Manchester University Baseball Alums Behind Unique Business Model

Story courtesy of Manchester University

An idea born by a Manchester University alum has caught Twitter’s attention.

John Smolinski is among millions using the popular social media avenue, how he does could be considered groundbreaking.

“(Athlete Swag) was the first account on Twitter whose main purpose was to showcase the lifestyle of athletes while providing up-to-date sports information along with clothing,” Smolinski said. “@Athleteswag grew to 100,000 followers in 6 months and 200,000 in one year and now sits at roughly 240,000 active followers. With the success of (@athleteswag), I was able to start a few other accounts and now I have roughly 500,000 total followers with all my Twitter accounts combined and reach an audience of better than one million people per month.”

The formula behind the success of 2011 graduates John Smolinski and fellow MU alum Ty Foster’s business is pretty normal for the business world. It started while the friends and two former Spartan baseball players were wrapping up their senior year at Manchester University with an idea for a clothing company which they ran out of their house.

“We both shared a passion for sports and clothing and really thought we had the skills to have our own clothing company,” Smolinski said. “There were a few clothing companies that we both looked up to as inspiration (22 Fresh and Rogue Status) and after seeing their success, Ty, myself and four other partners started our own company called Positive Reinforcement Clothing which we sell under the name Athlete Swag.

“We provide apparel targeted towards athletes and sports fans.... and have worked with schools selling custom spirit wear,” he added. “We encourage a positive mental attitude while providing quality clothing at an affordable price -- made by athletes, for athletes.”

Smolinski thought there might be potential for the business on social media, too. While he handles that side, Foster is in charge of the artwork and design for Positive Reinforcement Clothing.

“The whole business side dealing with (social media) was something that I started roughly a year and a half ago,” Smolinski said. “Twitter allowed me to communicate with people with the same interests, for me, those interests included sports.

“It’s turned my career path into one as a social media producer,” he added.  “Being honest, at the time, I never knew it was possible (to have this as a career). I’ve had material featured on SportsCenter, ESPN.com and CBSsports.com and have professional athletes who follow my accounts.”

Smolinski noted that some of the credit for Positive Reinforcement Clothing/Athlete Swag’s success goes to his undergraduate experience at Manchester University.

“We both graduated with a degree in Sport Management and were blessed with a great professor and advisor in Dr. Ryan Hedstrom,” Smolinski said.  “He truly cared about the success of each of his students, especially instilling the importance of networking and that is something I currently do on an everyday basis.”

“There really was not one particular course that I can relate this too, as it was a combination of all my course work,” Smolinski added. “My senior year, we did a lot of hands on work with different group projects and assignments. I can remember discussing the Manchester website and coming up with ways to make it better. One of the ideas we discussed was how social media would change the whole landscape for the future for all students and alums and how important it would be to include Twitter and Facebook on the website.”