KSU senior remembers his roots as he launches clothing company


Michael Moses, front center, is the founder of the clothing company Brand 216. Friends, from left to right, Danny Sciuva, Joe Sciuva, Tony Mancuso, Chris Humphries and Matt Bloom help Moses promote his clothing line. Photo by Grace Jelinek.

Kelli Fitzpatrick

Michael Moses has had clothing logos on his mind since a young age. So much so, he remembers getting in trouble as a kid for not paying attention in class.

“I would have my book open and a magazine in my book,” said Moses, a senior applied communications major. “The thing is, I would always be reading, not just looking at the pictures.”

Moses said reading Sports Illustrated inspired him to design clothing.

“I’d always see the shoes and the jerseys, and I’d draw stuff with my school’s logos,” he said. “I’d take a Nike (logo) and put it on a shoe.”

During high school, Moses designed athletic teams’ shirts and continued to make custom designs in college for teams, fraternities and sororities.

While interning with Channel 5 in Cleveland last August, Moses realized a way to funnel his design skills into a business opportunity central to the city.

Getting started

Moses is a Pittsburgh native but saw an opportunity in Cleveland’s 216 area code.

“Everyone has a play on area codes, like, ‘I’m from the 412,’” Moses said. “But I think there has to be something more with that, an image of the city. I got to thinking: What is the city image of Cleveland?”

Moses’ friend, Joe Sciuva, drew inspiration from the popularity of Pittsburgh’s area code, 412, and suggested Moses use Cleveland’s.

“It’s cool to have something from Cleveland besides our sports teams,” said Sciuva, senior business management major. He said Moses designed the 216 logo two days later with the Terminal Tower as the number one.

Moses took an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class and pitched Brand 216 for the final.

Moses’ instructor, Denise Easterling, helped him with the process.

“She inspired me to really be my own boss,” Moses said. “I like calling my own shots … and overseeing every aspect of the company.”

Easterling said Moses could be a successful entrepreneur.

“Michael is impressive in that he has the one skill most critical to entrepreneurship: the ability to execute, the ability to not just ‘talk the talk,’ but to ‘walk the walk,’” Easterling said. “Michael knows how to get things done.”

Moses began to do exactly that by launching his clothing site Nov. 11. The brand includes shirts and sweatshirts with the 216 logo. He said he was the site’s first sell, but the second left a lasting impression on him.

“I know (the customer’s) e-mail by heart,” he said. “Those things really stick.”

Keeping his friends close

Moses said his friends are a priority even as others try to get a piece of the business.

“It’s funny, once you start something, how many people will contact you and say, ‘I have an idea for you,’” Moses said. “I’ll listen but … you can’t be open to everything. My friends and roommates will be with me through everything. They know as soon as I have enough money to pay them, (I will).”

Moses said his friends, including Sciuva, are his “walking models” who wear Brand 216 shirts to publicize the name.

“They try to find connections,” Moses said. “They’re helping a lot. It’s easier when you have people like that.”

Sciuva said he also advertises through Twitter, word of mouth and “wearing it everywhere.”

Moses said he wanted to “create a little family” with his business.

“Anyone who comes around flashing money, we’re not really interested because that gets to be way too much,” he said. “You need to remember where you came from and who you started out with.”

Growing before profiting

Moses said he has put “everything” he had into the business.

“Every dime you make, you have to put back into it,” he said. “I knew I’d lose some (money), but it’s a risk you have to be willing to take.”

Moses said starting a business in the current economy is “scary,” but he isn’t concerned about making a profit soon.

“I just want it to grow,” he said. “Profiting is basically the last thing on my mind right now, (but I should profit) by next year.”

Moses said Brand 216 has had more than 200 orders since its launch and is planning for more.

He said he would like to do the logo printing someday, which a printer in North Carolina currently handles. Being more than “the middleman” would save costs and enable smaller orders, he said.

Brand 216 is a sole proprietorship, which means Moses is the only employee. He said he hopes to change that someday.

“As it grows, without a doubt, I would want to make it a company,” he said. He will “put people on payroll, rewarding them and actually having help overseeing marketing (and) advertising.”

Sciuva said he would like to stay a part of the brand. He hopes “we can make this into something big and make a career out of it,” he said. “I’d like to see (Moses) be successful.”

Easterling said Moses will thrive because he is business-savvy.

“He doesn’t shortcut the details or avoid dealing with issues,” Easterling said. “He faces whatever needs dealt with.”

Moses said he will include customers’ ideas in new merchandise, including v-neck shirts and bathing suits.

“It’s the same simple design, but when’s the last time a girl has worn a Cleveland bikini?” Moses said. “You’ve got to listen to what people want.”

He said he is coordinating with national companies to design other area code logos in the future, but will likely not include Pittsburgh’s 412.

“There’s a company like that there,” Moses said. “Ideally, that would be my dream, but it’s not looking like a great possibility. But who knows?”

Moses said he isn’t sure what the future holds after graduation in May. He said he is open to relocate for a job because he can manage Brand 216 online.

“I’m not going to quit or pass it on to someone else,” Moses said. “I will be doing this. It’s going to happen no matter what.”

Contact Kelli Fitzpatrick at [email protected].