Pacific alumnus creates iconic Pacific athletic apparel
For Lamar Gibbs '10 being an entrepreneur offers a sense of freedom, which can only be attained by overcoming obstacles along the way.
"To be successful you need to learn to enjoy the journey and embrace the challenges in front of you," said Gibbs during University of the Pacific's recent Leading Voices series. "Through this experience you have the opportunity to evaluate yourself and grow to be a better professional."
Gibbs is the creative mind behind and founder of Zeus Collegiate, a licensed collegiate apparel company. Originally launched in 2013 as The Tiger Collection, Zeus Collegiate now is one of Northern California's most recognizable collegiate brands, representing multiple universities, including Pacific and Sacramento State.
The Florida native arrived at Pacific as a freshman in 2006 and quickly acclimated to campus. Gibbs joked, "Pacific was different in a good way. The biggest culture shock for me coming from Florida was the heat. It's a different type of heat here, it's like opening an oven door and it just blasts you in the face."
Despite the dry heat, Gibbs found a nurturing community on the Stockton campus. He made close connections with classmates and professors by getting involved with ASuop and graphic design.
"My business opportunities really blossomed through my graphic design work with ASuop," explained Gibbs. "As my network grew on campus and in Stockton, I was able to pick up design opportunities as a freelancer. That's when I started thinking about creating my own brand."
Gibbs first started designing and printing apparel on-campus in his residence hall. He began by creating unlicensed t-shirts with Powercat and Tommy Tiger on the front. He explained, "I embraced the don't ask for permission, but ask for forgiveness motto." Without this bold and ambitious attitude Gibbs feels there would be no Zeus Collegiate. "If I had not pushed the envelope, I would not be where I am today."
In fact, the popularity of his unlicensed shirts drew the attention of Pacific and that was when the university began working with him to become licensed to create apparel. Gibbs began to work with Jim Dugoni, who at that time served as Pacific's Licensing Director, while overseeing marketing and revenue production for athletics. With the support of then Pacific Athletic Director Lynn King and Marketing Director Georgia Kovich-Lee, Dugoni began to work with Gibbs to get his burgeoning business officially registered with the Collegiate Licensing Company.
"All of us at Pacific are so proud of Lamar and how much he has grown his business," said Dugoni. "He has come a long way from those humble beginnings of pressing t-shirts and hats in his dorm room."
Early in his career, Gibbs embraced a grassroots social media marketing campaign to grow his business. He created the idea of hiding his products as "Easter Eggs" around campus for students to find. He would post pictures of the location on his Instagram account and his followers would then be able to find the items. Once the items were found, he would ask the individuals to post a picture of them finding it and tag him on the post.
"To increase the notoriety of your brand you need to reach out to your potential customers and meet them where they are," said Gibbs. "Marketing on social media is all about engaging and interacting with customers. That's why I still always comment and thank people for their posts."
With Zeus Collegiate, Gibbs wants to create apparel that is "one of a kind." Some of his most popular items have been the Baby Burns Tower, the Project Grayscale apparel and his original Tommy Tiger snap back hat.
"I want to create items that will gain a heavy following and be a conversation starter," explained Gibbs.
Moving forward, Gibbs hopes to grow the brand of Zeus Collegiate and create apparel for more colleges in California and throughout the country.
"My purpose in life is to design and create," said Gibbs. "In that way I am able to influence and impact people in a positive way."
To check out Gibbs' work and purchase Pacific swag, visit the Zeus Collegiate website.