Entrepreneur: Jared Loftus

Entrepreneur: Jared Loftus

By David Jacobs (Contact)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Position: Owner

Company: Tiger District

What they do: Sell T-shirts and other sports-related merchandise

Goal: Raise $500,000 from investors to expand his online operation

Revenue: Less than $1 million

Jared Loftus does not bleed purple and gold. He isn’t from Baton Rouge, and he didn’t attend LSU. Since fall 2004, however, he’s been living and dying with Tiger football.

Tiger District, his sports-paraphernalia retail store at Highland Road and West Chimes Street, across from the North Gates of LSU, did about 80% of its revenue during football season, including about one-fourth on game days. His sales suffered if the team didn’t reach the expectations of its fickle fans, and watching a game with Loftus was like sitting next to a degenerate gambler with his life savings on the line.

His first full year started with LSU’s 30-25 loss to Iowa on the final play of the Capital One Bowl, which also was Nick Saban’s last game as the Tigers’ coach.

“The first day of business in 2005, we did negative sales,” he says. “I didn’t even know that was possible.”

Even when the Tigers are winning, Loftus says, sales could be supressed by bad weather, a power outage, or a nefarious TV executive moving a kickoff from 7 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. Conversely, LSU’s 2007 national championship wasn’t the bonanza he expected, partly because the market was saturated and fans were spoiled after winning the 2003 title.

“If you look at it as a stock portfolio, all of my stock was in LSU,” he says.

Loftus always planned to open more stores, but he didn’t understand at first how much money and time expansion would require. Moreover, his restless personality wasn’t suited to being in the store every day. He gradually realized he could profit from his knack for clever T-shirt designs without depending on a single program or a single building.

“The things I liked most about the business didn’t require a brick-and-mortar location,” Loftus says. “The whole creative process, I could do that online.”

Tiger District always had a website. In 2007, Loftus quietly began securing other domain names: SaintsDistrict.com, SoonerDistrict.com, RollTideDistrict.com and so on; today he owns the rights to more than 200 sites. He sold the store in May, although he still owns a 2,000-square-foot warehouse on Perkins Road.

He believes his long-term success will be spurred by unique designs that can’t be found anywhere else, like a black-and-gold T-shirt depicting William Shakespeare and the phrase “Who Art Dat?”

So far only a handful of the “district” sites are doing significant business. Loftus is looking for investors to inject enough cash for him to expand his operation, improve the websites and implement a broader marketing effort. He says the company could make $10 million in sales within two years and eventually reach $75 million.

“We have the ability to make ourselves really big really quickly with the right funding,” Loftus says.