By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
In just two weeks, a clothing line established by three recent graduates from Piper High School could become one of the hottest in the nation.
Own Zone Apparel, owned and operated by Piper's own Tyler Schuman, Nick Creten and Jonathan Matson, has only been in operation locally since February 2012.
But Own Zone is already becoming a hot brand across Kansas City, Kan., and across the Kansas City metro area.
The clothing line went from a possibility into a reality after Schuman, Creten and Matson came together following some experience with another clothing line eight months ago. After the trio felt mistakes were being made in that line, they came together to establish their own brand.
"We put everything on the table with Own Zone," Schuman said. "We knew we had the start-up process. We finally settled on Own Zone as the name. It's a nice phrase that connects."
The logo of Own Zone Apparel ties into the State of Kansas - the "O" and "Z" form the word "OZ" on the T-Shirt, which of course can be associated with The Wizard of Oz movie that takes place in the Sunflower State.
Creten is the lead graphic designer for Own Zone, while Schuman and Matson bring the business background to Own Zone.
When the line was established, Creten wondered how his initial design would please potential customers and the market.
To his surprise, it was an overwhelming success.
"The very first one was surprising for us," he said. "We had nothing but positive responses to our design."
Currently, there are three products available from Own Zone Apparel - the "Men's Collections," the "Women's Classic-T" and the 4S Tanks for Men. Colors ranging from the typical "cool" colors to "warm" are available.
Schuman and Creten see a future beyond T-Shirts, however.
"We want to show large-scale distributors we can come up with apparel for all seasons," Schuman said. "We're not OK with just summer wear. We want to expand into winter."
The group is also looking to branch out into other clothing items, including shoes.
Operating a business - especially one with several competitors - can be taxing on time. And sometimes, work is done early into the morning hours for all three men.
"We're always on the clock," Schuman said. "If business says we need to package items, we do it. If business calls for us to go to the bank, we do it."
Part of that work includes research, research and more research. Schuman analyzes market trends and the economics, while Creten looks at the designs of competitors and most importantly, researches whether his designs break the law.
"I make sure we're not violating copyrighted materials," Creten said. "I look at what our leading competitors are doing style wise and art-wise."
While they were in high school, Own Zone seemed unlikely.
At Piper, Creten was a star pitcher who eventually earned a scholarship to Kansas City Kansas Community College. Schuman, meanwhile, was one of the top national strong man weight lifters at his age level.
A Tommy John surgery would end Creten's baseball career, meaning athletics would not be the final destination for him.
Things have gotten better for Creten - and Own Zone. Recently, a release party for Own Zone in Kansas City, Mo., had 400 visitors.
"It shocked the hell out of me to have that many people interested," Creten said.
The present is strong for Own Zone, but the future could be brighter.
On June 7, Own Zone Apparel is set to go national, where anyone in the United States can order products from their Website.
Own Zone has already been shipped off to a handful of states, including California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia. Plus, gear has been given to some of Creten's friends from the other Land of Oz - Australia.
Coming down the road, more success could be on hand for Own Zone and the brand could become a well-known one.
"A large-scale distributor is interested in meeting with us," Schuman said.
For more information on Own Zone, check out these links: