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 September 1, 1999

Local clients important to ambitious Rage

BOULDER — Years before Rage Sportswear & Design existed, President Jon Colby was a University of Colorado student trying to make a buck between classes designing T-shirts for Greek events and club sports. He and a friend called it Boulder Sweat Co.

“We were just two guys working out of our bedroom trying to make some shirts on the side; just college kids trying to make beer money and pay for tuition.”

His friend went on to pursue other things, but Colby kept at it for pocket money after graduation from CU in 1988.

“He didn’t leave me anything behind except me and a lemonade stand-style business,” Colby said. “It wasn’t until 90 or 91 that I realized I could actually make somewhat of a living.”

With Vice President Ted Church, also a CU graduate, joining Rage in 1993, Colby’s T-shirt business steadily grew out of the university setting and became a graphic design firm that customizes anything from coffee mugs to golf balls.

Twelve years after Boulder Sweat Co.’s inception, the five-employee Rage Sportswear is expected to gross $2.2 million in sales, picking up mega-corporate clients such as Hewlett Packard, America Online and Levi Strauss & Co.

But Colby maintains that smaller, local businesses have always been Rage’s bread and butter.

“We’re unique in that we’ve never had to borrow money,” he said. “It was all built from grassroots. One job would pay for the next.”

As Rage’s oldest customer, CU is still a big client, and more importantly, a “training ground” for new sales representatives. Rage also handles accounts with Boulder-based businesses such as New Belgium Brewing Co., the Boulder County AIDS Project, Noodles & Co. and Never Summer Snowboards. Colby attributes most of the company’s success to word of mouth.

“Networking is how we get 50 to 60 percent of our accounts,” he said. “That’s how I get all of my accounts; meeting people in the elevator. I have never-ending stories.”

Church agreed, noting that the company relies mostly on referrals as advertisements. “It has been phenomenal,” he said. “We work really hard to prove to (clients) that we’re the ones they want. And it helps that it’s a really fun business to sell. People are really excited to promote their own business or idea or event.”

KBCO Promotion Director Julie Smith said she heard about Rage through one of its artists reputations a year and a half ago. But she hired Rage because of its prices.

“They will outbid anybody,” she said. “They’re really ambitious and just really want the business. It worked out well for both of us because they really have the best designs.”

The company is in the process of branching out more into e-commerce. Rage’s Web site is currently being revamped to include an interactive catalog and order-taking capabilities. While the new process will be a boon to clients who are constantly reordering, Church noted that e-commerce has its limits.

“They still want to feel the fabric, they still want to see the product.” But they aren’t only branching out on the Web; Rage soon will add two more employees and 500 more square feet of office space. Despite the dramatic growth spurt, Colby said he is in no hurry to grow the company.

“We’re really content with where we are and where we’re going,” he said. “When you get greedy you start to lose detail and get sloppy. We just want to keep doing it right and do it 100 percent every time.”

Rage Sportswear is located at 1715 Pearl St., Suite C, (303) 444-6505 or visit their Web site www.ragesportswear.com.

BOULDER — Years before Rage Sportswear & Design existed, President Jon Colby was a University of Colorado student trying to make a buck between classes designing T-shirts for Greek events and club sports. He and a friend called it Boulder Sweat Co.

“We were just two guys working out of our bedroom trying to make some shirts on the side; just college kids trying to make beer money and pay for tuition.”

His friend went on to pursue other things, but Colby kept at it for pocket money after graduation from…

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