By Ann Luongo
Jack Doherty, the owner of College Hype, had originally planned to go into the field of teaching while attending Westfield State College. Instead, he got involved in creating T-shirts that poked a bit of innocent fun at the school’s rules, and an idea was born that would take him down a completely different path.
“I, and a few of my classmates, got caught up in the college spirit and we began creating T-shirts that reflected what we (somewhat humorously) saw as the rules that kept us from having fun,” Doherty says. “So, we created T-shirts with the messages like ‘Westfield State: No Fun Allowed,’ and ‘Westfield State: Eat, Drink and Get Written Up.’ They were a hit with our fellow students, and it gave me the idea for a different career than I had originally planned.”
Once out of college, Doherty took a position in Braintree with a company that specialized in college loans, but almost immediately started the T-shirt business, part-time. “I left my Braintree job after six years to go full time with my business,” he says.
Doherty began to realize that what had started on a whim could become a serious business. “We can trace the name of our company, College Hype, back to Westfield State. It’s a name that has served us well for more than 30 years,” he adds.
In the early years, his company didn’t screen print the shirts they created but instead subbed the work out and they handled their own design and marketing. About six or seven years in, Doherty’s fledgling company bought its first presses.
“I began screen printing in my parents’ basement of their Dorchester home. We made the switch to doing our own printing to have better control of the process. We could print samples for customers. It was important for us to see how the product actually looked rather than depending on someone outside.”
At the business’ 10-year mark, it moved the entire operation to a 10,000-square-foot space at 540 Gallivan Boulevard in Dorchester, where they still reside. More recently, they opened a second location in Weymouth, at 54 Mathewson Drive, which has 15,000 square feet of space.
“We think the South Shore is awesome,” says Doherty. “It’s home to a number of our employees who are pleased to have a shorter commute to work. But there’s more to it than that. We’ve been doing more and more work on the South Shore and thought having a presence here would be good for us, strategically. And we have grown and needed more space!”
College Hype has gone on to provide gear for a great number of companies and organizations both in and outside the college realm, including Wahlburgers. “Growing up in Dorchester, we all knew each other, and when they were looking for someone to provide T-shirts and other promotional products for their ventures, they supported another Dorchester family – and business.”
Some other recognizable entities the company provides gear for include the New England Aquarium, the Franklin Park Zoo, Boston Latin, Boston Collegiate Charter School, Boston Preparatory School, and KIPP Academy Boston.
“We work with a number of schools and, for many, we have set up online stores for them, so that they can order their merchandise online,” Doherty says. “Some of our other school/college clients include Northeastern University, BU, MIT, Harvard and BC. Also, our T-shirts have ended up in several movies – The Town and Gone Baby Gone. We love Dorchester, but we love the South Shore also, and expanding out here is great for us.”
A few other places where their apparel and products can be purchased are The Voyager, Phillips Candy House, Canton Ice, South Shore Hospital Gift Shop, and Dynamik Sports.
“We also market our apparel and products at different Irish festivals. We just did one in Yarmouth, and each year we participate in the South Shore Irish Festival, held at the Marshfield Fairgrounds. And we market them along the St. Patrick’s Day parade routes, especially in Southie.”
College Hype employs between 25 and 30 people, depending on the season, which may seem small, but their production capacity (and vision) is big. “When we started, it was just me and one other person. My goal in starting the company was to have everybody in the United States know our name,” he says. “That’s probably a bit ambitious, but I wanted people to know about College Hype in a positive way.”
Community support is paramount to Doherty, and College Hype supports a number of Boston-area charities, such as the Martin Richard Foundation and Team MR8. They also work with ALS One, in honor of Kevin Gosnell, a Hanover resident who lost his battle to ALS a few years ago. The company has also worked with the Charbonnier family, who have honored the life and memory of State Trooper Mark Charbonnier, who was killed in Kingston.
As far as expansion, Doherty says he’s always looking to expand the retail lines to outside markets. A number of South Shore locations already carry the College Hype merchandise, and the company is looking to expand that.
They also have a strong e-commerce presence so their merchandise can be purchased online.
As limited as Doherty’s free time may be these days, he still takes it where he can. “I love spending time with my family – and, in what spare time I have beyond that, I’ve done some coaching for a number of town sports leagues, mostly hockey. I love learning about other people – what they like, what they do.”
Even though the business started out doing college-related themes, it has grown and developed into so much more. “We’re screen printers and embroiderers, but we’re more than that,” Doherty says. “We’re a company that helps businesses, organizations, and people who run special events (like marathons and fundraisers) market their message. T-shirts with messages are conversation starters. We help people find a way to start the conversation.”