By Jim Schutze
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The Asian market could treat Militree well. Japan in particular is fascinated with all things Western. T-shirts there sell for six times what they would here. And the boutiques are everywhere.
There are, of course, no guarantees--in Asia or, for that matter, in the States. Briel's dad worries about his son wasting his education on a pipe dream. Buringrud is working three jobs to make ends meet. So is Casperson. Any extra money is put into Militree. Yet a large demand from, say, Asia would at this point overwhelm the company. "You really need six figures to start a company like this," Buringrud says.
But the Internet helps.
There are some designers, like Paul Frank, maker of the Julius the Monkey T-shirts, who rely on the Internet to push product. Last year, Frank's T-shirts reaped $37 million in sales, according to Fortune magazine.
"I feel online sales are a huge contender...and a great way to reach people all over the world," Kinsey says.
Militree plans to use the Internet as much as it can and pour the money into the music videos the company is making with reggae artists such as Florida's Mikey Dredd. Casperson, who graduated with a degree in film, says the first video is almost done. The goal is to make Militree "a multimedia name," Casperson says. (It's a concept that Mark Ecko, founder of Ecko Unlimited, used to push his brand beyond T-shirts and into an international corporation in the 1990s. Ecko started smaller than Militree did.)
And then there are the schools Militree wants to build in Jamaica. To give back, as Buringrud says, to the culture from which Militree's taken.
"I think it's good to set your goals high," Alexander says.