Brookings-based collegiate apparel startup expands

Courtesy photo by Hope Bolstead: Fans of college athletics can show support for their teams with merchandise from Gameday Social.

BROOKINGS – A Brookings-based startup is gaining national momentum in the collegiate and lifestyle apparel space.

Gameday Social is a business to business apparel company focused primarily on licensed collegiate apparel – all the way from regional mainstays like South Dakota State University, the University of South Dakota and North Dakota State University up to the Nebraska Huskers and Iowa Hawkeyes.

Entrepreneur Jael Thorpe and her husband Brian saw an opportunity with the lack of trend-driven collegiate apparel in 2019, after years of offering a handful of SDSU exclusives each fall in their boutique (formerly known as j.ella).

“I started to see an industry ripe for disruption. Fashion-forward, non-generic garments were totally missing from the collegiate apparel scene,” Jael Thorpe said.

Attaining licenses this year with Iowa and Nebraska, which is a highly competitive process, led to almost overnight scaling.

“We went from making a few clever SDSU T-shirts each fall, to developing a full apparel line with overseas manufacturing, a warehouse in Sioux Falls, and shipping thousands of units to stores nationwide within basically 18 months,” she added.

Tiara Ugofsky, Gameday Social chief of operations and SDSU apparel merchandising grad, attributes much of the tremendous growth this year to pent-up excitement around college football after 2020, but also to the unique nature of their designs.

“You can find hundreds of videos on TikTok of college girls putting together elevated looks for tailgating and games, but most of them are DIYs because trendy licensed apparel just isn’t really out there,” Ugofsky said.

While the COVID economy presented stress and unknowns, Thorpe said it forced them to innovate in ways that have been a catalyst to growth.

“Seeing what was coming for supply chain, we knew we needed to become vertically integrated in order to keep up with demand. We also added a resort lifestyle collection in 2020 when college sports were off, and both moves have become vital components of our business,” Thorpe said.

Ethical manufacturing and “loving local” are at the core of the Gameday Social brand. Garments are built responsibly overseas, and then decorated in Sioux Falls before being shipped all over the country.

“With our current university focus, the majority of our shipments go to retailers in the upper Midwest but we also have product going regularly to Florida, Texas and beyond,” warehouse manager Alex Flammond said.

Thorpe says they plan to eventually expand into more of an online consumer presence as well as additional Big 10 universities, but for now, they’re focused on keeping up with the demand from existing customers, which range from small locally owned boutiques and collegiate bookstores, to national sporting goods retailers.

Stay in touch with Gameday Social on Instagram and Facebook: @gamedaysocial.


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