You know someone’s a born entrepreneur when they’re 22 years old, graduating from the University of Michigan, and on their fourth venture. Peter Michaelides started his first business renting out parking lots for U of M football games at 11 years old, and the bug bit him for life. Now he’s heading off to Santa Monica for the summer to make connections in the fashion industry to further his career combining technology, apparel, and art. At his startup Terms & Conditions, he loves to connect new artists, or people in technology or other businesses who didn’t even think of themselves as artists, with people who appreciate their work by putting their art on apparel, which makes it easy to distribute. Michaelides invited me to the Michigan Fashion Media Summit in Ann Arbor, presented by Louis Vuitton, Steve Madden, and Michael Kors, to hear from designers at Nike deal with product design in the age of tech and rapid product design.
Michaelides founded his first tech-related company with a fellow student, TechArb alum Jake Allain. “I was going into Michigan at office hours for one of our professors at a bar,” he tells me, “and he didn’t show up so it was just this kid and me. We started talking and got to know each other really well.” The result? A solar rechargeable battery attached to a water bottle. SoWa. “That’s what got us into Optimize, TechArb, Zell, [and more] Michaelides says. “That’s how I got introduced to entrepreneurial groups on campus.”
Why include art in all this? “I’m interested in bringing people together and the creative side of things,” Michaelides says. “I love music, theater, visual arts. I kind of had this mid-college crisis and went into practice room and played piano for 3 hours. I thought, ‘Maybe it’s the creative stuff I’m missing.'”
Michaelides founded Terms & Conditions with a goal: to start a creative collaborative community where creative individuals could share their ideas with others using the T&C platform. “We try to get artists out there to show them that even if they don’t want to be a full-blown artist when they grow up, they are appreciated,” Michaelides says. “The plan is to expand it out into other forms of creativity and media.”
“Tech is critical to [Terms & Conditions], to social media and advertising using social media platforms using recording and other features. That’s where I am now. I was able to start this because I finished my degree early.”
“At TechArb I really learned about the [tech] community that was there. While I may not be super focused on the latest tech that’s going to save the world, developing tech is critical for any small business these days whether they’re advertising the tech or leveraging it to advance their products,” Michaelides says.
“The common thread for me is the people, the connections, the networking. It’s fascinating. You’ll meet the most introverted person who loves to code, you have a conversation with them and you’ll see they have a notebook full of sketches. ‘Have you ever shared that work?’ You empower them to a level where they realize maybe I can draw/paint or I do have a voice. Using our platform and the network I’ve built in Ann Arbor, it’s much easier to connect those people with others who will show them their work is appreciated.”
At the Ross Media Fashion Summit, Jordan Brand VP of Design David Creech told panel moderator Nate Forbes he applied and was rejected something like 30-35 times at Nike before they hired him. “The biggest blockage in getting hired is politics,” he said. “Nike hires athletes, not resumes, people with a relentless appetite to succeed.” In design as in business in general, students were encouraged, many doors will close before others open for you. True for entrepreneurs in particular.
Colleague “PR” Paul Rivera said he had an aha moment at one point in his career when he saw Jayzee. “He said the really smart thing we did is not quit. We live in an era when we want to see everything planned. Trust what’s in front of you.”
Nike’s design process puts the consumer/athlete at the center to figure out what innovation they want, then design that thing. But it takes 70 designers and an army of partners, from media to PR. “You create an emotional connection with the consumer. That’s how you build a brand,” Creech says.
Peter Michaelides was one of 6 finalists for a student award for design at the summit, and he presented along with other finalists along with other student entrepreneurs combining often high-tech fashion with business.
“I’m always interested in talking with people about marketing methods that are out of the box, or sometimes I like to create a new box. Sometimes you have to go as far away as possible to create a change. I’d love to talk to people who are well versed in using tech for advertising in new and unique ways whether it’s a new platform or timing method,” Michaelides says.
Michaelides’ family own a local business and work in local consulting and legal firms. “Some entrepreneurs had the guts to go against their family, but I think the majority of successful entrepreneurs have family behind them,” he says. He definitely appreciates his family’s entrepreneurial spirit and their support to get as far as he has at his young age.
“I’ve been here 22 years and I love it, will probably come back, but it’s important for me to move and develop my network somewhere else,” Michaelides tells me. He’s going to L.A. next, but he’s very well connected here and thinks he’ll be back. He’s looking for connections in the art world as well as technology and fashion, so he can continue to combine the industries he loves.