Students find success selling Unofficial T-shirts


T-shirt sales for Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day have become a booming business in recent years for students and alumni. 

By Lizzie Jassin

Through online apparel sales, students and alumni have found ways to make pocket money off of the annual Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.

Kevin Alsterda, 2012 alumnus, manages Unofficial Shirts with the help of campus managers and current University students Saagar Gupta and John Vetter. Alsterda is the owner of a custom apparel company in Chicago, KRA Apparel, with one subsidy being Unofficial Shirts. Alsterda said he counts on his campus managers to “run the business” in Champaign.

“They pretty much run the show,” Alsterda said. “The more shirts they sell, the more they get paid.”

Alsterda said he only helps with building the website, logistics and supply chain management.

Unofficial Shirts has been up and running for the last four years and was founded by Alsterda as a senior at the University. He started out on the Quad with a pen and paper taking down orders.

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At first, the business was small and involved little pay, but year after year the sales have gone up, Alsterda said. He said the website made ordering shirts much easier.

Gupta, senior in Business, has worked with Alsterda for the last three years and said the experience has offered him a real world opportunity in the field.

“I have learned so much under him that now I have consulted over 20 local businesses and events and created two social media startups,” Gupta said. “It has been really cool working with Unofficial Shirts, and now I am taking all of this experience and into a real world marketing job.”

Like Gupta, other University students sell Unofficial shirts to make extra money.

Last year, Matt Pahl, senior in FAA, started Unofficial Apparel. Pahl said he got into the business while he was apparel chair for his fraternity, Acacia. After seeing the success of his pledge father Alsterda, Pahl began selling Unofficial clothing.

“University Tees and (Alsterda) have taught me everything I know, and both have enabled me to successfully run Unofficial Apparel,” Pahl said.

Pahl said business has been good this year, as he has sold more shirts this year than before.

Both Unofficial Shirts and Unofficial Apparel hire student ambassadors to help run the business, and Alsterda said hiring students is more important to him than making money. Student ambassadors come from different campus-affiliated organizations, Gupta said, and they sell the company’s merchandise to their respective organizations.

Much of Unofficial Shirts’ merchandise has already sold out because they buy the quantity of shirts before orders are placed.

Gupta said the company sells more merchandise every year and has tried new advertising techniques through Facebook, email, fliers and the illiniway Snapchat account.

While Gameday Spirit on Green Street sells University of Illinois green clothing in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, none reference Unofficial.

Michael Defilippis, Gameday employee and senior in AHS, said the green clothing has been popular with students and expects the store to be crowded on Friday with out-of-town visitors in need of green clothing.

“We have a contract with the University to not put Unofficial on our clothing because the University does not recognize Unofficial as an actual holiday,” Defilippis said.

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