Jesse Cox and Brandon McGowan are childhood friends who eventually became roommates at Penn State. Now they have started a new endeavor together— launching their own clothing line.
Cox (senior-information sciences and technology) and McGowan (senior-management information systems) started working on 814 Shirt in January. According to the pair, they were unable to launch the brand in the spring as originally planned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, they said they were able to work on building their brand on social media over the summer and launched their first line in time for the first Penn State football game.
Through 814 Shirt, Cox and McGowan hope to “give State College a name” that brings “more business and more people” to the town.
“We believe State College is such a special town that we needed something to recognize it," Cox said.
For McGowan, the business has the potential to bring people together.
“We’re not just ‘814’ on a shirt,” McGowan said. “It’s more than a shirt. It’s not just the school. You look at the shirt and you think of the town, the vibes from it, the culture and the people that live here.”
Hannah Rupp is an 814 Shirt customer who heard about the company through its Instagram page. Rupp (senior-marketing), a Pittsburgh native, said she grew up around “412” merchandise, a popular design for Pittsburgh-themed clothing and accessories.
According to Rupp, 814 Shirt’s products have the ability to “make people understand [what] State College is.”
“Everyone knows who ‘412 Pittsburgh’ is,” Rupp said. “I think [814 Shirt] will really make people understand who State College is, and what students are coming together to do.”
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Connor Marsiglia, a class of 2020 graduate with a degree in information sciences and technology, bought a T-shirt from 814 Shirts after seeing the company on social media.
“Penn State really separates itself from a lot of other universities, being such a tight knit community,” Marsiglia said. “It’s important to support our students in everything they do.”
As an alum, Marsiglia said it is important to “be proud of where you came from,” and a T-shirt is a “great way” to show off one’s pride.
“There will always be a part of me that belongs in Happy Valley,” Marsiglia said.
Together, Cox and McGowan manage the entire company by themselves, including its website, social media platforms and graphic design. They have also collaborated with other State College startup businesses.
Chelsea Lefkowitz is the founder of Taste of State, a food blog and Instagram page that “highlights the best tastes in Happy Valley.” She collaborated with 814 Shirt by providing a promo code for their products on her blog.
According to Lefkowitz (senior-advertising), it is “super time consuming” to manage a startup business as a college student. She said it is “important” to collaborate with other local companies to build publicity and a brand, as well as to support the community.
“No one loves Penn State like Penn State,” Lefkowitz said.
814 Shirt’s current offerings include T-shirts and other apparel like stickers that can be purchased online at 814shirt.com. Cox and McGowan said they hope to expand their clothing and accessory lines in the future.
At the moment, 814 Shirt exists only as an online business. However, a physical location would be the “ultimate goal” for Cox and McGowan. The pair also said in the future, they hope to assist other local startup companies through donations and collaboration.
“We want to give back as much as we can,” Cox said. “It’s about building State College as a brand rather than us as a brand.”