for our business and just asked if we would not open a store front in Georgia....which was fine by us.
How is your gear made?
Most "fight apparel" companies are merely screen printed shirts from a local screen print shop, which there designs are put on a golden or Hanes shirt. Were we are different, Yellow Jacket is a "brand" of apparel. We design the clothing all the way from the design patterns to the pockets. We found higher quality coming from India then anywhere, Yellow Jacket is the only company with a 17oz hoodie in the U.S. The highest most other apparel companies make is 14oz. Our fight gear and Training gear is made in Pakistan where it is the mecca for leather gloves and equipment.
We tried to use American companies but the cost are so high that you pay almost what you'd pay in the store...there would be no room for any profit. Our Motorcross Helmet covers are made in the states from a company that owns the patent on it. We have a licensing agreement with the company. Were now working with a manufacture over seas for our Hunting Apparel that provides a new reversible camo pattern that hasn't been in the U.S. At this point were working on the exclusive rights agreement with them to be the only company to provide this new type of Hunting Apparel.
What's the response been from the MMA Community?
The response has been tremendous, we receive hundreds of emails and Facebook messages each month asking about sponsorships and gear availability. Our fan base has doubled this last year and we were one of the top three companies out of 20 nominated for Top sponsor for Northwest Fight Scene Magazine. We're now working with bigger management companies that deal with well known fighters, some that are former UFC champions or veterans.
Our brand has spread like wildfire and has caught the attention of a few well known UFC Veterans such as Jens Pulver, Maurice Smith, and Frank Shamrock. Those are a few that have received clothing and gear from us. We've recently been contacted by larger MMA shows such as "Shark Fights" and "Friday Night Fights", and have been asked to jump on board and be the sponsor of there shows.
Is your gear just for fighters or can anyone wear them?
Our stuff is for every extreme sport enthusiast, we started in the MMA industry because it was the fastest growing but we want our brand to be known in a lot of areas. We have a lot of MMA and Motocross fans who love our logo, so we don't put "fight gear" on our clothes.
The only products that have "Fight Gear" or "Training Gear" on them is the gloves or actual training gear. We hope to cover most extreme sports and outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. I'm a outdoor fanatic and that was one area I wanted to do, I want to provide good quality, unique hunting clothing that was priced well for consumers. Now a days you see a hunting jacket and they range from 100-300 dollars, to me that's ridiculous. Our plan is to be able to have a consumer be able to buy a jacket and matching pants for the same price as 1 over priced name brand jacket. We feel that if all the terms are met Yellow Jacket could corner the Hunting Apparel market with providing water proof reversible hunting clothes, set at low prices.
What's your hope with the company as it grows?
I really would like to be able to sponsor some fighters on the UFC but unfortunately they have such a high royalty fee, it makes it impossible for smaller companies to do. We hope to be a strong competitor for companies such as "FOX" racing or "Fairtex". We do have an upper hand in this, with our logo being so versatile , were able to cross into just about anything. Most of the other companies have narrowed themselves down to one market, so We hope to be as large as Under Amour or Nike. For me personally I would like to be the largest name out there in MMA, Motor Cross and the Hunting Apparel industry.
How can people buy your gear?
The last week of March we will be starting to set up shop at the Rocken Closet which is located at 7736 N. Government Way, Dalton Gardens Idaho. We are currently in talks with other stores in different states so hopefully soon our products will be available in the major market place. We have an online store which anyone can order products and also view photos of MMA shows and fighters we sponsor, we hope to develop our motor cross clothes here by summer. You can find us at www.yellowjacketapparel.com and on facebook at www.facebook.com/yellowjacketapparel
Tell me anything else you want people to know.
We were fortunate to have sponsored Mike "300" Hayes from Seattle Washington, Mike formally fought on the Bellator show held on MTV, but for this last fight Mike fought on the show "Cage Warriors" which is a huge International show seen on FX all across the globe. Mike was flown to Dubai India were he wore our gear as he defeated Andreas Kraniotakes for the Cage Warriors Heavy Weight Title Belt. And on the 30th of this month we will have former UFC champion Maurice Smith fighting in our gear in Nebraska for the show RFA, Smith will be cornered by two all time UFC greats, Frank Shamrock and Ivan Salaverry which both of them will be sporting our clothing for the fight. www.yellowjacketapparel.com