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Student-driven company aims to reach new heights

By Joel Goldstein, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 15, 2014

When LSA freshmen Andrew Jacob and Andre Najmolhoda were juniors at West Bloomfield High School, they started OverTheFly, a belt company. Today, OverTheFly belts are sold across Michigan, and Jacob and Najmolhoda are balancing running a company with their coursework.

The company began when Jacob and Najmolhoda were paired as study partners for an English exam. Using their study time to instead develop their naescent idea, OverTheFly blossomed into an apparel company dedicated to selling clothing and promoting social change.

The pair started by distributing the signature Astro Belt to Pogo, a skate shop in Birmingham, Michigan. The Astro Belts sold out at Pogo in their first week. Since then, OverTheFly has extended to 17 retailers including Ann Arbor shops Bivouac and Launch Skate Shop.

In April 2013, the company took first place in the “Entrepreneurship - Growing Your Business” event at the International DECA Competition. Requirements included a 30-page business plan, but Jacob and Najmolhoda were ahead of the competition, having already sold hundreds of belts before entering the contest.

Since arriving at Michigan, Jacob and Najmolhoda have made sure to tap into the resources available to them at the University, including recent admission to TechArb, a major business incubator at the University. They have also worked with the entrepreneurship law clinic, Najmolhoda said.

OverTheFly only has one other full-time employee, but Jacob and Najmolhoda have been able to piece together talent from students as independent contractors. Using the resources at the University has given OverTheFly a leg up.

“There’s a lot of new ideas and new efforts coming out of Michigan,” Jacob said.

Last week, OverTheFly was a contestant on MTank, the University’s take on Shark Tank, a popular TV show in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to venture capitalists. The duo presented their business to Tom Frank, the University’s executive director of the College of Engineer’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

Above everything, Jacob and Najmolhoda were proud to have executed on an idea that they had, and not to have let an opportunity pass.

“Find your passion, find your interest. If you have a good idea, pursue it. If you don’t, someone else will,” Najmolhoda said.