Gator grads face new challenge with growing business

Kaitlin Watson (left) and Shannon McGee pose in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. The duo created The Gameday Girls, a jewelry company designed to give women classy accessories to wear while rooting for their favorite teams. Photo by MichaelJohn Carnevale.

The following is a piece I did for a class blog named Successful Gators.

For many businesses, the time between Black Friday and New Year’s Day serves as the most profitable time of year.

But for the majority of Gainesville businesses, this time is secondary to UF’s football season, and The Gameday Girls have taken full advantage.

UF graduates Kaitlin Watson and Shannon McGee became The Gameday Girls in September 2009 when the idea of selling custom-made jewelry appeared like a pearl in an oyster.

The duo creates jewelry and accessories for women looking to support their team, Watson said. The girls began selling their items on game days during the 2009 football season on University Avenue.

McGee said the hardest part about making the jewelry is getting a pair to look alike because every item is custom made. It takes about 10 to 20 minutes to sand, paint and seal the pearls we use, she said.

“It’s hard dealing with the finger cramps and getting burned with hot glue,” McGee said, “but it gets quicker when you’re doing the same items.”

Some of the items include post earrings, dangle earrings, necklaces, bracelets, headbands and scarves, all ranging in price from $8 to $25. They are made with generic logos surrounded by polka dots in generic colors to represent your favorite teams, Watson said.

Using generic materials allows The Gameday Girls to remain unaffiliated with the NCAA and the respective teams their jewelry represents.

Currently, The Gameday Girls make jewelry catered to fans at the University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Miami, University of South Florida, Clemson University and Georgia Tech.

They also accept customer requests for special orders on items they produce in any color.

“We make a strong emphasis on our website that we can make anything for our customers, just as long as they can give us the time to gather supplies if we need them,” Watson said. There are no increases in price for placing a custom order, she said.

This year, The Gameday Girls made about $180 every weekend for the three weekends they worked during the season.

“We both are seniors, so we wanted to still be able to enjoy the football season ourselves,” Watson said.

Now, with the new year approaching and their peak season coming to a close, Watson and McGee are looking forward to accomplishing a new task: working with the Atlantic Ocean between them.

Watson is spending the spring semester in Austria, and, while this could be a burden for some businesses, she said that because most of their business is done over the Internet, it will still allow them to run their business smoothly.

Watson said the pair plans to make some of their more popular items before she leaves, and she will take full responsibility of the website and social-networking efforts. McGee will take care of all the other special orders.

“Being online allows us to work from anywhere,” Watson said. Besides being able to reach a wider audience, social networking has also become the driving force in The Gameday Girls business.

Watson said the company uses Facebook and Twitter to showcase new items and promote sales exclusively for fans and followers, respectively. The group also has given away free items to bloggers in an effort to get more exposure.

In July, the company was featured on College Prep, where the blog post generated 200 visits on the first day, Watson said.

McGee said she came up with the idea to sell jewelry and accessories, which she and Watson were already making in their spare time.

William Rossi, associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said he has seen The Gameday Girls’ work and thinks it’s a great idea.

Students throw ideas at him several times a day, he said. “They’re literally all over the place.”

Rossi said he has helped former students like Kristen Hadeed and Sam Tarantino grow with their respective companies, Student Maids Inc. and Grooveshark.

He said the students who truly have the desire to succeed do so by actually making strides toward what they want to do and not wasting time just thinking about it.

He said when students approach him with an idea, he asks them questions about things that may go wrong in their ventures.

“They never know the answers, but I tell them to go figure it out and then come back,” he said. “Most of them don’t come back, but the ones who do are the ones who see success.”

Rossi said those who find solutions to problems already existing in the marketplace also become successful.

Watson found the problem to be the lack of classy jewelry available for women who wanted to support their favorite sports teams.

By using items like ribbon and pearls, McGee said the company has received great exposure so far in its first two years.

With all that exposure, she said getting the word out about the company still comes down to word-of-mouth, using social networking websites and wearing the jewelry for potential buyers to see.

Watson said the key to reaching their goals comes down to putting in the effort to work together and keeping things fun.

“We like to have our business meetings with a glass of champagne,” she said.

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