In the world of Valentine’s Day gifts, three students hope to relegate candy, chocolates and flowers to second-string status.
Seniors Matt Stein and Igor Geftman and graduate student Jared Ablon recently started the Fan of the Month Club, a business that sells three-, six- and 12-month packages of sports merchandise of various MLB, NCAA and NFL teams. They’re marketing the product as a gift for women to give men for Valentine’s Day.
Tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, students around the campus are likely scrambling to find last-minute gifts for their significant others. But when aisles are lined with chocolate and flowers, the perfect presents for men may be hard to come by.
“All the stuff they advertise [for Valentine’s Day] – jewelry, flowers, etc. – is geared toward women,” said senior journalism major Douglas Quzack.
He said the business could change that notion, however, and put a twist on what is often seen as “a girl holiday.”
Stein, Geftman and Ablon launched Fan of the Month Club (monthlyfangear.com) in the second week of January as part of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s first winter break start-up boot camp. The Dingman Center, based in the business school, initially invested $2,300 in the company, with the possibility of more money in the future, said Asher Epstein, the center’s managing director.
For three weeks in January, 28 participants spent about 100 hours brainstorming ideas, developing a business plan and networking with investors. Epstein organized the winter break boot camp in December after multiple students asked him how they could get business experience. Students welcomed “a head start in creating new opportunities for themselves,” Epstein said.
The students won’t release specific sales numbers, but Stein, a 21-year-old kinesiology major, said the company has sold “a limited number” of packages.
According to the SportsBusiness Journal, the sale of officially licensed league merchandise is a $10.5 billion industry. Stein, Geftman and Ablon, fans of the Mets, Ravens and Lakers, respectively, wanted to use gift packages as a way to tap into that market.
They handpicked products they thought would go well together. One month might bring a jersey, while another brings a fan towel, team tapestry and antenna toppers. Their company is the only one of its kind selling monthly merchandise packages, Stein said.
And though they are targeting women, one customer was a man buying a three-month Redskins package for a woman for Valentine’s Day, Ablon, 27, said.
The National Retail Federation has predicted a decrease in Valentine’s Day spending from last year’s average of $123 per person to $103. But Ablon, who noted the company’s three-month package is priced at less than $100, is undeterred. Most packages are worth about $55.
“We don’t have last year to judge any disappointment, so anything that we do get we’re actually really excited about,” Ablon said.
Geftman, 23, agreed. “Obviously the recession is going to hurt us, because you have less people that are willing to spend $100 on a gift,” Geftman, a fire protection engineering major, said. “Once in a while it’s OK to spend $100 on a gift, especially for Valentine’s Day and birthdays.”
Sophomore English major Kimery Musser agreed with spending money for a birthday gift but has different ideas about Valentine’s Day.
“I think Valentine’s Day is just more of a spend-time-together holiday,” Musser said.
The company placed ads in The Diamondback and on DailyCandy and handed out fliers at university basketball games.
“We’re excited about this. This is something we really want to pursue, so we’re going to try to do all we can for our customer,” Stein said.
Senior accounting and finance major Wayne Tan said he would only expect “small things like cards or chocolate” from a girl for Valentine’s Day. Tan, a big sports fan, called the Fan of the Month Club “pretty cool.”