Skyd sat down with SAVAGEultimate entrepreneur and avid Ulti player Todd Curran to find out just how long Bob Barker’s body has been puppetted around the PiR stage
Who are you and how did you get involved in Ultimate?
I’m Todd Curran, founder/owner of SAVAGEultimate. I got involved like everyone else, watching The Price is Right. In 2000 (my 10th grade year), I was watching The Price is Right, and Rod Roddey called down a player from a California College Ultimate team. The player gave Bob Barker a disc and had a few quick words. I knew then and there that I wanted to play Ultimate in college. When I started touring Virginia colleges, I looked to make sure there was an Ultimate Frisbee club/team. Throughout high school, we were able to play pickup during our Spanish class not really knowing the rules. So the first day I got to the University of Mary Washington, I searched campus looking for people with discs. I finally found Mad Mary Ultimate (later named the Grundlebugs) and joined the team. I was rookie of the year my freshman year and was hooked for life.
College Ultimate was great. The game I always remember is Sectionals my junior year. We were playing William & Mary and they had been to Nationals a few years prior. We were the underdogs but we came out strong. I came on a d point, we got the d, they threw it to me but I had butterfingers. It hit the ground and a turn. Luckily my team was full of positive vibes and we got the d again. Connor Maloney hucked a full field backhand to our fastest player Matt Straub. I chased behind, getting there just in time to see Matt going up with two defenders and tipping the disc. It fluttered down to the ground and with a full extension layout, I grabbed it for the score. We went up 3-2 and W&M called a time-out. Right then and there, we knew that we would win the game. We battled to universe point. Connor threw a hammer to Luke for the score. We rushed the field to celebrate our victory and our road to Regionals.
Tell us about the inception of SAVAGE. Where are you located? When did it all begin?
I’ve been making T-shirts since high school. I started out using iron-on letters and quickly moved into screen printing in college. I started a surf clothing line called Omnicab and it was very popular on campus. I would always screen print our team jerseys as well on t-shirts. After college, I got a job as an electrical salesman in Charleston, S.C., then the recession hit. I was told by my boss to start looking for other jobs and after about six months I was let go. I dusted off the old press and started offering screen printing to my friends and neighbors from our guest room. I started making a handful of shirts and my client base steadily increased. In Spring 2009, I was driving home from Southerns College Tournament and realized that I could start offering jerseys to other teams. On the ride home with my friend Bud Yackey, we discussed potential names. I kept thinking SAVAGE would be a great company name. Bud drew it out on a piece of paper and then said, how about we make the VII in the logo. I loved it. After some design work, I had the logo finalized. I found a great supplier of jerseys and started extending my services. Luckily I was playing for El Diablo and was able to make our jerseys. I grabbed a handful of club team orders and small tournament teams and then got the Charleston Summer League order. I started advertising in the USA Ultimate Mag and RSD and started getting calls from all over the country.
How has the company grown?
I started out in the guest room of my house, then we moved into a new house that had two extra rooms in the back. When I outgrew that, I moved into a retail space in downtown Charleston in 2010. I had a handful of part-timers that would come in for extra cash here and there, but eventually my brother Dan and friend Bennett Hart came down to join the team. At the end of 2010, I brought in Mary Labberton as a seamstress and Matt Accetta as a designer. I’ve been using Katie Irons as a freelance designer since I started and have a few other designers on call.
How many employees do you have?
I have four employees and one intern.
What is your mission statement?
SAVAGEultimate is dedicated to making you look good on and off the field.
SAVAGEultimate offers team jerseys, shorts and hats that can be screen printed or sublimated. We also offer hoodies, T-shirts, koozies, arm sleeves, and aprons. Pretty much anything. We’ve even made chicken hats.
I’m most proud of our fully cut-and-sew sublimated jerseys. Our new cirrus fabric has been a huge hit and feels like a cloud. Having a seamstress on staff, we can do product development, and our newest item is the fully customizable arm sleeves.
What makes your company different compared to the other Ultimate apparel companies?
In-house production, small but professional team, personal service, well trained artists on staff. Four of the five employees are Ultimate players.
What do you do better than other companies?
Our customer service is second to none. The main phone number is my cell phone number, and I am always available. Now that Dan and Bennett are salesmen, they too offer their cell numbers to be reached any time. We listen to our customers and try to exceed expectations.
What do other companies do better than you?
One thing that we’re working on is having a women’s line of Ultimate apparel. We’ve worked with Florida State Ultimate Women’s team this semester to create our first cut-and-sew sublimated shorts that are a women’s cut. We are working with a few teams to get our cut-and-sew jerseys into a women’s cut as well. We are hoping to have our full line of women’s cut options by 2012.
Tell us about your supply chain. Where is your material made and how is it shipped?
Our cirrus fabric is produced in Bogota, Columbia. It is a quick boat ride from Colombia to the port of Charleston, which is just a few miles from our office door. We have actively tried to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. We also offer a few other fabrics that are made in the U.S.
We do offer green technologies. Our pre-sewn cirrus jerseys and fabric is made in Colombia, the 10th greenest country in the world according to the Yale University 2010 Environmental Index. Nearly 70 percent of Colombia’s national power grid is generated by renewable energy.
Also, we are creating new items out of our cut-and-sew scraps. We are creating yeti bears that we will sell in our online store that will be filled with extra scraps made from jerseys. I want to be able to offer a custom jersey that can go on the yeti bear. It will be a great present for Club players that have little kids.
How do you view your competition? What are you doing to stay competitive?
I highly respect the other Ultimate apparel companies. I know that they all started up just like me and are offering products to a great industry. I’ve befriended most of the other owners and enjoy hearing about their new developments.
To stay competitive, I am always thinking about the customer. I offer quality products while keeping prices low. We have innovative products and artists on staff to keep them stylish and visually appealing.
Do you believe that the market can support another start-up apparel company?
Absolutely. Ultimate is a quickly growing sport and I find that players are really responsive to our brand. Competition drives innovation.
How do you view an entrance from one of the “big” sports companies like Nike or Adidas? Is it inevitable? How are you planning for this possibility?
After hearing Tom Crawford speak at the National Organizers Convention in D.C. the other weekend, I know that that is where Ultimate is headed. Tom wants to grow the sport to over 100,000 members within 10 years, and that means bringing in bigger sponsors. With the growing of the sport, larger companies may start looking to see if they can get into the sport. However, the larger companies don’t quite offer the same options that SAVAGEultimate is able to offer. We allow for teams to completely express themselves. As of right now, there is nothing holding any team from purchasing a jersey from Nike, but they like coming to SAVAGEultimate because we cater directly to the Ultimate community and also we can offer fully sublimated apparel.
What do you see as your role as an apparel producer in the sport of Ultimate and the future of the sport?
As an Ultimate apparel producer, I feel like I can help with the future of Ultimate. I am always listening to players about what needs to be changed or what they like. Also, because we get the opportunity to make it to many ultimate events across the country, we get to hear from the national body rather than just regional.
One way we are trying to help with the future of Ultimate is by offering a youth clinic in 2011. We learned how to start a clinic/youth league last weekend, and the youth is the future of Ultimate. I can’t imagine how talented I could have been if I would have started at age 5 like I did soccer. Pretty soon, players will come to college prepared with 10 years or more of experience. I can’t wait to see the competition then.
What can the Ultimate community expect and look forward to about SAVAGE?
We are always thinking about how to improve our products and to create new products. Our product development team is working anytime we have a spare moment. We have some great fabrics and a lot of creativity. Our cut-and-sew shorts are ready for purchase this club season, and our women’s side should be ready by then as well. We also brought in three new colors in April: kelly green, navy and orange. And we now offer white tank top jerseys that can be sublimated or screen printed.