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Highlights | Interviews

THE INTERVIEW WITH ALI VON PARIS, ROUTE ONE APPAREL

15 Jun - 2023

Tags from the story: Ali Von Paris, Route One Apparel.

Ali Von Paris is the founder and CEO of Route One Apparel, a Maryland-based online retailer that was recently named the fastest-growing private company in the Baltimore area.

LM interviewed the young entrepreneur to know more about the company and future projects.

How did your brand come about and what results are you most satisfied with today?

Ali von Paris

Ali von Paris

I came up with the idea for Route One Apparel while still a college student at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. It began when a popular bar, The Thirsty Turtle in College Park, Maryland closed, and I lost my job. To commiserate on this loss, I designed a t-shirt sporting the phrase “Turtle Survivor” and handed them out to my friends. The shirt quickly became so popular that I was asked to make it available on social media, so I posted a photo of it on my Facebook page, and it exploded. Within one week I had 1,500 orders.

To build on that momentum, I started designing shirts celebrating other staples of life at UMD and before I knew it, I had a budding business. I recruited fellow students as my first staff members and rented a room on campus as our meeting place to brainstorm new designs, coordinate orders, and arrange sales events. I utilized the school’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship to develop my first five-year business plan and was a finalist in The 2012 Cupid’s Cup – a competition for campus entrepreneurs hosted by the Dingman Center and Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank.

Over the years, in addition to adding new products and designs, I have primarily grown Route One Apparel through wholesale agreements with retailers and license agreements with recognizable and popular brands. My first licensing deal was with UMD – when they realized we were making waves on campus, they actually reached out to me for licensing.

I am most proud that, starting, at a very young age, I was able to get licensing rights with many reputable, giant businesses – including billion-dollar companies like McCormick, Utz, and more recently, Hershey and Morton Salt. It took a lot of time and hard work to obtain these licenses because I had to prove myself as a small business owner to the decision-makers at these corporations and prove that Route One Apparel could step up and be a creative and reputable partner. Today, not only do we have licenses with these companies, but they consider us a prioritized and preferred partner.

When I successfully negotiated our contract with Hershey, Route One Apparel became their first-ever “local licensee.” Last year, we also secured a partnership with ItSugar that now has Route One Apparel’s Hershey collection featured in brick-and-mortar stores in every state in the country.

In 2022, I added Morton Salt to Route One Apparel’s family of national brands. This is the first corporation we’ve worked with that is headquartered outside of our local Mid-Atlantic market, and I’m excited to continue to expand Route One Apparel to have a more nationwide focus.

What new things are planned for the coming months?

Our continued goal as a company over the next six months is to expand our current and new licensing deals to distribute more products to retail stores across the country. Our licensed products – across more than 80 product categories – are currently carried in over 200 stores nationwide and we only hope to continue this growth with new retail opportunities in the coming months.

We also strive to be an asset to all our licensing partners’ marketing teams and assist with promotional efforts and campaigns throughout the year. We take pride in the fact that many of our licensed brands consider us their go-to company to produce new products for their internal audiences and consumers. Our licensing partners trust our designers to create fresh and fun designs that honor the integrity of their brands while pushing them in new directions. In addition, we have the capability to produce high-quality items with a quick turnaround. So, our ideal licensing partners are companies who are eager to collaborate creatively, ready to buy products in bulk, and who have a wide reach.

Curated by Rossella Arena


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