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Young Alum Founds BMX Apparel Brand

DAAP design grad Josh Suhre isn’t coasting in his career. In fact, the young alum just launched his own BMX apparel brand – a move that received coverage from ESPN.

Date: 6/19/2011
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Josh Suhre
As a BMX rider, University of Cincinnati alum Josh Suhre has pedaled for years.

And as a new entrepreneur with his own BMX apparel brand, he’s now peddling designs from his own line for less than a month. And already, orders are strong – coming in to his Midwestern business from the East and West coasts, from Europe and Asia. His new line has even received coverage from ESPN.
Josh Suhre
Josh Suhre wears an Opeativ t-shirt called "MKULTRA."

Suhre, 27, a 2007 grad of UC’s internationally ranked School of Design, part of the university’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), credits his UC education for helping him to begin his business only four years out from school.

“Because I’m a designer before I’m a businessman, there’s been an intense learning curve ever since I made the decision to launch my own brand. Except for paying for coding for my website (by a fellow 2007 DAAP graduate), I’ve done everything myself. That includes legal and trademark research and execution,” he states.

But it was his very design education that gave him the tools to tackle this unfamiliar terrain. Explains Suhre, “DAAP does teach a process for doing things, a process that can be applied beyond design. So, I approached legal issues and business logistics in the same way I approach a design problem. I organize it. I approach it logically, with attention to detail.”

And as for the level of responsibility he now has, Suhre has had plenty of professional practice starting in his student days. For instance, as part of his required cooperative education quarters, he worked in Hollywood, applying his design skills to help create film titles and movie credits, illustrations and graphics used in specials like the Oscars and in movies like Blades of Glory and Spiderman 3.

Then, right after graduation, he was named creative director for DK Bicycles, a BMX bike company in Dayton, Ohio. Recalls Suhre, “It was an extraordinary opportunity at that age. I was charged with rebranding the entire entity of the then 30-year-old company, renaming all the bikes, providing a new identity to the entire product line, redesigning the packaging, advertising, clothing and bike parts, as well as managing the global marketing efforts of the brand.”
Josh Suhre
Josh Suhre

It was an opportunity he received because of his DAAP background and co-op experience as well as the fact that he was a BMX rider who understood the culture.

Of course, there was one problem. Because of the level of responsibility, Suhre, an avid BMX bike rider, didn’t have time to ride. He remembers, ‘I worked a lot. I loved it, but I eventually felt I’d learned a lot, got what I wanted, and now I wanted to try something else.”

That something else has now led Suhre to found Operativ – while still allowing him time to ride both in the U.S. and overseas.

“I wanted to launch something from scratch. Take my ideas from concept to a company. And I thought the timing was right. BMX and action sports are growing into a larger market. After all, BMX and action sports are quickly becoming an integral part of major media events like the Olympics," he explains.
Operativ's "MKULTURA" sweat.

Currently, Operativ offers t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats. But additional products are on the way, including a backpack, jeans and other cut-and-sew apparel.

All are authentic to the BMX lifestyle, which Suhre has lived for 15 years.

“This effort brings together my two lives,” he admits, “BMX and design. The feedback on the apparel has been encouraging. I’ve received feedback from people who have been in the BMX world for 30 years, people I respect very much.”

That means he intends to keep on pedaling and peddling.