Chandler apparel company expands size, services

A Chandler clothing apparel company has expanded its line and its location.

State Forty Eight, which started in the city nearly eight years ago, has launched screen printing and embroidery services.

And it has taken over the suite next door to its retail location at 3245 N. Arizona Ave., near Elliot Road, to accommodate its expanding services and line.

“The decision to expand our space and our services was simply the natural progression of where our business is headed,” said State Forty Eight co-founder and CEO, Michael Spangenberg. “The goal is to bring as much as we can in-house in order to improve productivity and expenses.”

The expansion will add a total of 5,500-square-feet to the company’s facilities and includes more offices, a boardroom seating up to 12 people, a dedicated creative space for the design team and any photo or video production, and a warehouse dedicated to screen-printing and embroidery services.

State Forty Eight announced its screen printing and embroidery services late last year and a spokeswoman said, “They have been working with clients who are interested in creating their own merchandise without the standard State Forty Eight branding that the collaboration T-shirts the company is known for, typically call for.”

The options range from T-shirts and hats to masks, outerwear, tote bags and more.

“SFE screen printing and embroidery is a local solution for individuals and businesses looking for a unique way to: market a cause or an event, commemorate an occasion, create new team uniforms or even as gifts for employees or team members,” the spokeswoman said.

“All that interested parties need to do is provide the project details and then SFE will take care of the rest.”

Spangenberg said State Forty Eight’s long-term goal is to become “a one-stop shop for Arizona’s merchandising needs from manufacturing, design and branding to retail and fulfillment.”

“State Forty Eight has been an incredible partner not only for the City of Chandler, but for organizations across the state,” said Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke. “This expansion will allow their impact to be even greater, and I am thrilled that Chandler will continue to be part of their story.”

The spokeswoman said the expansion will enhance the “customer experience at the Chandler retail location” as its new adjacent headquarters is finished.

“Customers can look forward to more retail space and a dedicated fulfillment area, giving customers access to more products,” she said.

State Forty Eight was founded by Spangenberg and Stephen and Nicholas Polando, who utilitzed their brand to show their appreciation of Arizona.

It boasts of being more than an apparel company, representing “a lifestyle, a sense of community and is an expression of pride” for sports fans and outdoor lovers.

Spangenberg and his partners were honored in 2019 with the Spirit of Enterprise Award by the Economic Club of Phoenix, part of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University that is given annually to a business that exemplifies excellence and ethics in entrepreneurship.

During an awards luncheon, Spangenberg talked about how he and the Polando brothers grew their business from a side hustle to a brand that sells $4 million in clothing and hats a year.

Spangenberg always loved clothing and was huge fan of all the Arizona sports teams.

“My favorite thing was back-to-school shopping,” he said. “It drove me nuts that I never saw anything that represented Arizona in a positive way.”

He always wanted to have his own clothing line, even as he was working in the hotel industry.

“I was probably writing down names in a book for two years, but no clothing line ever made sense,” he said. It was 2012 and he was roommates with Stephen Polando, a childhood friend.

“Stephen was brushing his teeth and he came out and he said, ‘State Forty Eight.’ It was an ‘aha’ moment,” Spangenberg said.

Nicholas Polando, a self-taught graphic designer, then came up with some logo ideas.

“He proposed three and two were bad,” Spangenberg said.

So the three became equal business partners, gathered together $1,500 to trademark their logo and launched State Forty Eight in 2013 — all while keeping their full-time day jobs.

Spangenber said that State Forty Eight is about “inspiring others to rise up and stand for something they believe in.”

“The first two years, we didn’t earn a dollar,” he said at the 2019 award luncheon. “We were selling T-shirts at launch parties on Mill Avenue and at First Friday when First Friday wasn’t even cool.”

They built their own website and ran their own social media. They scoured Craigslist for a thermal heat press and when they collected enough profits, they would make a new batch of T-shirts.

“I’m not the most handy guy and I made shirts backwards and upside down,” he said. “We were hustling.”

A turning point came in 2016 when they scraped together $1,500 to join the Phoenix Fashion Week’s emerging designer boot camp.

“The thing that stood out from that was learning how to sustain the business,” he said. “It wasn’t just a glamor runway show.”

They started networking, and found a connection to Bruce Arians, then the coach of the Arizona Cardinals. That led to the now-famous State Forty Eight T-shirt that featured Arians’ likeness with his trademark flat-top cap and game-day headset. Sales of the shirt benefited the Arians Family Foundation, which fights child abuse.

“We couldn’t keep the shirts in stock and we raised a ton of money for the foundation,” Spangenberg said. “And it was an example of how we were laying the foundation to be doing more than just selling T-shirts and hats.”

That success led to partnerships with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Suns, as well as fundraising collaborations with other organizations including Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the Arizona Humane Society and the W. P. Carey School of Business.

But as the company grew, there were challenges too.

“We have three equal business partners and that’s a huge blessing because you see different perspectives, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say we had disagreements,” Spangenberg said. “And when you’re young, there’s a lot of pride involved and you have to put that aside.”

The three were able to pour all the revenues back into the company before finally leaving their day jobs to become full-time State Forty Eight employees, which the two brothers did before Spangenberg.

“I wanted to be there full time and that’s where those communication barriers came into play. I would try to catch up after work and they’d be tired of me texting at midnight,” he said.

“The sexy thing to do is to go for it but that’s not the real world. It’s OK to have a side hustle until it’s a full-time hustle. It allowed us to grow.”

The company now has 15 employees, with seven full time. And they’re still learning how to run a business efficiently.

“It’s hard to have those honest conversations but now we have weekly meetings on Tuesdays that we don’t miss,” said Spangenberg, who still personally runs the State Forty Eight social media accounts.

“When you don’t have meetings, things build up and then you talk over text and that’s how things get misperceived. It seems simple but it’s been a huge help.”

The collaborations have doubled State Forty Eight’s online revenue and now the company sells other branded merchandise, including stickers, glassware, bags and socks.

It recently launched a co-branded credit card and set up two retail locations, in Gilbert and at the Churchill in downtown Phoenix. In the future, Spangenberg would like to see a State Forty Eight license plate and maybe a sports travel group.

“Twenty years from now, everyone at the Diamondbacks games will be a Diamondbacks fan and be proud of where they’re from,” he said.

“And we want to be the face of Arizona.”

Last year it also established the State Forty Eight Foundation with the goal of organizing fundraising and volunteer events for community causes, offering mentorship and workshops for young people which teaching them practical skills and offering start-ups entrepreneurial education and access to resources by partnering with incubator organizations.


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