While her classmates at Berklee College of Music were taking notes on the music biz, Kristen Deiudicibus was putting what she learned into practice.
During her first semester at the Boston school, Deiudicibus, a graduate of Blake High School, founded Stereo Bear, a T-shirt company that promotes up-and-coming bands.
The line includes two dozen men's and women's shirts that start at $16.99, many of which carry the Stereo Bear logo — a bear wearing head phones. Each-shirt comes with a tag that contains a code. Customers go to stereobear.com, type in the code and download free mp3s, bios and photos of rock bands.
"My friends had music, and they didn't know how to market it well," Deiudicibus, now 21, who plays the viola. "I wanted to help artists — and that's what I'm doing with the shirts — and learn how to help them without working at the label and taking money from them."
So she teamed up with her friend Kristopher Koran and his roommate Jorge Acosta, both recent USF graduates living in Tampa. She holed up in her dorm room, instant-messaging and video-chatting with Koran to develop a business plan. They had no experience in the clothing industry.
"It was a good time to do something crazy businesswise, because it's like, 'We're just getting into the world. If we're going to mess up, we may as well mess up now,'" said Koran, 27.
But their smart moves have outnumbered the mess-ups. They collaborated with storeenvy.com to print their shirts, which they handed out for free to then-up-and-coming bands like Bradenton's We the Kings and Orlando's There for Tomorrow. Through networking, they connected with the folks behind the Bamboozle and Bamboozle Left music festivals, where they've sold their wares for several years. This month, Stereo Bear was picked up by the national retailer Zumiez.
They hope to see more Californians in particular wearing Stereo Bear. Later this summer, Deiudicibus and Koran will move to Los Angeles with the hopes of getting their T-shirts into West Coast boutiques. Their ultimate goals are to open Stereo Bear store in L.A. and to organize their own music festivals. Acosta will still be based in Tampa. But for Deiudicibus and Koran, two's company.
After Deiudicibus' graduation in May, Koran proposed to her.
Said Koran, "We know we can live together, because we did a month in a van together."