Southern New Hampshire University students Daniel Krikorian, right, and Brandon Lee, pose with DK Drive's athletic performance shirts at the school's athletic field in Manchester. DAVID LANE/ UNION LEADER
Online retailer aims restore to sports' luster
Ultimately, they hope to create a brand that represents a more wholesome athlete, in contrast to the near daily reports of substance abuse, performance-enhancing drugs and domestic violence that dominate the media.
"We want to get that image out of the mainstream and bring back the day the athletes didn't do it for the money, but for the true love of the game," said the young entrepreneur. "I carry that passion into my company, and the guys beside me have that same passion."
It's a tall order, so for now Krikorian and his four associates are focused on building a Web-based retail business that offers one-stop shopping for athletes who are serious about their training, with everything from clothing to fitness programs and nutrition supplements.
Krikorian has his own brand name on sale - G.R.I.N.D. athletic apparel, which stands for Get Ready, It's a New Day - and acts as a reseller for a variety of retailers in the fitness industry.
Given the competition, Krikorian knows he has to provide more than just merchandise. His goal is to create a network of athletes who use dkdrive.com as their base for social networking, motivation and education, in addition to the occasional online shopping excursion.
"For me, G.R.I.N.D. is not just a performance shirt that looks cool," he said, "It's a state of mind. Sure, I want people to like the product, but I really want them to be part of its revolution and to spread its message."
Through the use of Facebook, ?Twitter, blogging and other social networking tools, Krikorian is spreading the word about his mail-order business in ways that would not have been possible before the digital age. He would have needed contracts with suppliers, capital for inventory, warehouse space and a hefty advertising budget.
He started the business in September with nothing more than a good idea, a website, about $2,000 from his parents and a credit card they signed for, in return for 10 percent equity in the new company.
"My Dad was a big influence," he said. "I remember when I told him my idea for this company, and he said, 'What are you waiting for?' Now we're a five-person operation."
Krikorian has partnered with Pennant Sportswear in Nashua to provide the basic inventory for G.R.I.N.D., which he then brings to Logo Loc in Manchester, where the products are imprinted with the company logo. The company started filling orders in November and is now averaging about $2,000 a month, with inventory stored at his parents' house in Holden, Mass., or at his father's auto body shop.
An accounting and marketing major and volunteer trainer for the SNHU baseball team, Krikorian carries a full course load while attempting to build a business over his next three years in college. He's developed partnerships with martial arts schools, gyms, trainers and others in the fitness industry, who either use DK Drive services or sell goods on the website.
The company is trying to make a name for itself by offering one-stop shopping for trainers, corporate softball teams or recreational leagues looking for a unique T-shirt design. "We have a designer on staff; we have all the connections right here," he said.
Krikorian is convinced that if he can succeed at such a young age, starting as he did with little but his own ambition, that he can use the DK Drive story to inspire his cohorts.
"Every day, I look around at my generation and see all this potential and ability that's going unused," he said. "My goal is to become living proof that the achievements of young people are limitless if they work hard enough."