by, Kiersten Thompson, Contributor
With two forward moving arrows, the logo of the brand DYFRENT represents the future and forward thinking. Jeffrey Bartlett ’21, a marketing and finance major, and Desmond Cole ’21, a marketing major, founded DYFRENT in 2018, which is a consulting and e-commerce company that helps brands develop further through embracing creativity. In addition, DYFRENT also sells clothing, art and photography.
After Bartlett acquired skills like clothing design, photography and videography from the internet for free, he realized that he could utilize those skills to not only create a brand, but he could use those skills to help others.
“I basically started designing clothes and I try to be as creative as possible taking pictures, making videos, and I figured out that I could acquire all these skills, one, for free online and then two, that I can create my own brand first and then sell those skills,” Bartlett said.
According to Bartlett, DYFRENT addresses the problem of information asymmetry, where lack of information leads to inequality.
“We feel like information asymmetry is a really big issue with our generation,” Bartlett said. “I think that’s where a lot of the issues in our society stem from… I want to create a culture that embraces knowledge, that embraces information and progress and to do that, and connect with people, we use art and design, information and knowledge.”
In March of 2020, Bartlett and Cole participated in Manhattan College’s Innovation Challenge, earning first place and receiving a cash prize of $3,000. The Innovation Challenge is a competition where students can pitch their business ideas in a “Shark-Tank” style format with three top place winners and an “Audience Favorite” award. For those competing, business workshops and mentoring from faculty and alumni are available. According to Donald E. Gibson, Ph.D, Dean and Professor of the O’Malley School of Business, the purpose of the competition is to help students launch startups as well as help students gain entrepreneurial skills.
“We believe that all students can learn to think more like an entrepreneur, even if they do not necessarily seek to start up their own business,” Gibson wrote via email. “The competition fosters creative thinking, business skills, and presentation skills. Our overall purpose is for Manhattan College students to launch successful startups!”
A year prior to the competition, Bartlett and Cole had already developed their brand and launched DYFRENT Consulting. They stood out in the competition because of their experience and ability to attract an audience.
“They impressed the judges with their consulting business that they had already shown could attract clients,” Gibson wrote. “They showed that they had a different approach to branding and marketing consulting, and unique artwork.”
The Innovation Challenge helped introduce Bartlett and Cole to mentors Winston Peters ‘02 and Ed Dintrone ‘83. Winston Peters, an adjunct professor in the business school, graduated from MC in 2002 as a civil engineering major. After obtaining a job at Turner Construction right out of college, he became bored with his job. Peters had many friends who were creatives and was able to apply his engineering experience with high budget projects, logical thinking and problem solving, to eventually creating his own consultancy, MyÜberLife consulting group, with other MC alumni.
“We focus on the creative community so that they can be more business minded, so that they can sustain their creative endeavors because we believe that the creative community, [is] where real change actually occurs,” Peters said. “We’ve been helping creatives be more business minded and also with those insights we also help corporations be more culturally adept to actually understand what’s going on in culture, how culture impacts their business, how culture impacts innovation, how culture impacts customers.”
As Peters describes, him and his partners created a sister company, WÜLF University, focusing on speaking to “students, creatives and people who want to be entrepreneurs.” This experience teaching and speaking to students led to his start teaching at MC in the summer of 2020 as an adjunct professor.
Peters met Bartlett and Cole at a workshop where he spoke with business students. He was able to utilize his experience in consulting to help Bartlett and Cole with DYFRENT. He is currently doing an independent studies course with Bartlett on reimagining the business of education.
Peters advises that for those seeking to be entrepreneurs, to be mindful of the why and to understand the risks of different careers.
“There’s a risk of being an entrepreneur, there’s risk in having a corporate job but the most important thing is finding fulfillment, understanding where you will be fulfilled and again that fulfillment can come in the form of having a corporate job or it can be starting your own business and starting your own brand,” Peters said. “But if you are looking to start your own brand, I would say you have to figure out what your why is, people focus on the what and the how but don’t really understand the why of what they’re doing.”
Bartlett’s main focus at the moment is on building DYFRENT. Having already been ahead of some of his classes, Bartlett thinks that college did not prepare him to be an entrepreneur.
“I don’t go to school to be an entrepreneur,” Bartlett said. “First I was a finance major and then, marketing, and the whole time I was ahead of whatever we were talking about in class…I’ve been kind of like ahead of the curve and so, school and class has not helped very much.”
DYFRENT has a website that sells clothing as well as artwork and photography, some of which are created by Bartlett and Cole. Their instagram features their clothing, quotes called Gem of the Day, and their podcast. They recently released an interview with Craig Lyon, Former Head of Nike Basketball Signature, Innovation and Marketing.
Bartlett wants to help other brands in the future, develop the clothing side of the brand, and push DYFRENT’s message that focuses on tackling the problem of information asymmetry and helping creatives. However, the current success of DYFRENT wouldn’t have been possible without the pair developing the skills they did, growing a reliable audience network and learning from their failures.
“You can have those skills just by figuring out those interests and doing those things over and over with the frequency, and then you master skills and network,” Bartlett said. “You go on LinkedIn, make a nice profile whatever, go connect, go talk to them, that’s how you get opportunities and there’s tons of business opportunities on LinkedIn, and the most important thing is you just have to fail fast and work now, using your youth to your advantage.”