Blaine Smith ’03 and Will Roach ’05, a former men’s basketball player, have always been an inventive pair. They went to Broughton High School in Raleigh together, and they lived together in college at NC State. The pair was always kicking around ideas about what they could do as a business venture that would celebrate their love for the Wolfpack. The conversation would always turn to apparel, but they could never sew up a product to market.
Then in 2010, Roach was at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro when he saw a Clemson Tigers fan wearing a scarf hanging down over both shoulders. That reminded him of his old friend Engin Atsur, who also played basketball at NC State, and his apartment.
Roach remembered that the European Atsur had his favorite soccer teams’ scarves decorating his pad. And it hit Roach — why couldn’t he, Smith and Atsur spearhead a movement that would make the ACC’s landscape look like Atsur’s room, with scarves from every team ready to wear? And State, of course, would be the first.
“Our first goal was to do something at State and make State the first to do something for once,” Smith says. “I feel like sometimes we don’t set the trends.”
So they approached NC State’s licensing department and reached an agreement. They approached the campus bookstore and the GoPack store. The went to the Wolfpack Club. And eight months later, Tradition Scarves was receiving its shipments from its manufacturer and sending out its first orders.
Smith says that Tradition Scarves’ strength was that they knew how to get the word out. “What we were really good at was the marketing aspect of it,” he says. They got Julius Hodge ’05 to wear their scarves and promote them on the radio.
But the boon occurred almost a year ago at the DirectTV Charleston Classic, where the Wolfpack men’s basketball team was playing in a tournament. Smith said he and his partners organized a group of fans to wear the NC State scarves.
“The camera kept focusing on us,” he says. “Everybody at home thought everybody on television was wearing them. The Go Pack Store was calling frantically when we got home.”
Roach and Smith take care of the day-to-day operations in North Carolina, and Atsur, who’s playing professional basketball overseas, deals with their manufacturer in Turkey. The three used their early success to reach out to Appalachian State University and Indiana University. They landed deals with both schools and plan to bring more ACC schools in the fold.
“We would be happy with the ACC schools,” Smith says. “That would give us a pretty big market. But we don’t want to tackle things too fast.”