Merchant Spotlight: Route One Apparel
In 2010, while still an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, Ali von Paris designed a t-shirt for her friends to commemorate the closing of a popular local watering hole. When demand for the t-shirts spread quickly through social media, Ali decided to begin selling them online, and soon she had a budding business.
What began as a fun project headquartered in her dorm room is now Ali’s career. Today, her company, Route One Apparel, is the premier source for trendy and affordable Maryland pride apparel and accessories.
Ali has received many accolades in recent years, including Daily Record’s “Leading Women” in 2019, and being named both one of Baltimore’s “Women to Watch” by the Baltimore Sun and Maryland’s 50 “Very Important Professionals Successful by 40” by the Daily Record in 2017. In 2016, she was honored with an “Outstanding Young Alumnus Award” from the University of Maryland Alumni Association and as “Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
She was also named one of Baltimore’s “40 Under 40” of 2016 by the Baltimore Business Journal and invited to join Omicron Delta Kappa, one of the country’s premier National Honor Societies. Governor Larry Hogan also appointed Ali to the Maryland Tourism Development Board where she remains very active in promoting their marketing initiatives.
Route One Apparel is also a socially-responsible brand, as Ali regularly partners with local charitable organizations to raise money for causes she believes in. From her “Hogan Strong” items that raised money for the American Lymphoma Society to products that have supported the families of fallen law officers and the #BeMore line that benefitted organizations providing emergency relief to Baltimore City residents after the 2015 unrest, Ali makes sure that her state pride makes a tangible impact on Maryland’s communities.
With her entrepreneurial skills, business savvy and community concern, Ali has quickly become an exciting player in the Greater Baltimore business community.
“We’ve been able to successfully grow our fanbase online very organically,” Ali said. “We make high quality and affordable merchandise not only for our brand – but do a lot of custom work (private label/white label) for other companies.”
Ali shares that her team works efficiently lean – meaning they have a small, but a very skilled team that can knock out large projects without the headaches of a corporate alternative.
She says the team is also extremely creative and focuses on quality customer service. The brand has built a large and loyal customer base – including more than 250,000 social media and email followers – that purchase Route One Apparel online, in stores at area retailers, and at sales events.
Route One Apparel has served over 150,000 unique customers since its beginning. It is sold in over 60 stores and carries licensing rights with the University of Maryland, Old Bay, and National Bohemian.
Helping Route One serve these customers is the Wholesale Club app. Prior to discovering Wholesale Club, Ali was told the only way to set up bulk product discounts and display a custom web view for wholesale clients was to develop a separate site and sync the inventory.
“This was a problem for so many reasons – double the costs, double the web design needs, and worrying about connections for synced inventory and other software needs to be a constant issue,” Ali shares.
When Route One discovered Wholesale Club, they realized they could tag specific customers with “Wholesale” and only they would be introduced to custom rates, as well as other custom features they introduced. Therefore, the normal site experience was undeterred.
Previously, retail orders were only placed over phone, email, or fax, which left much room for error as many of their products have similar names. They also would have to manually calculate the wholesale discounts. They were seeking a solution digitally, and found Wholesale Club first and implemented this many years ago.
Ali says her favorite feature is being able to group different customers into different wholesale buckets, set minimum order requirements, and apply various discount thresholds on different types of products.
“Everything is figureoutable,” Ali said. “And the best way to figure it out is by your own trial and error, not being told what to do.”
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