Jose Solorzano, founder of Fratty Bear, wants you to wear his shirts
Jose Solorzano ’20 (Cal Berkeley) started his first business when he was in high school with a little motivation and a donated printer. In college, the fraternity life opened his eyes to his next big opportunity, custom Greek apparel.
Inspired by the “frat” life and his competitive brothers at Cal, he founded Fratty Bear, one of the hottest up-and-coming apparel companies for Greeks. He said, “I enjoyed being around a lot of brothers that were hustlers. There was always competition. They challenged me to do something big.”
Jose was influenced by his father to look for business opportunities. At 16 he started watching YouTube videos on starting a business, and decided to try selling his own custom cel phone cases.
Thanks to an old printer that his sister donated, he had a means of production. He just needed to find a market. He said, “I was hoping people would buy them. Nobody did.”
But Jose persisted, and eventually found a marketing plan that relied on Instagram influencers. He reached out, sent them products hoping for an endorsement, and it generated sales.
He also learned valuable lessons as a brash, young business owner — money doesn’t come easy. At 17 he bought a new Corvette Stingray, and the hefty car loan that went along with it. He had to hustle every month just to keep the bank from towing his wheels.
In college, Jose found a way to mix business with pleasure. He loved fraternity life and saw the market in custom greek apparel for rush, philanthropy and special events.
He started out as the middle man, contracting local shirt vendors and earning a $1 to $2 royalty per shirt. But he wanted to expand, so in his senior year, he invested in machinery and opened his own shop in LA county.
Then Covid hit. Greek life ground to a halt, and so did the need for greek apparel. Jose was more than $20 grand in debt with no one buying gear and the bank knocking on his door. He said, “I went through my darkest time ever.”
Ever resilient, he found one market that was booming during Covid — masks. Selling custom masks to businesses through his parent company, Kustom Life Co, helped him endure through the pandemic.
Always energetic and optimistic, Jose said, “things always seem to wind up working out.”
Fratty Bear prominently features Pilam in its advertising and Jose said, “one of the reasons I’ve been successful is because of Pilam. I handed out business cards at Pilam convention and got a ton of orders. I owe a lot to my brothers across the country.”
Jose thinks the strength of Fratty Bear is their ability to understand fraternity life and relate to their customers. He experienced it at Pilam and knows that every house is unique, with their own ideas, circumstances, and desires.
Fratty Bear now has nine employees and is experiencing 100% growth year over year. The model seems to be working. In 2022, they had $600K in annual sales. Jose is hopeful for 2023, saying, “this year is our 7-figure year.”
Not too bad for a 23-year old t-shirt guy.
Looking for gear?
If you need some custom gear for your chapter or company, support a brother owned business, Fratty Bear.