Cole Ehersmann: The face behind Hive Apparel
From creating a successful clothing company to being approached by ABC’s Shark Tank, University of Minnesota Duluth junior Cole Ehersmann has accomplished more in his 20 years than most people in business accomplish in a lifetime.
Ehersmann is the founder and creator of the online clothing company Hive Apparel.
Hive Apparel started from the inspiration of Ehersmann's mother who lost her job in 2014 before starting her own business. After seeing his mother’s success, Ehersmann combined his love for clothing and extreme sports to create Hive Appeal.
“It stands for the people that are behind you that push you forward onto the next chapter. That’s what the ‘hive’ or home perspective comes from,” Ehersmann said.
Although knowing from a young age that he wanted to do something in sales, Ehersmann never thought that starting a company at the age of 18 was in his future.
“Even when I was a little kid I would sell my toys to my friends,” Ehersmann said. “For quarters and nickels or whatever I could scrounge up.”
When asked about what started his passion for business, Ehersmann credits it back to a part-time job he had during high school at his hometown ski and snowboard shop.
“I always think that was a huge thing that impacted me and my sales perspective,” Ehersmann said.
During his three years working at the store, Ehersmann had the opportunity to travel to Colorado to attend a SnowSports Industries America Snow show where businesses have the chance to see the latest ski and snowboarding gear and apparel.
“The shop let me go around to all of these booths and pick out, or let me give my opinion on, what would go in the shop next year,” Ehersmann said. “So seeing what I could pick out and put into our store and how well sales would go was a cool thing to see.”
Since the launch in 2014, Ehersmann has relocated from his hometown of Buffalo, Minnesota, to Duluth and has continued to grow the company while pursuing a degree in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Marketing from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“It makes me take school a whole lot more seriously,” Ehersmann said. “I actually have a mission to work toward.”
When moving to Duluth for school three years ago, Ehersmann saw it as a way to appeal to a new audience outside of his hometown.
“I started slapping stickers around the dorms freshman year as well as placing a huge sign outside of my window for students to see as they walked by and people started asking me about it,” Ehersmann said.
From sponsoring local events and even printing his products at Duluth Screen Printing, Hive Apparel has turned into a local Duluth business.
“Local business around here keeps everything moving,” Ehersmann said.
Since Ehersmann is going to school for entrepreneurship and marketing there have been opportunities to test his business model through UMD.
Last April, Ehersmann and his team won the Shark Tank competition that was put on by UMD’s Entrepreneurship Club and Labovitz School of Business and Economics.
Mitch Klee, president of UMD’s Entrepreneurship Club, was a part of the review committee that selected Ehersmann’s company for winning the competition.
“His company was very impressive,” said Klee. “It’s really cool to see students, such as Cole, be able to have an idea and then be able to make a real business out of it.”
Not only has Ehersmann been recognized around the Duluth community for business, but Hive Apparel is currently in the process and hoping to appear on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank.
“I applied almost as a joke at first, but we ended up passing the first step,” Ehersmann said. “That is the point that I knew it wasn’t a hobby anymore, but a business and I need to treat it like that.”
According to Ehersmann, they have sent in a video outlining their company and are waiting to hear back from ABC if they will be on the show or not.
When it comes to creating a successful business, Ehersmann said that he has been taught to abide by the “three P’s:” plan it, profit, and people. One of the ways that he appeals to people is through the collaboration with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad, who maintains hives in an effort to help and preserve the bee population.
Hive Apparel currently gives 5 percent of incoming sales to the UMN Bee Squad and owns one of the hives that the Bee Squad maintains.
Although Hive Apparel was given the name prior to its involvement with the bees, Ehersmann saw this as a great opportunity to incorporate environmental ties to his company.
“The company didn’t have that mission until I was reading the paper one morning and saw that it was a crisis,” Ehersmann said. “I was sitting on the fourth floor of a Wayzata balcony working as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) for an old man that gave me the advice to have something environmental to go along with the company.”
Since then, Hive Apparel has given over $1,500 to UMN Bee Squad and has made an effort to remove GMO’s from its clothing by using organic cotton materials.
“We have a different perspective than the others,” Ehersmann said. “We are not only giving to these environmental organizations but we strive to make our clothing environmentally friendly as well.”
Hive Apparel dropped their latest product launch, Icy Winters 2016, on Black Friday.
Story originally published in Lakevoice. Photos courtesy of Cole Ehersmann.