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My passion for creative design came at a young age. Growing up in the hockey-rich town of White Bear Lake, I was heavily involved in sports. Namely hockey, golf and lacrosse. However, it didn’t take long to realize my true potential was in bringing my ideas to life. I started my first web design company at age 13, and continued to advance my skillset through high school as I got more into graphic and apparel design. I landed my first significant apparel job my senior year of high school when I created the “iBelieve” t-shirts after my hockey team beat Hill Murray in the section finals for the first time in five years and made a state tournament appearance. That’s when I got itch for apparel design.
During my first year in college I created a dye sublimation jersey manufacturing company. After acquiring a major licensing deal, I left business school midway through my sophomore year to run the company full time. In 2013, I had a falling out with my business partner. Everything I had sacrificed and worked for quickly went up in flames. I was a 19 year old college dropout with a mountain of debt, and no plan.
However, I did have an idea.
“Let’s create a clothing line called Unreal. Everything we make will be completely different from what currently exists on the market.” I said to my college friend Travis Swan.
This idea was more of a side project than anything. We created some t-shirts and launched our first website in November of 2013, but I needed a steady job to get back on my feet and pay down some of that debt. I started working for a real estate company in St. Paul performing residential appraisals. A few months into the job, I was sitting at my desk when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. On the other end of the phone was Jordan Leopold, my childhood idol and current NHL defenseman for the St. Louis Blues. “Hey, I heard you’re the t-shirt guy.” he said. Flustered, I quickly looked over at my boss and made a break for the exit. I responded, “Yes I am, what can I do for you?” He needed some shirts made for his locker room buddies. After delivering a few runs of quality product our relationship with Jordan began to grow. In 2014, he became our first spokesman and introduced us to the Minnesota Wild, who quickly became one of our biggest clients.
Doors continued to open as we developed our brand and started creating licensed apparel for other professional sports teams. We are currently three years into the business and I’m very proud of the successes we’ve had thus far, but there is still a long road ahead for UNRL. Stay tuned, the second chapter of the story is yet to be written.