2021 Year in Review


2021 Year in Review 

2021 was an expansive year for us. While the world has had its ups and downs battling the effects of COVID and supply chain issues, we were still able to see amazing growth in our business and bring on even more talented individuals to our team! 

Finding creative solutions is the most accurate way to sum up our 2021. To kick off the year, we created Orange Krush gift boxes for the members at the University of Illinois heading back to school! Gift boxes became a big solution in 2020 and rolled into 2021 when students remained virtual. 

Our creativity continued throughout the year highlighted by launching one of the first NIL merch solutions for college athletes, expanding Total Merch Management to more Greek clients, developing over 100 college student designers, and most of all using merchandise and design to express our customer's passions.

Mental Health Awareness 

We’ve always valued mental health at Campus Ink and in 2021 we needed those reminders more than ever. Our students began creating merchandise to raise awareness and fundraise for mental health organizations. In January, Jean Garcia designed and launched a music-inspired t-shirt ‘Hope is real, Help is real’ that features song lyrics as well as the suicide hotline phone number. We gifted each of our students a shirt to remind everyone that mental health matters.  

Mindful Movement

In March, Student Designer Olivia Bloemke worked with the University of Illinois RSO Mindful Movement. Mindful Movement is for any individual that simply enjoys dance. This organization allows students to release any stress accumulated throughout the day and connect with other individuals that share a similar passion as them. Dancers have the opportunity to discuss with fellow members what motivates them and make dance an impactful experience in their life.

I Hope You’re Smiling & Be Kind to Yourself

In February, Niki Patton released the “I hope you’re smiling” collection and in August the “be kind to yourself” collection. The Tik Tok influencer launched the lines to promote positivity. Included in the collection were hats, shirts, hoodies, masks, and tote bags. Spreading positivity and sending gentle reminders out into the community was Niki’s goal.

 

Note to Self

In September, our team launched the Note to Self shirt for National Suicide Prevention Week. For this project, our team came together to collect some of their favorite quotes to put on the back of the tee. The Note to Self shirt is a reminder for anyone who needs it to keep going. The Note to Self fundraiser raised awareness for suicide prevention and mental health that reached 15,000 people and raised $1,335 for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

 

Our team grew! 

Across the board we gained many new team members last year! Some in the production shop in Urbana, some in our Chicago office, and even some across the country working remotely!

Chicago Team 

Jessica Feldman, who is a recent graduate from The University of Missouri, is our newest Director of Students and Sales. She joined the team on June 1, just in time to lead the interns. She currently manages and teaches 40+ students across several campuses. Jess studied fashion merchandising in college and adapted to the Campus Ink role so well and is already a huge asset to the team.

Haley Allen is a recent graduate of Illinois State University. Haley has been with us since her freshman year of college (2017). She has played many roles on the Campus Ink team, from Student Designer, Marketing intern, TMM intern, and now a full-time Director of Marketing and Sales. She also manages a team of 10 students! She started her full-time position on June 1 as well and lead the marketing interns through the summer. Haley studied graphic design and communications in college. We are so happy to have her on the full-time team! 

Mike O'Neill is an alum from The University of Illinois who started his full-time position on August 1! We couldn’t be happier to have him back on the team. He is now the Creative Account Manager for 8 national fraternities and runs what we call TMM Land. He has been a total pro at managing and running these accounts and brings so many fresh ideas to the table. 

Champaign Team

Jenna Koss joined our team in Urbana at the beginning of August as the Director of Corporate and Community Engagement. Since then, she has picked up many roles in the production shop! She ensures everything is running smoothly and does an excellent job.

Jason Johnson joined our team this fall as Fulfillment Manager. He works in our production shop in Urbana as well. Making sure products are fulfilled and ordered in a timely manner is not an easy task, but Jason makes it look effortless. He is consistently on top of the game, checking stock, communicating with the team and getting all the apparel ordered as needed!

Julia Gall joined our team as well, working on inside sales, customer relations and customer success. She works in the front office of our Urbana facility so if you ever stop in she will be there to greet you!

Remote Team

Laura Graves joined our team as the Virtual Executive Assistant. She handles administrative tasks, such as ATS/CRM data management, maintaining budgets, tracking expenses and customer support. Laura is Campus Ink’s ray of sunshine and brings so much positivity to the team every day.

Kristina Abdelaziz manages marketing for TMM social media, sends emails, writes blogs, and focuses on utilizing new media marketing strategies to promote growth.

Total Merch Management (TMM) 

Official Vendors for Fraternities 

Our Total Merch Management branch is growing as well! This year we became the official vendors for Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Delta Upsilon, and Lambda Chi. We headed out to 2 SAE conventions, 2 Phi Delt conventions, 1 Sigma Chi convention and 1 Lambda Chi convention this year. At the conventions, we sell custom apparel, connect with members in each chapter, and recruit new Student Designers. We now brand, supply, manage and create solutions for 8 national fraternities. Sigma Chi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Upsilon, Phi Delta Theta, Lambda Chi, Tau Kappa Epsilon

Outdoors Collection & New Brother Bundle

Through the fall, we launched Outdoors Collections for these organizations that included Carhartt, Eddie Bauer, and The North Face for their fall/winter apparel lines. Within these launches, we created New Brother Bundles which gives new members the opportunity to stock up on some of their favorite gear at a discounted price. Bundles included a shirt, hoodie, flag, and hat. 

Philanthropy

Through the official stores, we were able to raise money for the organization's philanthropies. In January, we did a limited Hockey sweater release with TKE. In March, we created a limited baseball jersey release for Phi Delta Theta, and a limited Sigma Chi Derby Days shirt.

Illini Store

Pop-Up Shop

In March, we opened a pop-up shop for the Illini Store in Lincoln Park! We rented out a space and completely transformed it into Illini Land. We’re talking orange walls, Block I, orange and blue lighting, all of it. We sold custom Illini merch for March Madness, and our team had so much fun creating this space. 

It was the first time we had ever attempted an in-store retail experience for our customers, and we will definitely be trying it out again. This store was located at 1134 W. Armitage Ave. it gained a lot of foot traffic and attention from Illini fans and beyond. We even had local news coverage. 

Since then, the Illini Store has really taken off. We launched a Shirt of the Month Club called the 1867 Club (the year U of I was founded). Every month, customers receive a custom-designed Illini themed shirt for $18.67 shipped directly to them. 

NIL

The Name, Image, and Likeliness law opened up a whole new avenue and market for merchandise. Our Student Designer Joey Hartz has taken this opportunity to create merch for the Illini men’s basketball team. At first, it was a few players and now we have signed nearly the entire team! Joey has done an amazing job creating, communicating and branding these players. He has grown the Illini Store so much that we brought on two interns to help with the store, Bianca Voss (Junior, University of Illinois) and Marisa Osowski (Junior, University of Illinois). 

We signed Brandin Podziemski, Andre Curbelo, Rj Melendez, Luke GoodeAlfonso Plummer, Coleman Hawkins, Kofi Cockburn, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Jacob Grandison, and Austin Hutcherson. Since we started selling merch for athletes, we've had custom merch drops, hosted live in-store events, added  “The Locker Room” to the Illini Store, and released a replica jersey for Illinois Basketball legend Dee Brown. 

We transformed the Campus Ink Lab on the U of I campus into a pop-up Curbelo store for his birthday on October 13. Student Designers came to help decorate, sell, and hang out! 

Student Designer Program 

Our Student Designer Program is continuously growing! We finished the year with 130 students across 40 campuses. 

Interns

Summer 2021 was one for the books and many firsts for Campus Ink. We had 8 interns come out to join our Chicago team. The different teams included, marketing, hiring and recruiting, TMM, and a videographer. We had a blast learning and teaching with them. 

The Marketing Team included Colleen Claffy (Junior, University of Iowa)  and Gavin McQuillan (Junior, Iowa State University). They curated content for socials, managed social media accounts, increased company following by 1,000 - upwards of 18.5% in 2 months, collaborated with our videographer, developed and built lasting brand guideline resources, analyzed social media and marketing trends, reached 39.9K accounts (a 292% increase). 

The hiring and recruiting team included Grace Risinger  (Sophomore, Bucknell University), Alina Kachalskaya (Junior, University of Illinois), and Spencer Christensen (Junior, Michigan State University). They worked on creating and planning the expansion of the company through the Student Designer Program, successfully launched the program on new campuses, and identified candidates through multiple sources including employee referrals, social networking sites, and alumni.

The TMM Team included Reese Wyatt (Sophomore, University of South Florida), and CJ Owen (Junior, University of Virginia). Throughout the internship, they collaborated with each other to manage eight international fraternity accounts, build relationships with fraternity members to provide clients with custom apparel experiences, converted 20% of prospects into potential clients, scheduled content for socials, managed prospects, and networked upwards of 900 members. 

The Marketing and Sales Intern for Clubhouse Athletic was Carter Crayne (Sophomore, University of Nebraska). He attained $15K+ in sales, managed sublimated apparel orders for greek life and influencers, branded personal clients, and assisted in communication with overseas manufacturing suppliers. 

The videographer intern was Jake Aks (Junior, DePaul University). He filmed and edited interviews, skits, and promotional videos, collaborated with the marketing team, developed creative content, accurately portrayed/promoted the brand, and developed internal content for educational resources. 

It wasn’t all work, we had some fun too of course. We took them out to Wrigleyville and went to a Cubs game. Had a weekend trip to Steven’s lake house, traveled to Champaign to show them around the production shop, and toured Rowboat Creative in Chicago. 

Bucket Night

The Student Designer Program at The University of Illinois is our largest Student program across the country. To celebrate each year, we host Bucket Night at a bar on campus. Student Designers give out wristbands to all of their friends for entry and free drinks from 8 pm - 9 pm. Every drink is served in a blue Campus Ink Bucket and it’s a night to show appreciation to our students and customers! 

Bid day Giveaway

This summer we strived to supply our sorority member customers with tools for hosting a successful bid day. To achieve this we created several top 5 favorites lists: top 5 bid day themes, top 5 accessories, and top 5 fonts for them to use. 

On top of the resources, we hosted a Bid Day Giveaway. We gave away $1,000 to a chapter for bid day branding. Included in the giveaway were a sign + banner, 3 polaroid cameras, a speaker, a photoshoot lighting kit, a custom Snapchat geo-filter, and stickers for their entire chapter. Our goal was to help the winner of the giveaway upgrade their bid day! The lucky winner was Kappa Kappa Gamma at Illinois State University!

Pop-A-Shot Giveaway

We of course had to do a fraternity giveaway as well! We decided to give away a custom-designed Pop-a-Shot for the fraternities. The winner of the Pop-A-Shot giveaway was Delta Sigma Phi at the University of Iowa. We worked with their members to come up with a custom design and sent it directly to their chapter house. 

Draplin

In April we held a company-wide call with all of our students and Aaron Draplin. Aaron Draplin is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and graphic designer. He gave our students advice on design, customer relations, file organization, and more. This was our second year having a call with Aaron. Draplin has been featured on TED Talks, co-founded the “Field Notes” brand, and has designed for clients like Burton, Nike, Patagonia, and Target! 88 members of our Student Designer Program and HQ Team tuned in to learn from him. He spoke about setting the foundation of your projects in an organized way, how to keep things simple, and most importantly being kind and respectful to others. Some quotes we took away from this experience are 

  • “By being logical, clean, and concise from the beginning, you’re shaving off time that you’d need to take later on.”
  • “It’s one thing to design something cool, but it’s another art form to take craft in how you can build out a file.”
  • “Don’t tell yourself you have a creative block - or you will!”
  • “Your infrastructure matters more than just your art - set up a solid foundation.”

2022

Cheers to 2021! We are looking forward to what 2022 has in store. Thank you for being a part of our journey. Happy New Year! 


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