By Gracen Kostelecky, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
This story is part of a series featuring each of the fifteen startups in the CYstarters 2018 summer cohort. Each team has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000, along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.
School: Junior at Iowa State University, studying marketing and entrepreneurship
Hometown: Centennial, Colorado
When you meet Joe Stanton, you will quickly learn he is from beautiful Centennial, Colorado. Joe loves his home state, he is proud of where he is from and he is not afraid to let you know. Another thing he loves? His fraternity.
During his sophomore year at Iowa State, like most students in the Greek community, he wanted to support and promote his chapter, Delta Upsilon. Most students have apparel with their chapter’s name on it, but he wanted something a little different, something he could decorate his room with to showcase his fraternity pride. After spending hours on Google, searching for posters or artwork featuring Delta Upsilon, he discovered that no such thing existed.
Back in high school, Joe picked up some graphic design skills while working for his school’s newspaper, so he decided to take a stab at designing his own custom poster, promoting his chapter. A few of his brothers loved his custom poster and asked where he purchased it, and his idea for Ash Avenue Prints was born.
We recently caught up with Joe to see how his time in CYstarters has been and how it has helped Ash Avenue Prints.
What does Ash Avenue Prints sell?
We are a custom fraternity and sorority print design company. Currently, I have 16 poster designs on my website that come in two different sizes, full poster size (18”x24”), and a smaller, mounted poster (8”x10”). After selecting the design, customers can pick their specific fraternity or sorority to appear on the poster design.
How long has Ash Avenue Pints been around?
I first opened up an Etsy store in October 2017 and sold a few posters on that platform. I became an official Greek licensed vendor in December and have been building an official online store over the last few weeks. You can find my site at ashavenueprints.com.
Who are your customers?
My biggest market is students in the Greek community across the United States. When students join a fraternity or sorority, they are extremely passionate and proud about their Greek experience. Freshman and sophomore students will be my largest target market.
Parents who want to buy gifts for their college students will be another customer of mine. Lastly, we can’t forget alumni who want nice artwork displaying their fraternity or sorority letters.
How do you plan on expanding your business?
In the Greek community, new sorority members are assigned a “Big” as a mentor, and gifts are commonly exchanged between the two. I hope to launch a “Big and Little” line of posters soon.
I will continue to add more designs to our website, but I would also like to add more products like custom flags and stickers. I have 14 sororities and 6 fraternities right now, but I will add other chapters as they are requested.
In the future, I would like to expand our products to college students that are not involved in the Greek community. I am not entirely sure how that will look, but that is a goal of mine.
What challenges have you faced?
It took a while to become an official Greek licensed vendor, so that was a bit of a setback. Additionally, each poster design has to be approved by 20 different chapters. So if one chapter prefers one color over the other, explaining to each chapter that these are universal designs for all chapters can be a bit of a headache.
How has CYstarters helped you?
CYstarters has provided me with time and capital to pursue this opportunity. It is hard balancing a startup business while being a full-time student, so dedicating all my time during this 10-week period has been extremely beneficial. Also, being in a creative environment, and collaborating with everyone who has the same goal has been so helpful.
Have you always seen yourself as an entrepreneur?
Coming into Iowa State,I wanted to be an environmental engineer, help the planet, and save the world, but I switched to studying entrepreneurship and marketing. My fraternity is associated with the entrepreneurship club on campus. There I met Judi Eyles, director of the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, who is an adviser for my chapter. I was instantly plugged into the entrepreneurial community on campus. In addition to starting Ash Avenue Prints, I am constantly thinking about how I can fix or improve everyday products or services. I definitely have developed an entrepreneurial mindset.
Advice for aspiring Iowa State entrepreneurs?
“Full send,” just go for it! It is a risk, but everything in life is a risk. Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s something great to put on your resume, so just “full send”!
What are your goals this summer and going forward?
I want to have a sustainable company by the end of this summer, and eventually turn Ash Avenue Prints into my full-time job. As Ash Avenue Prints grows, I will need to add people onto my team to help with design, marketing, and logistics.
Additionally, I want to inspire a few people to start their own business along the way!
How can others help you?
I am looking to partner with graphic designers, including graphic design students, to help outsource new designs. Additionally, I also am looking to work with creative marketers to help with my advertising and marketing campaigns.
How should others find and connect with you?
If you are in the Greek community, use the promo code CYSTARTERS to receive 10% off your first order!