This Denver Local Limelight is quite literally a story of Rags to Riches.
The story of U-Trau, a company that sells fashion-forward garments to colleges and universities, began with one man named Greg Davis; the stunt double and look-alike of actor Doug Savant from Melrose Place (90210). Greg graduated from college in 1985 with honors and went to work for the #1 public accounting company in the world. He was extremely talented and successful in the finance world but felt a strong tug from his entrepreneurial spirit to branch out to start his own company.
Greg and his college buddy started UTrau in 1986, and they quickly became partners. Greg’s partner had an integral role in the success of this company. Later on in their journey, Greg’s faithful partner decided to step away from the business and work as an insurance agent instead. Greg then took on the entire company by himself. He also decided to utilize his partner as his insurance agent, and they are still good friends.
This is the story of U-Trau…
After graduation, Greg and a friend had a conversation about their boxer preferences, as they were both tired of the styles they had been wearing. Through this conversation, they began to expand on the idea of fashion boxers for men. The conversation soon developed into a concept, and the two men started to get excited about the possibilities of creating fashionable boxers. Both Greg and his friend were working other jobs at the time, but a seed had been planted, and with help from Greg’s entrepreneurial spirit, that seed began to grow.
Greg’s dad was proud of his son’s career path with the public accounting firm. It was a huge accomplishment for Greg to work for the #1 accounting firm right out of college. So, it was quite a surprise when his son came home one day to tell him that he was going to quit his corporate job to start a boxer company. Greg’s dad looked at him with initial disappointment, and shock. He never fully understood the entrepreneurial experience, and for a long time, it was difficult for him to make peace with the decision. However, over time Greg’s dad was able to see the success of the business before he passed away.
U-Trau went live in 1986 after Greg quit his job and decided to chase after this boxer idea to try and make it a reality. He moved back in with his parents and started his company from the basement of the house.
Greg started research on various garment companies and found a company in New York that looked promising. He put on his corporate suit and tie and flew to New York to meet with the garment people. Greg recalls this experience, “We were extremely green, but took this opportunity very seriously.”
After arriving in New York, he met with the two older men who owned the garment company. They asked Greg how much yardage he was looking to purchase, and he replied with maybe 4-5 yards. The men chuckled a little and told him that if he wanted to do print on the material they would need to purchase at least 3,000 yards. At the time, 3,000 yards would have cost more than he ever had in the bank. To his advantage though, the corporate suit and tie look encouraged the older men to take him seriously. So, they cut a deal, “You get 10 yards now, and then you come back to purchase 3,000 yards.”
With the offer on the table, but the risk of not being able to afford the 3,000 yards in the back of his mind, he took the deal. Yet that is what makes entrepreneurs successful: they aren’t afraid to take risks. Greg risked making rags, with the vision of producing riches.
The Demand Begins
He left New York confident that he had begun a partnership with the garment company. He continued to sell boxers out of his parent’s basement, selling mostly to boutiques. Now, keep in mind that this was before the days of cellphones, so it was purely face-to-face driven sales. The business was steady, but he could hardly make ends meet. Then a breakthrough came. One of Greg’s fraternity brothers from college asked if he could make Rose Bowl boxers. Jackpot!
Greg decided to run with the idea. He packed up his car with multiple suitcases full of a total of 1,000 Rose Bowl boxers and hit the road to the big game.
Within the space of 2 hours, he had already sold approximately 60 pairs of boxers. Before the game had even begun,
he sold out of all 1,000 pairs. Everybody at the game wanted a pair of the Rose Bowl boxers; people went crazy for them! During the fans’ craze over obtaining a pair of these coveted boxers, Greg met a woman who said she could help them market to colleges.
He returned to Denver satisfied with his trip. He moved from his parent’s basement into a townhouse because there was a need for more space for the growing boxer demand. Greg began to run with the college market idea and started working with the woman whom he had met at the Rose Bowl. She connected him with a handful of prospective college bookstores.
The first bookstore ordered 144 boxers, and within 4 days he had sold out. In a span of 4 months, Utrau had to make around 10,000 boxers a month to keep up with the growing demand. Greg made another move from the townhouse into an 1800 square foot facility where he could utilize screen printing equipment and ovens.
Today Greg looks back on the beginning stages and states, “My partner and I sold all day, and manned the presses at night. We were grossly broke, but we just kept plugging along.”
U-Trau evolved from loosely fitting boxers into a full college clothing line. In 1995 the demand changed and Greg started the trend of selling juniors’ clothing in college bookstores. Before U-Trau, there were no clothing options for girls in the college bookstores. So to offset this lack, they took their creativity and began to design unique outfits for women. That’s when things really started to get crazy. U-Trau expanded from an 1800 square foot facility to a 45,000 square foot facility.
This January UTrau will be celebrating 30 years.
So how does this all relate back to Diers Exhibit Group (DEG)?
Well, Greg met Jeff Diers, owner of DEG, 19 years ago in 1996. Jeff sold him a 20×20 trade show display; one of Jeff’s first big sales. Greg reflected on meeting Jeff and said, “Soon after the purchase of our 20×20 exhibit we sold a million more [boxers]!” He might be exaggerating a little, but we will take the compliment!
It was about a year ago that Greg met with Jessica Diers to purchase their second UTrau booth, as the first one they had bought in ‘96 was getting old. Because of the new booth, Utrau then sold a million more garments…or so Greg says.
Working with Greg and U-Trau over the years has been an absolute privilege. He is an exceptional businessman with a real fervor for sales. If you ever have the chance to work with Greg, make sure to go in prepared because he is not an easy sell. I can tell you from experience. You can check out UTrau’s clothing on their website and can stock up on gear for your favorite college team!
Remember, you too could start a business and build it from Rags to Riches. It takes dedication and a fair amount of risk, but the dreams are worth the risk, wouldn’t you say?
Thanks for reading another edition of The Denver Local Limelight!