Emerson entrepreneurs hope to be Quiyk learners

Pair of juniors launch athletic apparel company in conjunction with the Quidditch World Cup

by Ian Brophy / Beacon Staff • December 1, 2011

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Students fill their dorm rooms with different things, but Matt Lowe (l) has stocked his with Quiyk's product. Eric Wahl (r) lives off-campus, but poses with Lowe and their clothing.
Students fill their dorm rooms with different things, but Matt Lowe (l) has stocked his with Quiyk's product. Eric Wahl (r) lives off-campus, but poses with Lowe and their clothing.

 

With a quill and a dream, J.K. Rowling spun a tale of a magical world that captivated the minds of millions of people worldwide.  

Now, two Emerson students are trying to create their own magic with the help of the author’s idea.

Juniors Matt Lowe and Eric Wahl launched a new athletic apparel company called Quiyk Nov. 12 at the Quidditch World Cup on Randall’s Island in New York City.

Lowe, a visual and media arts major, and Wahl, a marketing communication major, said the company got off to a fast start selling two-thirds of its inventory at the Quidditch World Cup at a stand. While participants in the competition ran around on brooms, the duo’s operation stood out, with its bright colors and well-stocked shelves.

“We made a killing based on gross, I guess. We sold almost 700 shirts and shorts,” Wahl said. “The reality of it is, there are a lot of start up costs.”

Lowe and Wahl said the money to start the company came mostly from friends and family.

“Fortunately, it’s not like the standard investor where they are looking to get a piece of the company right off the bat. A big chunk came out of my pocket also,” Wahl said. “We got enough from people we knew who trusted us.”

The pair declined to release any of the company’s financial figures but did speak to Quiyk’s start up costs.

“We could have bought a nice new car,” said the two friends, laughing.

The laughter is a reminder that the founders of this company are college students with a full workload on top of running a business.

“What is difficult is being a student and trying to launch a business at the same time,” Wahl said. “I have to figure out time to do homework and try to further our business.”

Lowe, a resident assistant, and Wahl, a member of the Emerson men’s basketball team, have brought on Gemma Simko as a director of marketing to help with the workload.

Simko, a junior marketing major, said she helps Wahl and Lowe with anything they need help with, and the trio has had a tough time defining roles.

“That was one of our biggest struggles, trying to figure out a title,” Simko said. “Right now I guess my biggest job is we don’t want to get stuck in Quidditch, so trying to figure out marketing tactics that won’t make us the Quidditch company.”

All three members of Quiyk are taking Emerson’s E3 entrepreneurship program. The course instructs students to monotize an idea and found a business with a competition at the end wherein the winner is awarded financial help for their business.

The E3 competition boasts alumni like the Green Street Vault, a mobile clothing store now seeing burgeoning success. Lowe said the class offers some resources but Quiyk was not a class project.

Wahl agreed and spoke of Quiyk functioning outside of the E3 program.

“Getting a grant or free lawyer services at the end of the year [from the E3 program] would be awesome, but at the same time, that’s not our focus,” Wahl said. “That’s not the end of our company if we don’t get it.”

Lowe and Wahl said the future of this company is not limited, and they want to expand outside of Quidditch.

“We want to identify as an athletic apparel company,” Lowe said. “We put in a lot of effort and care into making sure our products are firstly athletic products. The next step is expanding into other athletic markets — that’s going to be the next big challenge.”

Quiyk’s products, which are produced entirely in Seattle, are made from 92 percent polyester and eight percent spandex material.

“The types of technology, the features, the cut, the stitching, the labels, even the fabrics are predominantly for any athlete to wear,” Lowe said.

The two close friends, both originally from from Seattle, came up with the idea of Quiyk after meeting their freshman year at Emerson while playing Quidditch.

“We both played house league Quidditch, and I was out there watching this guy play,” Wahl said. “I was sitting there thinking. ‘everybody is running around in cotton shirts and there is no standardization,’ so it just came up in conversation.”

The self-described two good friends would like to expand their business into other athletic realms and are not limiting themselves.

“We are also thinking why can’t we be the next Nike?” Wahl said. “Under Armour had to start somewhere. Why can’t we do what they did?”

Lowe agreed, and spoke of the future of the young company, and of its difficulties.

“The next step is expanding into other athletic markets and that is going to be the big challenge — finding a way to get in there.”