2 former Tottenville H.S. pals create sports jersey pillows
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — School was never Adam Alson’s “thing.”
In fact, he got his GED after attending Tottenville High School. But at 17, when the internet was still “new,” he came up with an idea for digital marketing.
“Back then I was teaching myself how to create websites,” he said. “I was 17 when I came up with the idea for Staten Island Now. It was pre-Google. … I went to my dad and he thought it was a good idea.”
In 1997, Alson created SINow.com, an online business directory.
He and his father, a salesman, went door-to-door asking businesses if they wanted to be listed on his new website.
“The first place we walked into was a pool supply store in the middle of the winter. … My dad went through the pitch, and I showed on a laptop what the website had to offer. …They would get a basic landing page, a coupon page and photo gallery. And we made the first sale,” said Alson.
A year later, Alson had more than 100 Staten Island businesses as paying customers.
“I knew I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug,” he said, noting that this led to him working for the New Jersey Nets, which was his start in sports marketing.
RECONNECTING WITH A HIGH SCHOOL PAL
Seven years ago, Alson launched Double Down Digital, an online marketing company.
A few years later, Andrea Serie, his pal from Paulo Intermediate School (I.S. 75) and Tottenville High School, saw a Facebook post that he was looking for people to work for him at Double Down Digital. Serie — who majored in journalism in college and became a marketing director in the corporate world — was looking for freelance work after becoming a stay-at-home-mom.
“We work well together, but we are also friends. Just because we grew up together doesn’t mean we’d be a good business mix, but we are. We have different strengths, and I think they complement each other,” said Serie.
BIG LEAGUE PILLOWS
After visiting a friend’s pillow factory in 2017, Alson wanted to create sports-themed personalized pillows. He and Serie teamed up with Andrew Mason, Matthew McQueeny and Thomas Gennaro to launch Big League Pillows, an e-commerce business that sells customizable sports jersey pillows, in April 2018.
“I wanted to create an interface where people could create their own jersey pillow on a website,” said Alson. “First you pick your sport — soccer, baseball, football, hockey or basketball — and from there you chose the style, color, name on the back and number. … And within a week you get a custom- designed pillow.”
And while kids might seem to be the target audience for the pillows, sports fans of all ages have been the company’s clientele, Alson said.
“Our customer base goes from 6 months to 60 years old. People buy these pillows for their parents and grandparents. I have a friend who bought one for his father in his 70s, who used to be on a semi-pro soccer team,” he said.
And the pillows are specially packaged.
“Each pillow arrives in its very own locker box with a draft letter to add to the excitement. Big League Pillows are an inspirational gift to motivate children to dream big and swing for the fences,” said Serie.
The company has received celebrity endorsements from Terrell Owens, Brent Burns, Golden Tate, Shaquem Griffin, among other professional sports players.
Big League Pillows partnered with Team Impact — a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams — at their Game Day Gala on May 1 by donating personalized jersey pillows for 20 children honored during the evening.
“Professional athletes have visited hospitals and left signed Big League Pillows with children to serve as a source of comfort and inspiration during their recovery,” said Serie. “Little leagues and Pop Warner teams throughout the country have reached out to have Big League Pillows created as an end of the year gift.”
BIG LEAGUE PILLOWS AT A GLANCE
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners.
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