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Welcome Section 103! Georgia Tech’s newest apparel line!

We sat down to talk with the creator of the new line, Steven Little!

Photo Credit: Andrew Waters

Back in 2017, Georgia Tech dropped Russell Athletic as its primary apparel provider and entered a new contract with adidas. Nearly four years later, the selection has not been quite as expansive as many hoped for. Well starting today, there is a new option for officially licensed Georgia Tech apparel: Section 103.

Started by Georgia Tech alum Steven Little, Section 103 is bringing a full line of nearly ever-expanding apparel options. I encourage you to take a look through the website for yourself to see what all Steven is offering right now. There’s also an ongoing poll at the bottom of the page where you can vote on new options to be added.

Leading up to the release, I sat down with Steven to talk about the new apparel line and some of the other really cool things he does (like run Winsipedia).

Ben: All right. Hello all. For those of you who may not know me, my name is Benjamin Tankersley. I’m the site manager here with From the Rumble Seat. Joining me today is a good friend Steven Little. Steven, if you don’t mind introducing yourself.

Steven: Yeah. Hey, Steven, I am a Georgia Tech grad from 2006. And yeah, well, we’ll get into what I’ve kind of been doing. But I do a lot of freelance design work with the athletic department. And they’ve kind of started some side projects. One that’s launching here shortly.

Ben: All right, cool. So let’s dive right on into it. A pretty big side project, I would say that you’ve been working on we’re getting new apparel, finally.

Steven: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So yeah, this is a long time coming. For me, at least, kind of the backstory here is, yeah, I’ve done some design work for the athletic department. And we can get into kind of how that came about years ago. But one of my other side projects, which we can also talk about, is a site called Winsipedia, it’s a college football database. And one thing we tried there was to make a non-licensed apparel store as part of our site, and it did, okay. I put a lot of work, probably too much work into it, because I went ahead and just made every school some apparel, non-licensed apparel. And after a couple years of that being live, the CLC, which is here in Atlanta, the Collegiate Licensing Company that manages probably 90% of schools licensing, reached out and politely asked me to stop. it’s debatable whether or not I was violating any trademarks, but it wasn’t doing well enough for me to put up a fight or care. And it was kind of like, okay, good, I can stop trying this. But what that led to was a conversation with the CLC, about becoming an official licensee, because they said, you know, you can either stop or get licensed. And I said, well, you know, this project, I’m fine shutting down. But let’s talk about licensing, because I’ve always assumed it was really hard, really expensive. I, you know, read that you have to be a major apparel company with x thousands of dollars of sales already. And just all these assumptions. So it led to a conversation, it turns out. While some of that may have been true in the past, it really wasn’t anymore. And it wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought, nearly as hard as I thought. I think it is kind of hard to get accepted. It is a school by school acceptance basis. But through the work I’ve done with the athletic department to the people I know there, they kind of kindly put in a good word for me. And I was able to get accepted as an official licensee of Georgia Tech. So I started with one school, Georgia Tech applied. Got that and launching a whole new brand called Section 103 that will start as a Georgia Tech apparel brand and will hopefully someday add several more schools. But it was easier to start with one. That’s what I’m passionate about anyway. If it stays at Georgia Tech brand forever, I’m fine with that. But I’d love to grow it. That’s kind of how we got here and you know, I’m happy to tell you more about the brand, but I’m really excited about it.

Ben: Alright, yeah that’s cool. So how does someone go from you know, graduating Georgia Tech in 2006 to you know, going into apparel because you know, you think Georgia Tech, you think engineering degree, computer science, something along those lines, not really graphic design as much.

Steven: For sure. I, like many people, had no clue what I wanted to do in school and really even like getting out

Ben: I still don’t know what I want to do.

Steven: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I was a management major, just kind of out of, you know, not sure what I wanted to do. I certainly couldn’t have cut it in engineering classes, I don’t think, and my last semester, or last year at least, at Tech I took an advertising class and really liked it. I ended up getting an internship at an ad agency, ended up working there out of school and just kind of talking to all the people there, and what I liked about it was the creative side. That wasn’t what my job was because I had no background in it. I just did a lot of web design and designed our flag football team t shirt and stuff that was really fun that I just never thought was a job or a career and kind of had an eye for it I guess. I ended up, after a year out of undergrad, applying to and going to design school up in Chicago in a portfolio school there called Chicago Portfolio School. So basically switching careers a year out of school and doing design ever since. And I worked for 10 years in sports design at Turner Sports, now leading the team that designs the March Madness Live app and so I’ve never really been in apparel, but you know design is design. I’ve always been a big fan of apparel design and sports design, uniform design, field and all that stuff. I started a website called the Sports Design Blog years ago, one of my, as you can tell already, many side projects that I’ve started. They don’t all continue on forever. But yeah, just always been a passion of mine and some other side projects I’ve done with buddies have led me to learn a lot more about the apparel business and kind of learn enough to start this one basically, hopefully.

Ben: Well, diving more a little bit into the actual apparel. How did that process start? Like, I know you mentioned, you know, your conversations with the CLC to get licensed. But how did that conversation between you and Georgia Tech start?

Steven: Yeah, so really I reached out to some of the people I know, in the athletic department, and just kind of asked, you know, like, how does this work? What do you think the chances are me getting accepted? Because it’s not them, it’s through the school. Every school is different. Some schools’ licensing is through the athletic department, and some is through the institution. Georgia Tech’s is through the institution. So I don’t, I didn’t know anyone, you know, in the licensing department. So you kind of ask them how it works. And, you know, for some pointers and feedback, and did the lengthy application process, it’s not short, and it’s in depth, and you have to have a, you know, whole business plan. And most of these companies that do it are established companies, right? It’s not often that a startup does it. And it’s certainly not often that a startup gets accepted. And I think, obviously, largely, that’s because of the people I know, and the work I’ve done for the athletic department. And I like to think that the pitch I put together was solid. So what my pitch to Georgia Tech basically was was that Section 103, anytime we consider adding a new school, really evaluate the retail landscape for that school, and see what it is that people want, right? Like, I’m not gonna go out there and try to do what Adidas or Nike or somebody much bigger is already doing. And for Georgia Tech, just from, you know, years of paying attention to this. And also, you know, what I did through some polling and just talking to people found a few things that was lacking in the Georgia Tech apparel marketplace. That’s official Tech Gold apparel, right. So ever, ever since I guess it was like two years ago now, I sort of helped the athletic department just as like a consultant, really, when they did a whole rebrand, right. So this was right before the Adidas decision coming out of Russell, and they wanted to button up their brand ahead of time. So they really, that’s when they nailed down the tech gold. It’s when they had the wordmark design, which is essentially the font you see in the end zone and on the baseline of the basketball court and things like that. went through that whole process. And then when Adidas was announced, you know, everybody, including me was like, okay, here we go, like we’re gonna get all this gold stuff we’re gonna get and you know, there’s a little there’s been a little bit but there wasn’t what people thought. So I think the thing that the Institute really latched on to it with my application was I said, I’ll provide gold apparel like, right, it’s not that hard. Turns out, it’s a little bit hard. Because I had to find some apparel manufacturers, and to find our shade of gold in apparel is really tough. It doesn’t really exist in cotton, or really even a good poly cotton blend, like it’s really just polyester, like performance apparel, right? Like even the Adidas stuff that comes out. It’s all there, kind of shiny, if you will, athletic apparel. And that’s what I found, too. I found it through two or three different providers and, you know, got samples and held it up to the Adidas one I have at home, and it’s the exact same color. So we were able to provide some of that. Another thing was the wordmark I mentioned, it was two years ago that that wordmark was unveiled. And Georgia Tech hadn’t unveiled on in 40 years, we had just, it was all over the place. Like the last one we had was that old one, the big drop shadows that Buzz would like stand on that wasn’t even used anymore. Because it’s so dated, just every provider used their own font and did whatever they wanted, and there wasn’t the true wordmark. And now that we have one again, Adidas is the only one I’ve seen it on, and I’ve seen it on like a couple shirts. So as boring as it may be, I’m launching with a lot of just what I’m calling the essentials, the wordmark and the logo compared together or just the wordmark that isn’t available in apparel. So that was a big one. I think this is true for most teams, I said that, it seems like women’s and youth apparel was lacking at least in like, well designed stuff, right? Like, you stuff might be the hokey like, Future Yellow Jacket and like Comic Sans or something, but you know, stuff where you can match your parents and look cool. So. So those are the things I’m launching with the other one we can get into a little bit. As you know, I mentioned the lack of quality vintage apparel that’s out there. I learned a lot in this process. And one of those things is that, though I wasn’t accepted as a licensee, a vintage license is a separate license that you apply for after you’re accepted. I did apply for that. I did not get that license. I’m allowed to apply again later. And I certainly plan to, you know, once I gather more, more things to back up, you know, the claim that it’s just not out there. I think Georgia Tech views it is like it’s available and it’s out there. And you can find a little bit.

Ben: Very deep.

Steven: Yeah. And the little bit you’ll find is two or three old logos. And you know, I dug up with the help of Georgia Tech Uniform Vault on Twitter helped me a lot,, like I found some really cool old stuff that would be so awesome to have on apparel. And not even just can you not find it, but the shirts, I’m using are really high quality, really soft, comfortable shirts, and good quality screen prints done here in Atlanta. And I would love to provide that with vintage logos. And someday I certainly plan to and I’ll continue to apply. But right now we’re not launching with it, which is a bummer. But I’m still excited about this stuff we are launching with and when the site does launch, and you see it, I will constantly have a poll running at the bottom of what should we print next. So I’m always just adding designs, and there’ll be vintage on there too. If nothing else to gather some data. Look, people want this. So that’s kind of how I’m handling things. But yeah, I’m excited about the stuff we are launching.

Ben: So talking about some of the designs, specifically, you know, how did you come up with those? Like, I know a lot of it is just like taking Georgia Tech’s logos and you know, making a shirt work for it. But can you explain your process with that?

Steven: Yeah, for sure. Um, so one thing I did is what you just mentioned, right? The essentials were missing, like the wordmark’s not there. So I just put together some good combinations of the wordmark the logo, just Tech and all that. That’s all in the initial collection, because I did send a poll out to some people initially, like, what would you buy, and that stuff rose to the top because it’s lacking. So that’s all in there. It’s not the most unique thing, well, it is because you can’t find it. But it’s not like I custom designed any of those. But I’m excited to be able to offer those. The rest is just a combination of well, there was the vintage stuff. But then everything else is just ideas that that I came up with. A lot of what I did for the athletic department for a couple years as a freelancer was t shirt design. So I would design the white out shirt or the student section shirt or the season ticket holder shirt. And in doing so I would provide them with usually like three concepts. And some of these are kind of a throwaways that we didn’t use or I brought some of those back and edited them or just other things I’ve had in my head. And like I said, I’m going to use, you know, polling to really determine what to print so that I’m not printing just what I like and think is cool, but what people actually want they’re gonna buy. So and I’m gonna constantly be adding just because, you know, I’ll think of stuff where people submit ideas that they want to see, and we’re constantly doing it. Yeah, there’s a good mix of stuff out there.

Ben: So in your polling leading up to this, were there any designs that you were surprised to see people either didn’t want or weren’t very excited about?

Steven: Yeah, it’s kind of funny. So not to harp on the vintage stuff again. But I mentioned all those really cool rare vintage logos I found, right, the ones that people really wanted, were like, the three that you see everywhere. There’s the T with Georgia at the top, Tech at the bottom, and the yellow jacket in the middle. There’s an old T that just has Georgia at the top and Tech at the bottom. And then what was the other one? Actually, those were the two that really was the top it’s kind of those unique ones that I was excited about, like, oh, man, like, no one’s probably even seen this one from the 60s, or there’s a really cool one that was the Georgia School of Technology logo. I think the only place that really exists that I’ve seen online is it’s engraved on a building on campus, and then somebody found a class ring from like, 1896, or something like that stuff is really cool to me. And, you know, it requires explanation. So it certainly kind of stayed at the bottom of the pile. But those are cool. Um, what else? There was one I was really, really kind of bummed or two that actually did rise to the top that, so this is the way this process works, now that I’m accepted licensee, I have to submit each design that I plan to print. And Georgia Tech approves or denies it. And there was one that got denied. I made a shirt that said, you know the Ramblin Reck that has the two flags and one of them says to Hell with Georgia, it was that pennant flag that says that and you actually we we can’t sell a pair that says Georgia. Gotta be thwg. I think that was it. So I was bummed that we didn’t make it because people did want that one. And there was another one I made that was really cool. I thought it was still in the bowl, but it was just Georgia Tech football helmet. And it had all the years that we won the national championships. And that is considered a vintage design, even though it had no vintage logos on it. I think just because it alludes to like history, right? And that one rose to the top and I was really, it’s probably my favorite one. So I can’t print that until I get a vintage license. Yeah, the ATL stuff was really popular and I think we’ll be done I’m wearing now. And I’m excited about that, because I designed that logo for the football field last year, and the team has it on T shirts, but they’re not for sale anywhere that I’ve seen. So this will be the only place you can get them. So that’ll be cool.

Ben: Alright, so I did want to at least briefly talk about some of the other side work that you do. I know you mentioned Winsipedia. Personally, I’ve used that a lot. Can you talk a little bit about how you got started with that?

Steven: Yeah, for sure. So that was an idea years ago, that kind of came from a few places. One was a project we were trying to pitch for, it was very loosely related to that. But just like a championship tracker, and then I just got, you know, started thinking about a site that would, you’d be able to not only look at your team’s history, but compare two teams on any historical stat. So there’s stuff out there for rushing yards, and passing yards, and recruiting and all this stuff, the game statistics, but there’s nothing out there that I had found where you can nicely, at least visually compare two teams histories, right? Both head to head like against each other and just like comparing their program history to each other. So it’s just kind of an idea I had and I wasn’t really sure how easily could be pulled off. I was kind of skeptical. And a co-worker at the time of mine basically was like, no, this is doable, we can do this pulled into a developer who also said, yeah, I can totally do that. And, you know, they got me fired up. And we just did it. The three of us did it over a summer. One developer pulled it off in like four months. And I still don’t know how he did it. And yeah, unfortunately, the site really hasn’t changed since day one, which is like seven or eight years ago, I think we burned our developer out a little bit. And we’ve maintained it and kept the data up to date. But there were so many features from our initial brainstorm that I’d love to build that we just honestly haven’t. But it’s a great resource. And it’s good, you know, it gets a lot of love. And, you know, I see people all the time that know it, and I’m proud of it for sure. I would still love to enhance it someday. So if any developers want to chip in and help us, we would love to add to it or start it over.

Ben: Are there any ideas you would want to mention here?

Steven: For Winsipedia? Yeah, there was a lot of stuff around. So national championships is like the biggest hot topic that we get emails and tweets about right because national championships in college football are like the most confusing black hole in the world because prior to College Football Playoff and BCS they it was the wild wild west, right? It was voting and it was several polls and several championship name. And even since then, it still is because it seemed like UCF can say hey, this poll called us National Championships, and we’re going to claim it and no one can stop them. There’s not a tournament like there is an FCS or Division Two or Three or high school or any other level of football. So it’s just such a weird thing. So I designed a feature, and we have talked to some developers about a movie just kind of dragged our feet. But that I’d love to launch that as a like super immersive, like championship tracker where you could go in as a user and say, like, I think these polls matters. And I think these don’t and like filter and see what it spits out. Like which teams how many or or just even browse and look and say like, you know that see how many championships each team have? In which decades in which polls in which it’s, I don’t know, there’s so many ways you can slice national championship data, because there’s how many the school claims, how many these polls claim. There’s no official NCAA champion any of those years. So it’s, it’s muddy. And I’d love to provide something like that for people who just have arguments because there’s no single source of truth. And we’re not going to be that but it’d be fun to provide. You know, it’s something that you can look at and say no, look at this. Yeah.

Ben: Yeah, add some fuel to the fire for both sides.

Steven: For sure.

Ben: And then you also mentioned, you work a good bit with March Madness, the NCAA. What exactly is it that you do with that?

Steven: Yeah, so I’ve worked at Turner Sports here in Atlanta for coming up on 11 years. For seven of those years. I was a designer on in March Madness. So I designed user interface for those websites and apps. It’s a contract Turner has with the NCAA. And it’s through 2030-something that we’ll be doing it for a while. So now I manage the team that does that. So it’s the same app every year. But I you know, I’m a diehard sports fan and college sports fan and March Madness has always been my favorite sporting event. So it’s a dream job and it’s a lot of fun. And yeah, that’s my day job. Besides all these side projects that I do.

Ben: Trust me, I’ve got a number of side projects, including this one. So what was it like this year with Georgia Tech actually making the tournament for the first time in over a decade. Did that change like your excitement level of working with March Madness?

Steven: Yeah, a little bit, maybe not in working with it, but just for the tournament general. I mean, I it’s funny. Georgia Tech made the tournament in 2010. So March 2010. I got the job in September 2010. And we did not make it for 11 years. I never, it might be my fault. I never got to make an app that Georgia Tech was in until this year finally. So it was just fun to see it in there. Right? Because I mean, for years, I would when when I was the designer on this, I would mock up everything with Georgia Tech in it. It was all Georgia Tech. And I mean, people from the NCAA would be like, oh, you’re the guy that puts Jarrett Jack in every mock up. Yeah, that’s me. And just to finally see them in there was great. So it certainly raised my tournament excitement, though working on it is you know, about the same other than it was fun to take screenshots of the app and see, see us in there. Yeah. Yeah.

Ben: So kind of winding down. Talk a little bit more just about, you know, you’re obviously a Georgia Tech fan. Otherwise, I don’t feel like you would be going through all this. So just kind of taking a stroll down memory lane, a little bit. What’s your favorite moment in Georgia Tech sports history, whether it be football or basketball or some other sport?

Steven: Sure. So I was not a Georgia Tech fan. I didn’t grow up in Georgia, until I came to Tech. So I started being a fan in ‘02. And I was very fortunate that my first year here was the Final Four run. So I drove with a buddy to San Antonio, and was there when we’re buying and had the shot that sent us the national championship. And I remember we were way up in the nosebleed. A lot of the students were down on the floor, but we were way up high. And when he made that shot, I remember jumping and then landing not in my row, like down a row. Somewhere else got elbowed and like the temple had like a throbbing headache all night long, but like didn’t care because it was just so awesome. So that is still my favorite memory for sure.

Ben: Any favorite players, coaches from your years as a fan?

Steven: Yeah, I mean, I loved Jarrett Jack, you know, on that, that team, obviously Calvin Johnson was in school like right at the exact same time I was. So that was a ton of fun Tashard Choice was a ton of fun to watch. So it’s awesome that he’s back and the staff. You know, this year’s basketball team has a ton of fun. Alvarado is a blast to watch, Moses Wright was. Gosh, there’s so many. And it’s great. The work I’ve gotten to do with the athletic department. I’ve gotten to know Sean Bedford over the last couple of years. So it’s cool to get to know some of these guys. Yeah, Sean’s awesome. And actually, with Section 103. I met Synjyn Days today, he was kind enough to come help me out on our photo shoot, we’ll see him in our, our photos. He’s a super nice guy. And he he was on the Orange Bowl team that my first son was born December 31. The day of that. So I watched it in the hospital with my like, seven hour old baby.

Ben: Obviously named him Justin right?

Steven: I told him I named him Synjyn but I did not. We had the name picked out well before the Orange Bowl. But uh, I should have probably.

Ben: I gotcha, I gotcha. Well, thank you for your time. I really appreciate this. Last question. I have, you know what, what comes next? Like? You know, the last thing is seeing all done photoshoot done. When can people start buying this stuff?

Steven: So we’re launching, you know, maybe the day that this is on the website, but a Monday May 24, the site will go live. So yeah, check out @Section103 on Twitter, @Section_103 on Instagram. I’ll be promoting a bunch. I’m @Steven_Little on Twitter. Yeah, it’s gonna go live. I you know, ordered a somewhat small quantity to start just to see how things go. But I’ll be reordering quickly. So if something is sold out, don’t get discouraged. Come back. And then yeah, make your voice heard with what you want me to print next. And if that’s vintage, then we’ll keep trying and applying and hopefully someday we’ll get there.

Ben: Alright. Well, again, I appreciate your time. And I feel like the only appropriate way to leave you what’s the good word?

Steven: To Hell with Georgia!

Ben: Everyone listening, I hope y’all have a great rest your day.

Steven: Thanks for having me.