Since leaving Georgetown a decade ago, Thatcher Spring (COL ’04) has been involved in a variety of entrepreneurial ventures, most notably his recent San Francisco startup, GearLaunch.
Hoping to become part of a rising trend in e-commerce, GearLaunch distinguishes itself from other customizable apparel companies by allowing customers to not only design their own team and club clothing items, but to also market their products while leaving the hassle of production and distribution to GearLaunch.
Spring credits his time as an undergraduate for preparing him for the world of startups, although the entrepreneurship culture on campus was not as developed when he was at Georgetown.
“There were only a couple of clubs for startups, but nothing as big as StartupHoyas,” Spring said.
However, it was through his involvement in extracurriculars that Spring developed the skills necessary for his later entrepreneurship pursuits. He balanced his time on the sailing team with local community work.
“I think sailing actually teaches you quite a bit about entrepreneurship and quick decision-making,” he said. “You’re responsible for assessing large amounts of information — wind, other boats, waves — and making quick decisions to chart the most efficient path.”
Georgetown also taught him the importance of independent thinking.
“It taught me the value of finding creative solutions when the answer isn’t readily evident,” Spring said.
It was this sort of thinking that led him to his first large fashion venture, Thatcher Spring, which he named after himself. After researching the fashion industry and realizing there was a lack of upscale American-made neckwear, Spring set out to create his self-titled company in 2006. He successfully grew the company to distributing to 300 retailers around the country. Following his success, Spring pursued an MBA at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, graduating in 2012.
After completing a leadership development program at the Mars Corporation, Spring decided to relocate to the West Coast to expand his business opportunities.
“I lived in New York City last year and had a debate with myself,” he said. “I miss the larger network in New York, but in business, geography is more important to me than my network.”
After his move to San Francisco, Spring established GearLaunch in January of this year. Expanding on the basic model of a customizable apparel company, GearLaunch allows customers to use their social media presence to sell those products to their friends and social circles. No money is required upfront for managing all production and inventory or shipment for the user, eliminating any risk of losses.
The unique strategy has caught the attention of investors. GearLaunch has accrued over $875,000 in investments from angel investors, including Zazzle Founder Matt Wilsey and many others around the country.
Today, the company continues to expand and is looking to grow further through social media. GearLaunch has achieved a 20 percent conversion rate with YouTube stars that have between 50,000 to 150,000 followers. This success is attributable to the fact that developing clothing on GearLaunch’s website allows these stars to monetize their social capital and turn fan base into tangible financial gain. Thatcher also attributes his success to the support of the Georgetown community
“The Georgetown network has helped significantly. Its presence in the venture capitalist industry is very strong,” he said. “The fundraising experience was not extremely difficult because of the friendliness of the Georgetown network.”
In return for the help he received from Hoyas, Spring continues to support the university with GearLaunch. The company creates shirts for groups like NorCal Hoyas and the GU Club of New York and produced the shirts for the 2014 Georgetown University Reunion weekend.
However, Spring believes that it was more than just his experience at Georgetown that allowed him to succeed in the startup field.
“If you have an idea you’re passionate about, do it now. Do it now and learn as you go,” he said.