TSL Welcomes New E-Com Sponsor
After nearly six years in business, TechLocker.com is
shutting its doors, which you may have guessed by observing the ultra-low-price
fire sale that’s been going on, with the even lower inventory levels. We made
the decision to close down TechLocker.com so we can concentrate on what we do
best: provide great content for our readers and a great audience for sponsors
on our experiences, there’s no doubt that the TechSideline.com faithful, who are
spread around the nation and the world, still need a good online provider of VT
goods and merchandise. So into the void steps MaroonHelmet.com, now the official
e-commerce sponsor of TechSideline.com.
You’ve seen and heard MaroonHelmet.com’s ads everywhere,
from the ribbon boards in Lane Stadium’s South end zone to the Hokie Huddler
to the radio. MaroonHelmet.com has been in existence for several years now and
is owned by Tim Kelley, a CPA who is a 1991 Virginia Tech graduate with a BS in
Business with an Accounting major. Tim runs the web site with his wife Cynthia,
also a 1991 graduate of VT with a BS in Business, Accounting major. Cynthia is
currently the Manager of Financial Accounting for Wake Forest University, while
Tim works full time on the web site.
To kick off MaroonHelmet.com’s sponsorship of TSL, we
interviewed Tim via email, and here’s what he had to tell us about himself and
1.) Tell us about yourself. Who else is involved with the
company, and what are their roles? How long have you been open for business?
I spent 13 years in the accounting world which began with
a Big Six (now Big 4) public accounting firm, E&Y, and followed that by
doing corporate accounting for two publicly traded NASDAQ companies. I started
MaroonHelmet.com in 2003 while still employed for one of those companies.
In 2004 I left the corporate accounting world, and focused
on developing MaroonHelmet.com. All of this would not have been possible without
my wife Cynthia and her support. Cynthia is still involved with MaroonHelmet.com
and assists with marketing, public relations and product development.
Additionally we have some part-time help with web site
analysis, accounting and general office work, and we have most recently started
working with another Hokie Alum, David Kastel, on more product development and
distribution. We also are working with a web site consultant who is a Hokie.
We have 2 little Hokies, a 5 1/2 year old daughter,
Kendall, and a 1 year old son, Cameron. Kendall is a huge Hokie fan
already and also loves to point out Michael Vick from the Falcons to us.
She says she is going to be a cheerleader for the Hokies one day, and cheer as
Cameron plays on the football team. (He eats a lot…so it may be possible).
2.) When and why did you decide to start MaroonHelmet.com?
In 2002 we had a product idea for a Virginia Tech item.
Also, we had frequently been unable to find Hokie merchandise unless we were in
the Blacksburg area. These two issues combined brought us to the conclusion that
an all-Hokie merchandise website with tons of unique items would be very
beneficial to the rest of the Hokie Nation.
We looked at what we needed to do to offer the initial
product to the Hokie Nation. We found that what needed to be done to offer this
product wasn’t feasible while having a full-time job. However, I didn’t want to
give up on the idea and since we have such passion and pride for Virginia Tech,
I decided to launch MaroonHelmet.com. Additionally I had always wanted to have
my own business, and the excitement of working with Virginia Tech products,
developing product ideas and using technology to make this happen was an
3.) What’s your basic company philosophy?
We want to offer unique, quality Virginia Tech
merchandise, as well as popular items, that allow the Hokie Nation to display
the pride we all have for Virginia Tech. Our intent also is to reach the massive
amounts of alumni across the United States and the world that cannot see the
variety of Hokie items where they live.
When people visit MaroonHelmet.com we want them to feel an
instant connection to Virginia Tech. MaroonHelmet.com is 100% Virginia Tech, and
the customer will not have to search through other university products to find
what they need. We also strive to give back to the university we are so proud of
through various agreements with different Virginia Tech organizations. We
believe, as alumni of Virginia Tech, that we understand the culture and pride
that Hokies have, which cannot accurately be reflected or expressed by
non-Hokies. We have tried to explain this culture to non-Hokies and they
"just don’t get it". We do. Additionally we want our commitment to be
obvious through our customer service; each customer is a fellow Hokie or is
somehow connected to a Hokie, and that is important to us.
4.) How many different products do you sell at
We currently offer approximately 400-450 items but it
seems to grow every single day. Hokies young, old and in between should be able
to find something to their liking.
5.) Do you make your own stuff? How do you handle order
We are a licensee of Virginia Tech and do have products
designed by us. However, we are not a manufacturer and we will outsource the
actual production of our products. Additionally, we work with numerous licensed
vendors to offer an extensive line of Virginia Tech merchandise. Order
fulfillment is basically determined on a product-by-product basis. Many products
are stocked and therefore we will fill the orders locally, but there are many
products that we will have shipped directly from the factory. Some products are
essentially made to order, which allows the customer some flexibility in the
options related to their item.
6.) What kinds of shipping times can people expect?
Turnaround times for stock items are typically three days,
however we ask customers allow one week. Factory direct orders vary on a
product-by-product basis and we will try to indicate on the web site what the
shipping timeframe could be. We also strive to communicate any issues or delays
via email to the customers.
7.) With all of the competition for VT products over the
Internet, how do you set yourselves apart and get noticed?
First and foremost we are Hokie alumni, which most other
retailers cannot claim. This difference alone contributes to our dedication and
commitment to the University, the Hokie merchandise and the alumni and fan base
that other retailers are not as concerned about. Most other retailers sell Hokie
merchandise solely for profit and may not even know where Blacksburg is located;
we are much more than that, and our ties to the University go much, much deeper.
We participate in and share revenue with the Virginia Tech
Alumni Association and the Hokie Club, through various chapter events. We are
also the exclusive online retailer for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and try
to bring additional revenue to that respectable organization. We are an “Official
Sponsor of Virginia Tech Athletics” which translates as a financial benefit to
the Virginia Tech athletic program. We are a licensee of Virginia Tech and, as
such, pay royalties to the university that is in turn used for the betterment of
So we really go beyond the internet. We are actually fans
and attend the athletic events – what other e-tailers do that? Do they attend
athletic events for all the universities for which they sell products? No. We
research products that are designed for other major universities but not VT, and
then seek to bring some of those worthy items to the Hokie Nation. Hokies
deserve the best and we strive to make that happen. We aim to offer unique
quality merchandise, not just cheaply made items, produced in massive quantities
that you can purchase at one of the “Big Box” stores or e-tailers that carry
every university in the country. And of course we have partners like