5 things to know about State Forty Eight

Posted at 4:22 PM, Apr 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 17:18:15-04

Forget those stiff, awkwardly shaped souvenir t-shirts with the cheap-looking designs that you're used to.

Three local men knew they could produce something better than that for people who not only visit our state, but live here.

They pooled together their money -- $1,200 between the trio -- and launched State Forty Eight three years ago. They haven't looked back. Now they have a storefront and warehouse.

Their motto: "Arizona passion meets Arizona fashion".  It's a clothing line that is all about Arizona pride. Besides their popular shirts, they also make backpacks, hats, hooded sweatshirts, water bottles and decals.

Here are FIVE things you need to know about the State Forty Eight entrepreneurs:

1. They all grew up together.
Stephen Polando and his brother Nicholas moved to Arizona in 1991. Michael Spangenberg was born here.  They all graduated from Chandler High School. Each tried college too, but realized it wasn't for them. They all took careers in the service industry. The only one still working another job now is Michael and he has one foot out the door, planning to go part time next month. Both Polando brothers are dedicated to State Forty Eight full time.

2. They started the business in their apartment.
How'd the popular brand get started? In Stephen and Mike's apartment. Stephen then moved in with Nicholas and everything moved to their house.  

3. The three do almost everything.
There's no hired help to print the shirts. The three design them, take orders, print the shirts and ship them unless there is a large order. In that case, they outsource the printing to a company in South Chandler. How's that for keeping it local? But they don't take all the credit for their success. "To have the word of mouth go so well, I'll forever be grateful for all the people who helped us out because even though there's only three of us, there are a lot of people who have helped us along the way and we don't get here without them," Stephen said. 
4. They passed on a lucrative offer early on.
A major U.S. retailer offered them a deal to have the products in their store. The group thought about it, but ultimately decided against it. They didn't want to sell out knowing their brand would forever be tied to that store. It's a gamble they don't regret. "Deep down I always knew it'd be a success, but to really have your dream come true -- words can't even express how good it feels," Spangenberg said.

5. What's next?
Two big things are on the horizon. They have a few new designs coming out in the next month. Their long term goal is to expand to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Right now they're in Sky Harbor Airport and several gift shops at Valley hotels. Seems the Sonoran desert sky is the limit for these three.