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class notes: top five

Five tips on how to succeed in business without compromising one’s values

Dave Horesh, BA ’08

Illustration of a hand sewing felt pennants

Illustration: Barry Fitzgerald, MFA ’90

Interview by Michael Flatt

Oxford Pennant, like many successful small businesses these days, fills a gap in the market few even realized existed. Seriously, who knew we were missing out on high-end vintage pennants? Not Dave Horesh or his business partner, Brett Mikoll. When they started making the inspirational flags, it wasn’t to fill a niche. “We just wanted a ‘Let’s go, Buffalo!’ pennant for ourselves and our buddies,” Horesh says. 

But the pennants, with their culturally savvy designs and all-natural materials, struck a chord with people who saw them—and a business was born. Horesh believes that part of the appeal is the company behind the product. From the start, he and Mikoll resisted the temptation to outsource their manufacturing overseas to cut costs. “People want to know the story of a product as much as they want a good product,” he explains. That means decent wages and fair treatment. It also means having to be inventive about things like marketing. 

We asked Horesh to give us five ways his business approach aligns with his personal philosophy.

Keep it local
Everything at Oxford Pennant is made in Buffalo except for the actual felt. Knowing the entire chain of custody is something that we can pass along to our customers.

Know your market
We don’t think of ourselves as competing with these huge brands that can create 5,000 pennants for pennies. If you’re looking for a $5 or $6 pennant, we’re not a good fit; that is below our cost to even produce.

Know your demo
This is the kind of product for people who aren’t involved in high fashion—they just want clothes that look good or a nice apartment. An Oxford Pennant looks cool on the wall, it’s easy to understand and you can just slap it up there.

Honor the medium
The pennant was originally a way to get two products out of one flag, by cutting it into triangles. They had to be very simple because they had to be manufactured by hand. We think that the pennant should look like it was made in the early 20th century, even if it has a contemporary message.

Make your brand appealing—and shareable
We always send our customers good photography of our product and include little tchotchkies in each shipment so when people open it, it puts a smile on their face. This builds brand affinity to the point where people want to share on social media that they’ve bought something from us.