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Penn State Students Representing State College Through ‘814’ T-Shirt Brand

Brandon McGowan and Jesse Cox went from childhood friends in the Pittsburgh suburbs to college roommates at Penn State to business partners at 814 Shirt.

What started off as a simple idea and a wall covered in Post-It notes is now a successful clothing brand that focuses on representing State College beyond just Penn State.

McGowan, a senior majoring in management information systems, and Cox, an information science and technology major who graduated in December, both come from entrepreneurial backgrounds. They said they’d always wanted to start something together, but it wasn’t until January 2020 that they started to get serious about their idea.

“We believe that State College and its community offers so much in itself,” Cox said. “We thought people needed another way to be represented other than Penn State.”

Because of its prominence and inclusivity, the duo decided to base their brand around the State College area code: 814.

Developing the clothing brand in early 2020 proved to be tough for the business partners. The coronavirus pandemic not only forced the pair to work remotely from two separate locations, but it also canceled tailgates and events that they believed were crucial to the launch of 814 Shirt.

Thanks to loyal friends, social networking, hard work, and a little bit of hope, 814 Shirt was able to launch its debut line before the first Penn State football game back in the fall. Now, the brand has dozens of unique clothing designs and more than 800 followers on Instagram.

The duo said that dealing with customers, working alongside big companies, and creating a quality brand image are among the most valuable skills they’ve picked up since launching 814 Shirt.

“Adobe Illustrator is also pretty tough,” McGowan laughed.

As for what’s next for the brand, Cox and McGowan plan to continue growing their business even after their Happy Valley days are over.

“[State College] is building up over the years,” McGowan said. “You see the high-rises, the hotels, the restaurants all being put in. We figure that as the town develops, we can continue to develop as well.”

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About the Author

Grace Cunningham

Grace is a sophomore advertising major and one of Onward State’s social media editors. Grace hails from Chatham, New Jersey—no, she doesn’t know Snooki, and yes, she will fight you if you tell her that Pennsylvania bagels are good. Grace loves buffalo chicken, the Yankees, and watching Cake Boss. Follow her on Twitter @gecunningham7 or email her at [email protected] if you can get her an internship in late night television.

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