Creating a fashion statement

Character Lines expands from T-shirts to a retail sportswear line

When Don Juan Moore and Eric Jenkins created a logo in 1992, they obtained a trademark. Then, the partner-owners of Character Lines sportswear put the logo away and forgot it. When they rediscovered it in 1995, they printed 20 T-shirts and sold them. Those 20 tees became 100, 200, then 500.

Moore and Jenkins used $500 of their own money to get started in Tallahassee, Florida. Money for growth has come from revenue or loans from family and friends.

The Character Lines logo includes the slogan “It’s about character, not color.” Their message draws customers, says Moore. “I think what makes Character Lines different from the other sportswear lines is we’re supporting unity through fashion. We don’t have a certain market or target audience.” The line and message are attractive to all, regardless of age, ethnicity or color.

Character Lines began as a part-time venture. Moore, a graduate of Florida A&M University, was a video producer for the state of Florida corrections system. Once the company took off, Moore says he was let go because he was told Character Lines was a conflict of interest.

Since then, revenues have steadily increased from $38,750 in 1995 to $345,831 in 1998 with $550,000 projected for 1999. Character Lines has seven employees and Moore and Jenkins maintain a close partnership. A Florida State University graduate, Jenkins now handles the administrative operations while Moore oversees the day-to-day functions.

They’ve survived these crises and the business continues to grow through conventions, mail order, retail, online and catalog sales. Selling directly to the customer has been key because they learn firsthand about customer preferences.

One of his biggest accomplishments resulted from an appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show in 1998.

Joyner told him that J.C. Penney’s headquarters was right down the road. Moore put on a suit and waited in the lobby for two days. And finally, with no appointment and no connections, he convinced J.C. Penney to carry Character Lines, which can now be found in eight of their stores nationwide.

Now that the line is getting national and international attention, Moore and Jenkins have big plans. They will develop overseas markets (the logo exists in English, Spanish and French), children’s and women’s lines, a golf line and pants and shorts. Moore says his goal for 2000 is to get Character Lines in more department stores, including Burdines, Dillards and Sears. No doubt Character Lines’ bottom line will continue to show the fruits of their labor.

Character Lines, P.O. Box 13911, Tallahassee, FL 32317-3911; 800-324-9962; www.characterlines.com.

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