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Student entrepreneur moves through hardship to realize dreams

Alex Safiran, an entrepreneurship management major and founder of Dream Driven Apparel

–By Sam Pence, Boise State MBA student

Perseverance is a key ingredient in any start-up. Boise State junior and entrepreneurship management major Alex Safiran made it possible to open Dream Driven Apparel in May 2020 through rounds of iterations, failed attempts and hardships.

Safiran sells apparel, accessories, stickers and posters for automotive and adventure enthusiasts from his Shopify website, and creates custom, one-of-a-kind pieces. He got his start on Teespring, a website where apparel can be designed for free in exchange for a percentage of the profits. He had some early success making custom shirts and creating designs for ski resorts, but he didn’t have the control over his product he desired. Instead, he taught himself to program his own website and found a third-party vendor to produce his shirts.

This wasn’t the first time Safiran had attempted a custom apparel company before. Growing up in Victor, Idaho, he didn’t have much to do when it wasn’t ski season, so he found solace in building and fabricating parts for cars.

“The hobby taught me to push my creative limits, and it taught me financial discipline and money management because it is a very expensive hobby,” he said.

His passion for cars led to selling custom shirts to other car enthusiasts. This start-up was a self-proclaimed failure. He had no idea he would eventually come back to the custom shirts idea and make it work years later. When Safiran lost his job due to the Covid pandemic in 2020, he figured it was a good time to give a business another shot. His entrepreneurship professor Bastian Thomsen provided support.

“Bastian made himself available to me online for class work questions and I told him about my business I just started and he really started helping me push it further. He met with me quite often and helped me set challenging but achievable goals,” said Safiran. “Even after I completed his class, he still met with me to discuss improving my business.”

Safiran’s Dream Driven Apparel offers custom, one-of-a-kind pieces for automotive and adventure enthusiasts

Thomsen encouraged Safiran to enter the Boise State-hosted Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge (IEC). With the help of Thomsen and Ryan Vasso in the Venture College, Safiran perfected his business plan and sales pitch, and he credits them for helping him get to where he is today.

Just as the competition was beginning, Safiran’s mom passed away due to complications from multiple sclerosis – a hardship that would set most people back, yet he used it as motivation to push forward. In an admirable undertaking, he continued with the competition and found inspiration in wanting to make his mom proud. He secured a second-place finish and earned the president’s award for inspiring the judges with his perseverance, while also earning prize money from the IEC to help grow his business.

“The feedback from the judges was the most valuable part. It was worth a million dollars.”

The young entrepreneur will use the prize money, along with the money he’s saved from operating Dream Driven Apparel, to move away from third-party vendors and printing his own high-quality apparel. He also plans to hire his first employee and launch advertising. His end goal is to have a sustainable business that offers apparel to large global retailers, and to create a full-time job and income for himself.

Safiran’s most important lesson he has learned thus far is best summed up by a quote from the late Kobe Bryant who famously said, “get over yourself, man.” Safiran believes that humility and complete dedication are requirements for being great and to opt for delayed gratification whenever possible. He doesn’t take criticism personally, but rather uses it as constructive feedback and an opportunity to grow, and he encourages other aspiring entrepreneurs to just do it.

“Write a plan, sit with your idea and see what it’s going to take to make your business successful, then just do it,” he said. “Whether your business is winning or failing, you can learn something from it.”