The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


SMU students start urban retail company

It was just another dollar beer night at the Hurricane Grill forMatt Casperson, Scott Alexander and Sean Briel, but after downing afew cheap brews, Skip Buringrud, a former SMU student, turned tohis three friends with a bold proposition: “Hey, let’sstart our own company.”

The four friends had always toyed with the idea of starting aT-shirt company and two months later, when the business proposalhad well faded from junior accounting major Sean Briel’smind, Skip, who had recently moved to California, called and asked,”Are you in?”

With was no hesitation in Sean or any of the other guys’minds, they jumped right in. With $1,200 from Skip, $500 from Seanand a few loans here and there, they started ordering blankt-shirts, hiring designers and setting up a Web site.

The students’ idea has since evolved into a clothingcompany supported by “images and designs that shed light onsocial and cultural issues.” These issues, owner SkipBuringrud said, include inner-city poverty, government corruption,police brutality, social revolutions and criminal injustice.

Militree, named after an organic form of the word”military,” not only offers t-shirt with inspiredgraphics but a way of life. “T-shirts are essentiallybillboards for people, so if you are gonna design billboards whynot have them have a purpose? Using logos and name branding iscommon place, but does anyone really stop to think what does thisshirt mean?” Buringrud said. ” The shirts no only havea much larger meaning but are aesthetically pleasing aswell.”

The meaning of the designs are inspired by Buringrud’slasting fascination with reggae music and Jamaican culture and area part of what sets this company apart. Militree’s aim is notonly to sell clothes but to make a difference in some of theworld’s most needy communities. “We hope to get enoughsales to be able to fund the building of schools in Kingston,Jamaica – most specifically Trenchtown. We’d just liketo raise the education standards in the area,” Brielsaid.

Crime and poverty in Jamaica have afflicted the inner city andits children for the past 30 years and a large percentage of thepopulation lives in dilapidated ghettos. Militree is planning onsetting aside $10,000 in profit to build a school by January of2005.

“People have no idea how bad it is. You think the ghettois bad here? I can’t even try to describe what it’slike for those people in Jamaica,” Briel said. “We wantto be in a position where we can change that someday.”

In addition, Militree has joined the campaign to free MumiaAbu-Jamal, a man who Buringrud said is wrongfully imprisoned in theU.S. and is currently sitting on death row. A part of the proceedsof Militree’s new line of shirts (coming out this summer),which includes a design in the prisoner’s effigy, will bedonated to the Free Mumia Campaign.

All this might seem awfully altruistic, but is it realistic?Surprisingly, in the short months since its inception, Militree hasgrown almost beyond the four students’ grasp. Several shopsin Houston (Briel’s hometown) have been carrying the shirtsand selling them for $20-$25 as fast as they are beingreceived.

But Militree has no plans of staying local. Their shirts arebeing sold by a handful of shops in California, including TheFlagship Store, a well-known urban wear store, located in SanDiego.

Additionally, the vision of global sales is not too far ahead.Retailers in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan have expressed a stronginterest in the merchandise, which could be available in Asia assoon as next year.

The Militree guys have no intent on stopping at T-shirts either.The company already sponsors musical artists, like reggaeextraordinaire Mikey Dread.

And since the employees have been skaters and fans of skatingsince their childhood, there are also plans to expand to providingmerchandise to skateboarders and creating skate videos. Militreealso has a mixed tape coming out this summer, which features SanDiego’s reggae collective Tribe of Kings.

Militree, has garnered quite a bit of support from musicians,shop owners, designers and other important people in the industryand will surely grow as a company once Briel, Alexander andCasperson graduate and devote their attention to the cause fulltime. For more information, visit

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