Kyle McAllister graduated with a degree in finance and marketing from Gonzaga University in 2014, but the story of his clothing company, Global Threads, begins the year prior. Global Threads supplies students with apparel that is custom to their study abroad experiences. This small business idea started with one shirt themed to Gonzaga-in-Florence, but since 2013, has grown into a profiting, fast-growing, recognizable brand.
Though McAllister credits his own time studying in Florence, Italy as inspiration for the company, Global Threads was born before McAllister boarded his transatlantic flight to Europe. McAllister felt the almost tangible excitement that preludes an experience such as studying abroad. He notes, “People were passionate, but I didn’t see it with my eyes, tangibly, the same way I would see other stuff—like basketball—proudly displayed on people’s clothing. I didn’t see the manifestation.” This missing piece, the thing McAllister did not see, was his moment of opportunity.
Studying abroad is an integral part of many students’ experiences at Gonzaga. So is basketball. If you’ve walked into the ZagShop, or shopped online, you’ll know the quantity of basketball-related apparel available for purchase. On the Gonzaga campus, you’ll notice how many students and faculty members are sporting this apparel. McAllister saw that this passion for sport was the same passion for travel within Gonzaga’s student population. McAllister recalls the time just prior to his own study abroad experience to explain the ways in which his company is serving its customers: “We [Gonzaga-in-Florence students] were so excited before we even landed, but we weren’t one community yet. You have a physical representation of what you are doing—it goes beyond a three, six month experience.” McAllister had a hunch that having clothing to carry beyond the borders of foreign countries would entice students.
Global Threads began as one shirt sold to McAllister’s classmates. There was no way to order online. It was simply a test run in the form of a black tank top. This test run went well, and Global Threads began to manufacture a variety of apparel: tee shirts, long sleeved shirts, and sweatpants. Sales grew quickly and the feedback was entirely positive. McAllister, who now resides in Dallas, TX, was able to expand Global Threads to serve more than simply the Gonzaga-in-Florence Program. Global Threads has expanded statewide into Western Washington as well as to Texas, most notably University of North Texas, where Global Threads manufactures apparel for particular on-campus clubs.
McAllister quickly sought to collaborate with someone with a strong sense of the University of North Texas, and found Dane Fuentes. A rising senior, Dane is Global Threads’ student representative on the UNT campus, which Kyle notes is a great tool in understanding what kind of products the students of UNT, unfamiliar to McAllister, would like.
The business of Global Threads is based on custom printing, a recent phenomenon that has become extremely popular fast. Is it just a fad? McAllister doesn’t think so. He explains why this style and industry have taken off, “It works as an alternative to the social media world of small businesses, which is usually a necessity. If you can get something on someone’s back and into their local communities, that affects the power of the product.” Creating a personality from the brand, from the inside out— literally putting the company on people’s backs—drives this entrepreneurial venture. Though Global Threads does use social media and the internet—through its website, its Facebook, and through individual supporters of the company using social media to share their products— it was important to McAllister to diversify the ways through which people learned about all of the merchandise Global Threads has to offer. McAllister notes his employee Nicole Jeske, a remote graphic designer who resides in Florida, is the backbone of the design piece of the company. With dreams of opening her own design studio, experimenting with Global Threads’ ever-changing designs has been a mutually beneficial relationship for both Global Threads and Jeske.
Global Threads has been busy this summer, developing niche products for their already established clientele at Gonzaga, and expanding to other companies in both Washington and Texas. McAllister explains, “Right now we are working on our very first ever Global Threads branded tee shirt. The shirt will feature ‘TRAVEL THE WORLD’ on the front and a Global Threads logo on the back.” Global Threads hopes especially to sell this shirt to the students who will be departing for Gonzaga-in-Florence next month. Wholesale orders are expanding quickly, to organizations such as Gonzaga-in-China, Verve Bowls, a Seattle-based business owned by Gonzaga Alumnus Scott Alderson, and Swift Path LLC, a Kirkland, WA based orthopedic care center.
McAllister concludes this effervescent conversation about his company hopefully, noting the continued growth will reach its highest levels if Gonzaga University cooperates with Global Threads. McAllister wants to produce apparel for every single program at Gonzaga University but notes the communication and overall planning is just slower at GU. McAllister noted I need to practice patience with GU and patience isn’t a part of my genetic makeup. “We have had the biggest summer YTD and our revenues our off the charts”. The organic revenue growth in June was up 179% from 2015 and the revenue growth in June was up 123%. McAllister noted we want to continue to do business with Gonzaga because that’s where it all started but working with other universities and businesses has propelled Global Threads to new levels. “The growth is just starting I hope GU boards the growth train. “It’s just beginning,” he affirms.