Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Connor Fata was more productive than most when COVID-19 arrived in March 2020 and he and the rest of his classmates were sent home from Clemson University.
Stuck at home, the high school student wanted something to do with his time, and his father reminded him of his love for making people laugh. So he decided to launch his clothing line, XL-Ant Life. The ‘feel good’ clothing and accessories line incorporates slogans such as ‘Make the World Smile’ and ‘Surf XL-Ant’ and features giant ants (get it – extra large ant) on its shirts, hats and beer koozies.
The name is a play on words because it sounds like “an excellent life”.
“It’s supposed to represent a great life, kind of like ‘life is good’ vibes, but it’s an extra large ant doing things with people,” said Fata, now 21, at Clemson.
When he started the clothing line, Fata figured the worst that could happen was to make some fun shirts and be done with it. He didn’t expect to sell more than 400 shirts in his first year in business and ended up receiving a trademark for his brand earlier this summer. (He was refused the first two times he submitted his trademark application.)
“His my way of realizing people might be in a mess right now with COVID. But there are still a lot of things in life to be happy, celebrate and share joy, ”said Fata, who studies accounting at Clemson.
Connor Fata’s sister Ella Fata designs the brand’s clothing and accessories, while he manages the website, money and shipping, which he packs and ships himself.
Fata said he is still trying to expand his customer base, although it has grown faster than he expected. Many of his buyers are loyal customers, so it feels good that people love the shirts and their quality. Most of his advertising right now is on Instagram. Its next step is to review the paid ads on the app. He also has a mailing list which he uses to send brand reminders to customers with funny jokes.
“The people who buy the shirts are very supportive and continue to support them because they know the material is really good and the shirt designs are really good,” Fata said. “So that’s a positive element that keeps me motivated.”
Managing the brand while finishing your last two years of college hasn’t been easy.
“If I had known how much work it would have been, how much I should have learned, I would have stopped for a second,” he said. “But I think it was kind of a blessing to put your head down and say I’m going to find out.”
What’s next for Fata? He’s not sure yet. First of all, he will complete his studies at Clemson, and he is also planning to get his master’s degree in accounting. But he does not intend to abandon the XL-Ant Life brand.
“I want to try to strengthen the brand recognition, but also to continue to bring value to people… and to continue my mission of making people laugh and smile,” he said.