By Hailey Curtiss
There’s nothing like that casual cool look all Californians seem to have. It’s as if they just stepped off the beach somewhere and effortlessly threw something together.
This is the image SMU sophomore Hunter Rice embodies as he sits down for his interview. In his well-loved cotton T-shirt, slim jeans, and quintessential Vans, his posture is relaxed and low-key – such a California kid.
Thus it was no surprise that when he won SMU’s Big iDeas competition last year, and with it funding for a design project, Rice created the Beyond T-shirt line which embodies that same casual, cool style — and makes a difference in his community.
But the Beyond line, which was inspired by SMU students with bright bandages on their arms after a blood drive, wasn’t Rice’s first foray into the design business. In high school, Rice and his classmate Austin Miles created the company Frostbite LA.
“I launched Frostbite LA as a freshman in high school. My partner and I sold about 15,000 units from only a small angel investment of $500,” says Rice.
Miles adds, “We learned what to do and what not to do when starting a business. We made great connections and were able to have some fun along the way.”
Frostbite LA was successful and word of the brand grew rapidly. The line expanded from solely T-shirts to include tank tops and sweatshirts. It attracted the attention of a few celebrities and even made it as far as Dallas.
Rice recalls the first time he saw one of his designs at SMU. “During my first week at school, I was eating in Umphrey Lee and spotted a girl from across the cafeteria wearing a Frostbite T-shirt. It was an incredible feeling knowing that the line had reached as far as Dallas.”
Seeing how far his brand had spread motivated Rice to try his hand at design again. He wanted the creative challenge of coming up with new looks, but also wanted the challenge of creating a brand that would give back to the community.
Rice wanted to create a brand that was about more than cool T-shirts. “I brainstormed for a while, but didn’t come up with the concept of Beyond until seeing a group of SMU students with bright bandages on their arms after an SMU blood drive,” he says. “I noticed how they kept these colorful ribbons on their arms because they wanted others to know they had helped someone.”
Rice liked the idea that that bandage represented their donation, so he drew up some designs on blank T-shirts with colorful, vivid designs on the trim of the sleeve that would represent a donation just as the bandages did.
The next challenge: Finding the startup capital to make Beyond Dallas a reality.
SMU Big iDeas Symposium
In April of 2013 Rice and his partner Matt Edwards competed in SMU’s Big iDeas symposium, a competition that awards grants of up to $5,000 to interdisciplinary teams. A panel of faculty members, students and Dallas community members, then review the proposals and award teams with funds to start their businesses.
Rice says, “I had planned to use some of my profits from Frostbite LA to get the new line started. I was unaware of the SMU Big ideas program. A friend of mine suggested I check it out. I worked on a proposal and business plan and submitted it. Within a few weeks, SMU had granted me a generous amount of startup capital.”
The grant allowed Rice to establish Beyond Dallas Co. and start building his brand.
Professor James Hart is director of Arts Entrepreneurship at Meadows School of the Arts. Hart thinks that starting a business while in school is a great idea. He says, “It’s a wonderful idea and I hope that more students do so because it’s a period in their lives where they can absorb risk.”
What is Beyond Dallas Company?
Today, Beyond Dallas is a clothing brand that seeks to help underprivileged children. Since SMU’s Big iDeal Symposium, Rice has teamed up with The Boys and Girls Club. With each purchase of a Beyond Dallas Co. T-shirt, an additional T-shirt will be donated to a child in need. Rice’s business plan is modeled directly after the TOMS one-for-one model, where with a purchase of a pair of TOMS, a pair is donated to a child in need.
Regina Morris is a Dallas representative for The Boys and Girls Club. “I love creative programs where you never know where the community service is going to go,” she says. “I love the [Beyond] initiative and the idea of Beyond Dallas Co. and appreciate Hunter Rice for choosing The Boys and Girls Club for his donation location.”
Beyond Dallas Co. T-shirts will be available for purchase in May. They are made from a blend of high quality fabrics to ensure the shirts are soft and comfortable as well as stylish.
Rice’s partner Matt Edwards says, “We don’t want to make mass produced T-shirts that people wear and then throw away. We want people to choose to wear our shirts over and over again.”
Rice says he wants the T-shirt to be versatile enough to be worn under a blazer or your favorite SMU sweatshirt. But however you wear it, the shirt will make a difference far beyond SMU’s campus.