This fall semester marks our fourth year in business. It’s been a fantastic journey, filled with many opportunities and great relationships. Looking back, we realized that as we’ve grown, we've never taken the time to share how we got here. Some of you have been a part of our story since day one and some just for one week, but each has played a unique role in shaping the company we are today.

 

Uscape was inspired by the beauty of Bucknell University. As students, we loved the architecture and the vibrant sunsets that painted the Bucknell skyline orange and blue every day (we're not alone, the Princeton Review recently ranked Bucknell as the second most beautiful campus in the country). We thought these features captured the unique spirit of our favorite school and we wanted to share it with other students, fans, and alumni! Simultaneously, we were tired of traditional college apparel that looked the same, no matter what school you were from. We decided it was time for a new take on college apparel. Our first limited run of Bucknell Skyline shirts sold out in three hours, and after its success, Luke (a fellow Bucknell classmate) and I had ambitions to continue selling Uscape product to Bucknell students. However, we never really thought of taking Uscape beyond the cozy confines of Lewisburg.

 

During my junior year, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain and took my Bucknell Skyline shirt with me. In Spain, I met a lot of fellow American students from schools all around the country. I was surprised by how many of them were interested in getting a Skyline shirt made for their school. I realized every college and university also has landmarks and iconic imagery that students, fans, and alumni connect with. When I took my Bucknell Skyline shirt with me around the world, I was taking a piece of my home with me, something that isn't quite conveyed by a generic college t-shirt. We were on to something.

 

When I returned to school, we made our first bulk order of 72 Bucknell shirts with a local screen printer in Mifflinburg, PA and a boutique shop in downtown Lewisburg, PA called Retrah. Those sold out FAST, so we decided to expand to other schools. My younger sister Emily (then a sophomore at Bucknell) joined the team and helped us with design and marketing. After some aggressive cold calling (just ask Todd at Miami of Ohio) we added Miami University, University of Vermont, University of Richmond, and Mississippi State University, all of whom are still top schools for us. Today, Retrah likely still sells the most product per square foot out of any Uscape customer and that local screen printer is still a major partner in our business.

 

In the early days, we would drive over to Mifflinburg each week to pick up orders and then return to my fraternity house so we could tag, pack, and ship out to our stores. Between classes, D1 water polo, and Uscape, I stayed quite busy through my graduation in 2014. At that time, Uscape was still a hobby and I decided to go the corporate route and take a job in finance. My mom, Jackie, took over as head of sales, Emily designed during her free time, and I processed orders and paid the bills after work. It was truly a family affair. The goal was to get to 25 schools so I could pursue Uscape full-time. A year later, Jackie helped get us to nearly 50 schools, and I was able to jump ship in June of 2015 and run Uscape out of my parents’ garage in Corona Del Mar, CA. Emily then joined us full-time after graduating in May 2016 and I convinced my wife, Lauren, to leave her buying role at Houzz to join the team in January 2017. 

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As we enter the 2017-2018 school year, we have 20 designs, 30 SKU’s, and a passionate team of employees and sales reps. Our products can be found in over 300 stores across the US and Canada. Along the way we’ve navigated a changing environment in collegiate licensing, a shrinking retail landscape, and vendor consolidation. Our place in the market has become clear and we see the long-term value in bringing unique design and products to the collegiate marketplace. We have more momentum than ever before and we’re excited about bringing Uscape to stores around the country. From myself and our team, we want to thank you for the opportunity to represent your school. To our stores, it’s a privilege to sell to your customers and we look forward to continuing to work with you as a valuable vendor partner in the years to come. To our students, alumni, fans, and general lovers of Uscape Apparel, we would be nothing without your support and passion for the brand! We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!

#RepYourSkyline

 
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ALEX NOWLIN

FOUNDER & CEO OF USCAPE APPAREL

BUCKNELL UNIVERSITY CLASS OF 2014

 

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