The Dialogue with Craig Fernandes
This feature is a question-and-answer session with a new Blount County Chamber member. So here we go with our 60th installment visiting with Craig Fernandes, president of Patriot Threads, LLC
, which was born out of a high school capstone project to create a line of patriotic apparel that can be used to raise awareness and support for veteran non-profits and other worthy causes.
Describe how business as grown.We wholesale and retail (online store) our line of southern style game-day apparel with a purpose - to help raise awareness and support for veteran focused and other worthy non-profit groups. We fund raise through our online store by donating at least 25% of our direct to customer sales to non-profits that we highlight on our website. We also show up at non-profit fund raising events and sell our apparel and donate 25% to the event non-profit. Our brand is the fastest growing southern style game day apparel in Knoxville and we are looking for new retailers and non-profits to help.
How did this all begin? This is a family business started by my then 17 yr old son in 2015 - born out of a high school capstone project to create a line of patriotic apparel that can be used to raise awareness and support for veteran non-profits and other worthy causes. His designs were so popular that we expanded to become a wholesaler to retail stores and now have versions for every state all with popular local team colors. It took on a life of itself and grew to become a real business.
What is your background? I have been an marketing executive with an entrepreneurial bend for all of my 30 year career. I have an MBA from Babson College - which focused on entrepreneurship and have probably also inherited some of the drive from my father who was also a business consultant.
Who is your mentor?I have had many supporters - from members from the KEC center and from both the Knox and Blount County Chambers. We also received our biggest breaks from Hound Dogs, Alumni Hall and the Vol Shop - who agreed to carry our brand -because they liked the designs and wanted to give my son Brady the opportunity to succeed. Lastly we could not have done this with out support from family and friends who kept encouraging Brady and I.
Describe your customers. Our customers range from children to grand parents. The brand touches people on many levels - patriotic appeal, state appeal, country appeal and pride in their team/school. We are America's brand and our apparel is for anyone who is proud to be an American and who likes the southern proper look with a bowtie- which also means remember the troops.
Name three things you wish you knew when you started. How much money it takes to be a successful start up. And how much time it will take. And wish we launched sooner.
What do you enjoy most about the business? I get to work with my son - who is an awesome person. I also love helping others that are in need - especially veterans. Lastly it is fun to launch a start up and see how you can effect others in a positive way - and our designs also look good on them.