Baby wears Texas Tech mittens

Day1Fans mittens with Texas Tech theme. Photography by Woody Apfel.

Woody Apfel and Alex Bourdeau met playing club baseball at the University of Texas at Austin.

After graduation, the friends stayed in touch. Apfel lives in Grapevine, and Bourdeau lives in Lake Highlands, though he lived in Old East Dallas for years. Both work in the tech industry.

While adhering to stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, the two were looking for something to keep them busy.

They also became fathers around that time, and that’s when they learned the importance of putting mittens on babies to keep the tiny humans from scratching their faces.

“The first thought that both of us had was, ‘Hey, we should get some UT mittens for them,'” Apfel says. “And then the thought was like, ‘Oh man, it would be so cool if they could put up the hook ’em. That’d be so funny. And surely these exist, right?'”

But there were no Longhorn-themed mittens to be found. In fact, there were no college-themed baby mittens at all.

Seeing a gap in the market, they decided to start a business to sell them. Since neither of them had any experience in the apparel industry or business ownership, there has been a lot to learn.

“That was a bit of the emotion we had at the beginning,” Bourdeau says. “We’re really excited, but we also have no idea — we don’t have any idea what we’re doing.”

Everything took longer than they expected. They went through several iterations of models, making and tweaking prototypes.

“It felt like at every stage, we would take a couple steps forward, and then we would hit a wall,” Apfel says.

Eventually, they found an Austin-based company that produced a prototype for them, which they received around the beginning of 2021.

It was an “almost-done” product that was close to matching the idea they had in their head, Apfel says, but it still needed something before it could be manufactured and taken to market. They took the prototype to an international company, found through Alibaba, that could produce a new, final prototype and handle manufacturing.

Apfel and Bourdeau liked the company because it specializes in baby apparel, so they knew the materials would be safe for little ones.

They also had to obtain official licenses from the universities to use their branding. Luckily, Apfel says, many of the larger schools use the Collegiate Licensing Company to oversee the process, but not all of them do. Also, there are different types of licenses that affect how the product can be sold. Just as in the design process, timing has been a factor in the licensing process.

Bourdeau says he and Apfel know how hard it was to start their own company, Day1Fans, and they want to help other entrepreneurs develop and capitalize on their ideas.

Day1Fans offers mittens with Texas A&M, UT and Texas Tech branding. As of publication, they’ve sold over 200 pairs. The mittens come in two sizes, available for newborns up to 18 months old, and cost $20 per pair.

Apfel and Bourdeau say they have about 30 other schools in mind, including Texas Christian University and Baylor University, that they are working on securing licenses for to expand their product line.

In the future, Bourdeau and Apfel say they hope to get Day1Fans in retail stores. But for now, they are focusing their efforts on digital marketing and online sales.

“Every time someone interacts with the product, they light up,” Apfel says. “That’s the thing that I think has kept us going this whole time.”