Originally posted on Shown The Red Card  |  Last updated 12/22/11

Uprise Design is a start-up graphic design firm in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is the creation of three friends: Kyle Jensen, Alex Quinn and Kyle ‘Foosh’ Faucheux. Uprise does a variety of work, including apparel design and production for clients, vinyl graphics for businesses, and they have their own line of clothing. Over the last 6 months, I have had the opportunity to befriend them and learn about their business, which has been a real eye-opening experience for me.

There are plenty of stories about small businesses, or ‘start-ups,’ and how a majority of them end in failure, especially in the current economic climate. This company and these guys are rewriting that script. They are not only extremely talented and creative, but what is more impressive to me is their work ethic, dedication, and overall understanding of where they are- and where they want to be in the future. I sat down with Kyle, Alex and ‘Foosh’ to do a Q&A session about how they got started, the process along the way, and what their goals are in the future. If you are interested in learning how a start-up works, or any of the work that Uprise Design does; this should shed some light on an up-and-coming design firm.

Notice: Currently, Uprise is in the process of helping a student at UNL help fight a rare form of cancer with their #TeamDan Project. All proceeds go to Dan. Please buy some apparel if you can. Every bit helps when it comes to fighting cancer. Here is the web page: http://www.uprise-design.com/store/fraternities/teamdan.htm

Connect with Uprise Design:

Apparel: http://uprisebrand.com/

Graphic Design: http://www.uprise-design.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uprisedesign

Twitter: @uprisedesign

Uprise Design: Kyle Jensen, Alex Quinn and Kyle 'Foosh' Faucheux

Now lets get into the questions.

Q: What makes Uprise Design different?

A: (Foosh) “The creativity of our designs. Also, every shirt is made by hand using water-based inks, which actually dye into the material making them soft and durable. That really sets our product apart from others.

Water-based inks set Uprise apart.

Q: Where did the concept of Uprise come from?

A: (Alex) “The three of us are a team; we all share this company evenly. Everyone threw out ideas for our name, but nothing sounded right until Foosh said ‘Uprise’, and all three of us said yes immediately! Foosh was a whiz kid with the logo. Originally it started with the “U”, but all three of us had input on it. The actual design took 15 minutes and it just clicked! We want Uprise to be synonymous with going above and beyond, not just in business, but in any and all aspects of life.

Q:  What is the spirit of a start-up business?

A: (Kyle) To me, it is taking nothing and turning it into something. It is about seeing the possibilities that nobody else can see and having foresight and belief into what can become. It’s about working for far less than minimum wage because you’re doing what you love. It’s also about not having a ceiling; the sky is literally the limit for us. We know what’s going to happen when this takes off, and right now we are creating the foundation for our future.

Q: How did you start Uprise Design?

A: (Kyle) “We originally started brainstorming the idea at a Nebraska Football tailgate last October. Alex and I had thrown the idea around while in college, but it wasn’t something we took overly serious. At the time I was bartending at Texas Roadhouse after I had graduated in May of 2010. Once the school year started in August, reality started to set in, and I knew it was time to do something. Alex, Foosh, and I all met up at a Husker tailgate, and we were talking about what we had been doing since graduating. None of us were really happy with where we were. Then we started throwing out hypothetical’s—the ‘what if’s’.  We met the following Monday and started brainstorming and making our business plan.”

After starting at a Nebraska tailgate, former Huskers Niles Paul and Prince Amukamara both wear Uprise Apparel now.

Q: What was your process in making your business plan?

A: (Kyle) “When we threw around the idea at first, it was all very new. I asked Alex and Foosh; are you guys really ready? Because, if you are, I’ll spend all my time trying to make this happen if you guys are in. I don’t think they realized how fast I was going to put it together. I said we would meet the next Monday, so for the next week I spent 10 hours a day doing market research, brainstorming for potential investors, and researching what all needed to be included in a business plan for people to take it seriously. So it was definitely fast paced and crazy, but things started coming together. I was still working at Texas Roadhouse and one of the regulars once told me: ‘You know you’re ruined right? Once you have your own business, you’ll never work for anyone again!’ I think he is right.”

[They set up a timeline from the middle of October to be open by January 1st of 2011. Few people really believed that they could get a business opened that quickly, but everything fell into place perfectly. Kyle had a family friend who was a Business Lawyer who walked them through the ins and outs of making Uprise Design a legitimate company, and he did the work pro-bono.]

(Kyle) “The funniest thing about this part of our story is that Alex and Foosh were working at Signs Now  while this was all happening, and we didn’t want their boss to catch wind of what we were doing. There were times during their work shift when I would need something signed to file with the State or with our lawyer, so they would run out behind the building and quickly sign large documents, without even looking at them! We always said that one day we would look back and laugh at how ridiculous it was, but we got everything filed that we needed.” ……

“Then I went to a networking group with a friend to see what it was all about, and it just so happened that an accountant was the guest speaker that day. After the meeting I approached him because I knew that bookkeeping and taxes was one area where we would need help. He had just opened his own accounting firm, and offered to help with our bookkeeping at a really cheap rate.  Also, my roommate at the time was in commercial real estate and he started scouting 5 different buildings to set up our shop.”

Alex and the Uprise girls!

Q: Another important question along those lines….where did you get your start-up money?

A: (Alex) As far as investors go, those are all family and friends. They helped us out big! All it took for us to get our funding was 5 phone calls, which was unbelievable. Luckily our start up cost was very low for a new business. I’ve been told that if we become successful with amount of money that we started with, it’d be almost unprecedented.”

(Kyle) “When I went to deposit the money, (after a night of celebrating that we got it in the first place) in sweatpants and with bloodshot eyes, the bank teller took a step back and looked at me funny. I just laughed and nodded. At that point I knew “yeah, this is real!”  We are extremely lucky to have lots of support from friends and family and we will absolutely never forget it.”

Q: What has been the best part of the first year as a new business owner?

A: (Kyle) “I come to work every day and work with good friends, I’m my own boss, and everything I do immediately affects the outcome of every situation that Uprise is in. We are responsible for everything- it all rests on us, my own wellbeing rests on my decisions. That means I can’t blame anyone but myself if things go wrong. I hate excuses and looking for others to place blame on- that’s everywhere in the world today. When you own your own small business and you are putting your heart and soul into it, you can’t make excuses; you only have yourself to blame. It’s a very eye-opening experience. It’s been amazing seeing how the business world operates in general. We are also learning what we do not want Uprise to become. Everything is new to us, so we just trying to soak up as much knowledge as we can.”

Uprise apparel gets the ladies attention, apparently.

Q: What was it like to get noticed for the first time?

A: (Foosh) “Right when we got started, we were practicing printing some of our own designs so that we got to wear our own stuff. It was really awesome to wear it out in public. It felt pretty bad ass actually. To wear your own designs out and be able to say, ‘I made this’- not many people are able to say that.  I remember after a month or so- some random girl at a bar came up and asked us ‘who made the shirts we were wearing; what brand were they?’  We said that we owned our own design company and made the shirts ourselves and her face lit up- that was really cool.”

(Kyle) “I was talking with the Principal of Norris High School about making their apparel, and he said that they already had a design company that they used, but that Uprise was the ‘talk of Norris’, so he went with us. That was my first hint that we were on to something and the word was spreading.”

(Alex) “River Riot was a huge high for us. We made 1500 shirts for their concert and got to talk to the D.J.’s at 89.7 The River on air to promote the event. Our first order ever was 7 shirts, so this was a big jump! 89.7 The River loved us; they said that we get their style and attitude. That was my first really positive experience that I will remember.”

The team working Big Red Welcome at the University of Nebraska.

Q: What has been the toughest/most stressful part of the first year in business?

A: (Kyle) “All three of us are graphic designers by trade, not business people; So stuff like taxes, licensing agreements, copy-writes, trademarks, and all of the potential legal ramifications should you slip up were there. The red tape is far more extensive than I could have ever imagined and that’s stressful.”

(Foosh) “Making our designs creative and unique is tough and time consuming, but it’s what we love to do. A big frustration was when we unveiled our first online store in April, thinking that people would just dive right in a start buying stuff, then, after three weeks, we had only sold one shirt. Then the question was ‘why aren’t people buying our apparel?’  We loved them, people that saw the designs loved them, but people are just kind of skeptic buying something online that doesn’t have much of a background, so that was very frustrating. We know our potential. We also know that people will continue their habit of going to The Buckle and spending $80 on something that we do better for $17. But, I will say that we have seen a lot more good than bad in year one. The 80 hour work weeks are tough, but necessary at this stage.”

Foosh, Alex and the Uprise Girls pedaling merch.

Q: What are your immediate goals?

A: (Kyle) “Basically, to see continued growth because after a while, it is inevitable, the shine wears off of any new business. We need to continue to put in time with our customer service and make it the best in the business because there is always someone right behind you take your clients if you aren’t on top of your game. We won’t settle for less than amazing here. I’ll admit, some of the things we do on a first run aren’t good enough, so we do it until its right. Any company can do what we do; what makes us better is our commitment to our customers and the creativity of our designs. We don’t want our customers just to get a t-shirt and that is the end of it. We want them to love what they get. I bring a sports-type of mentality into our business. I strive to be the best in everything. If it is between us or them (competition), I guarantee it is going to be us. I’m that competitive.”

Q: What about long-term goals?

A: (Kyle) “Our big goal is that we want Uprise to be 2 companies; Uprise Design and Uprise Apparel. Uprise Design will be the graphic design we do for clients. Uprise Apparel is our own line of clothing. At some point we will have to split the company to get the best out of both sides. Also, we definitely want to open a store for our apparel. I want Uprise to be the next Hurley; to be the next big thing. But, as much as I want to blow the doors off of the world, I know that you have to build slowly. If you get too big, too fast, you start to miss important details, get off track from what you originally set out to be, and you’ll fail.”

Q: How are all three of you different?

A: (Kyle) “We are all very different; we all have our areas of expertise. We’re each very unique. I love talking to people, getting clients, and sharing our story. I like the business side. Foosh is an amazing designer. He has a way of knowing what people are looking for when it comes to a design and making it into something that they can physically see. We get clients that come to us with very little to go off of in terms of what they are looking for, and somehow he figures it out. The guy is a computer wizard. Alex has an eye for detail. He built the tables and our press. He is the hardest worker I know. We are all part of the same chain though, and if you take a link out of the chain, this would be nothing.”

Q: Who is the most creative among the three of you?

A: (Kyle) “I’d have to say the most creative is Foosh. He is a magician on the computer coming up with designs. But, we are a tripod. All 3 of us have input on every design. The process starts with Alex and Foosh and then it comes to me. I deal more with the business side of things and offer my tweaks and finishing touches for the most part.”

Q: When did you know growing up that you had a passion for design?

A: (Kyle) “This is kind of crazy- I’m really into art. I was always good at drawing as a kid, but not many people foster art at a young age. My art teacher and my parents said I was good, but when I got to college, I figured out it would be really tough to be an artist so I kind of dismissed it. I started at UNL as a Biology major. My brother is a doctor, so he was a major influence. I did well in classes, but my heart wasn’t in it, so then I went and changed my major to history because I thought that I wanted to be a teacher. I still think that I would have loved teaching, but it wasn’t the ideal situation for me at the time. Then I went and switched my major again to business because it was practical. I could see what I liked in business, but I didn’t like everything. I knew that I needed to go back to art, which broke my parents’ heart (laughs) because switching to Art as a Junior is like starting over as a Freshman! I decided to go into graphic design. It was an artistic, yet applicable major for the “real world”. It clicked, and I knew it was what I should’ve been doing all along. It took me 6 years to graduate. Some people think I have a Masters degree (laughs), but that experience definitely molded me into the person I am today and conditioned me for what I do now.”

Team mascots?

Q: Who is the goofiest of you guys?

A: (Everyone laughing) We all have our moments.

(Alex) “If we are talking about Fridays after a week full of printing, definitely me.”

(Kyle) “Usually it depends on who has the least amount of sleep, sleep deprivation can cause humor or grumpiness.”

(Foosh) All 3 of us have a persona. When you’re at the shop all day long, you need some entertainment and humor. Sometimes we even get to see Alex rocking out to Rihanna.

(Kyle) We have a very good grasp on the work to fun ratio here. We realize that we are laying the foundation for something great, so we take it very seriously. We want this company to blow up, but if we let stress get to us, then we would be toast. It is a fun environment here.

Dressed up for Halloween: Brian Wilson and an oversized Tiger.

Q: What are some fun facts that you can share about Uprise?

A: (Kyle laughing) “Here is a good one; the first time Alex printed shirts it took him 5 hours to do 25 shirts. Now he can do 700 in a day.”

(Alex) “Yeah, in college I printed my first 6 shirts for a class by toughing myself how to print off of YouTube. I rigged it all up in my basement. I’ve come a long way since then!”

Alex has mastered the printing for Uprise.

(Kyle) “We have shipped our line of Uprise Apparel to 15 states. We made stickers and had a ‘best sticker placement contest’  to create some noise on Facebook, and we had 3 stickers show up in pictures in Italy! I’m still not sure how they got there.”

(Foosh) My craziest thing was driving 23 hours straight to Maryland and back in 3 days last winter to pick up the shirt press and dryers to help set our shop up and then drove back. It was a long trip.

(Kyle) This first year has been an all-around learning experience, and we have a lot more to learn. We’ve faced a lot of adversity, broken equipment, money situations, and so much more. Sometime I think that we are lucky to have gotten to this point, but I then I remember what a good friend of mine told me:

“chance favors the prepared mind; we were given a chance and we were prepared to take it.”

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