Building a T-Shirt Company From Your Basement with Peter Fertiguena

by / ⠀Entrepreneur Interviews / August 21, 2022

academy printwear

We caught up with Peter Fertiguena, 27 year old founder of Academy Printwear. Peter attended Southern Connecticut State for 3 semesters but then dropped out because he hated learning facts and simply wanted to discover things for himself.  He began touring with the band he was a part of which is where he ran into problems printing merchandise. This was when he decided to take on this task himself and before long Academy Printwear was born out of a basement.

Academy Printwear has seen massive growth recently and with Peter’s hard work, innovation and constant desire to stay ahead of the curve he plans on pushing the company even further. Read the full interview with Peter below…

How did Academy Printwear come to life? Whats the story behind the idea?

I was in a band and we always felt like we were getting ripped off printing merchandise, so we bought a screen printing kit for $1500, I took 5 orders before we even knew how to print a shirt too pay for it, and started printing tee’s in our basement.  3 years ago when I had a bigger client base I took the leap and started doing it full time.  It was really hard doing business out of your basement at first, so I had a crazy idea to fully merchandise this movie called “My New Haircut” which had never been done. The video ended up receiving 23 million views, I ended up managing them, putting them on a national tour, and that’s where we developed into more than a t-shirt company. In January we just released our own clothing line and are very excited about selling our own product!

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Did you always see yourself starting a business?

Honestly, I’ve always wanted to, I didn’t know academy is what I would end up doing.  Some of my family members own Subway franchise stores, I knew I didn’t want to be in the food industry, I wanted to do something more creative.

Did you dropout of college to start the business? If so how did you take that leap and know it was a good idea?

I did drop out of college, but not necessarily to start this business. I dropped out to tour with the band I was in at the time with for a while.  College made me feel very confused and trapped, and I hated just learning facts, I like discovering things for myself.  I love the process of trial and error it’s the pure essence of being an entrepreneur.  I don’t think I ever “know” things are good ideas, you kind of just feel it, I knew I had a good concept so I kind of just went with it, and it’s worked out ok so far.

You talk about how the term Academy hits home with Gen Y…What other marketing strategies do you use to hit home with your target audience?

We do a lot of viral videos with our series called academyLIFE we also do a lot with the music industry, host different concerts, and interviews with our clients.  We work closely with Red Bull and just recently did a small northeastern college tour where we crashed house parties, and brought amazing bands with us to perform.  We have an great network of big and small companies we work with and cross promotion is really key to our marketing.

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300k in revenue in the first 12months is amazing. What do you think was the key behind that success?

I think being creative, working really hard, and always trying to stay ahead of the curve. We rely on our diverse network to know the newest bands, sites, clothing labels, trends. Luck has to do with it too, you always need a little of that. Also, there is the less glamorous side as well, making sure your books are tight, paying people on time, and managing the business side of things is the hardest and yet most important part.  But if you work hard, deliver on your word, think outside the box, and stay true to yourself and your brand,  good things will happen.

What have you learned about working with business partners? How have you managed being friends but still rocked the business world?

Business, friendship, family it’s all a fine line here. We spend everyday working together, and we also hang out outside of work.  The hardest thing is separating the emotions between business and friendship, and being honest with each other. We try to act as if academy is its own person and the company is the real boss and it dictates what should happen.  Everyone has the same attitude which is, academy is a lifestyle not a job, so it makes it a little easier.

What has been the hardest part about starting and running a company?

I think the ups and downs, and trying to manage a real life at the same time.  Some days you feel like you are gonna make millions, some days you want to crawl under a rock.  If you keep the bigger picture in mind, it makes it a little easier.  Also, dealing with so many different types of people everyday, especially your employees/friends. You have to be respectful of people which always isn’t easy.  You have a million things running through your mind at once, and a ton of stress, and it’s easy to take it out people closest to you.

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What is in store for the future of Academy Printwear?

We just released our own clothing line in January it’s time to start keeping some of those golden ideas for ourselves lol. We have concept retail store plans, some new different types of products we are pitching right now, and some key partnerships you will see pop up shortly. Everyday is new and something always surprises me, it’s all about not making the same mistake twice, and pushing yourself and your brand forward.

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur just starting out?

Constantly educate yourself, no one is going to do anything for you, you have to always evolve. When you climb one mountain your at the bottom of another.  Surround yourself with good people, and make sure they believe in what your brand stands for.  Manage your emotions on a macro level, and your money on a micro.  Communicate, and be respectful of everyone, you never know who will be doing big things one day.

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