Business Students Market a 'Dyfrent' Business Approach

Two seniors offer face masks and other clothing items on the e-commerce website they launched together.

two men wearing face masks sitting on staircase together

Photo by Sara Milano ’21

O’Malley School of Business students Jeff Bartlett ’21 and Desmond Cole ’21 became entrepreneurs in 2018 for two reasons — they had marketable ideas and wanted to be their own bosses.

Both businesses they launched that year utilize the combined creativity of Bartlett, a finance and marketing double major, and Cole, a marketing major. 

DYFRENT Consulting provides a range of services including website design, social media management, videography, photography, advertising campaigns and merchandise design. Meanwhile, the DYFRENT e-commerce website features high fashion clothing, prints, accessories, and most recently, masks. 

We call ourselves ‘Dyfrent’ because we felt that there’s a lot of creative agencies and e-commerce fashion brands, but not a lot that do both [the business and creative sides],” said Cole. “That’s something that our generation and the internet is kind of building. We found out that information is the power. You don’t have to work for somebody else, you can have your own audience now.”  

Since they were already creating art and clothing, Bartlett and Cole — who also are friends and roommates — We found this year that masks were the next logical step during the COVID-19 pandemic. They approached the conceptualization of the masks into their business model from a macro point of view. 

We knew that our world was going to be more health conscious post-COVID,” Cole said. “We also knew that we were probably going to have to wear masks for a while, so it was going to go from a necessity to wanting it to look aesthetically pleasing and matching masks with other pieces of clothing.”

Cole and Bartlett, with the assistance of three hired interns, create the printed mask designs and outsource to their manufacturer to “combine a product of superior quality with art and design to make one-of-a-kind face coverings.”

DYFRENT masks can be purchased on their website.

In March 2020, Bartlett and Cole’s business acumen earned them first place in the College’s Innovation Challenge, an annual competition hosted by the O’Malley School of Business. The contest encourages students to creatively generate an idea for an exciting and practical product or service, then develop plans to market and finance it.

Though Bartlett and Cole had already developed their business model by that point, they credited the experience with broadening their connection to the College’s alumni network.

There were a lot of opportunities and contacts that resulted from the Innovation Challenge, especially with the alumni who have been happy to help us and give us guidance,” Cole said. 

Bartlett and Cole encourage Manhattan College students to connect with the alumni community, too, specifically utilizing LinkedIn as a networking tool. DYFRENT has found its own success on LinkedIn, connecting with representatives from Spotify, Gucci, Nike and The New York Times.

On Instagram and Facebook, Bartlett and Cole have found success in marketing their brand too. They publish three posts daily, including a “Gem of the Day” quote, a piece of art or clothing, and video content from their vlog or the podcast they host, titled “Dyfrent.”

Incorporating digital media into their business model has allowed them to broaden their brand exposure, expanding their reach on LinkedIn and Instagram with young professionals in the field. 

Bartlett and Cole aim to provide value to society for years to come through their creative and business endeavors with DYFRENT.

“To be able to provide value to people, to be able to make clothes and share art in canvas form as well as on masks, and digitally, I think we’re doing a good job,” Cole said.

Story by Deirdre Heavey ’21