Competing in any sport at the collegiate level is a tremendous and challenging commitment, to say the least. Student athletes follow a strict schedule day in and day out, juggling their exercises and training with classes and other hobbies they may have.
Try to manage all of that while owning your own business. Penn State gymnast Josh Reinstein found a way to get the best of both worlds.
In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Reinstein launched his clothing brand, Walter Mitty.
Reinstein, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, has always had an interest in fashion and designer clothing. In high school he started his own mini brand.
“I had a Shopify store, the most generic store, where I would basically put designs and graphics on random mockup t-shirts and hoodies,” Reinstein said. “I did this for two years, just playing around and learning.”
Reinstein, a current senior, did gymnastics throughout high school, which proved to be a difficult experience for him due to a lack of proper coaching, guidance, or equipment.
“It was a very strange situation,” Reinstein said. “The coaches thought they were helping us, but we’ve found over the years that they don’t do much for us. It just became this really tough fight.”
During this time, Reinstein kept dreaming of something bigger, and that’s how he came up with the name of his brand.
“Walter Mitty is someone who dreams of a better life. When I was looking for the name of my brand, I came across this term and chose it because I used to do it. I was like, ‘Damn, this is crazy. I do that all the time,'” Reinstein said.
Reinstein received his entrepreneurial guidance from his father, who opened his own physical therapy practice. Reinstein’s father was able to help when it came time to trademark the brand name, create a logo, and form an LLC.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Reinstein got the time he needed to focus on creating and producing content for Walter Mitty. With little to no social media presence, Reinstein began posting online every day to grow his business.
During his early days, Reinstein was able to learn more about the manufacturing side of a company. From testing patterns and fabrics to contacting manufacturers and suppliers, Reinstein recognized the painstaking running a business.
“We had to buy an empty roll of fabric, cut it on hand, and create labels — that’s how it’s all done,” Reinstein said. “There are so many different people and companies involved. I didn’t even know it required so much work.”
When Reinstein came to Penn State, his schedule filled up again with gymnastics exercises, competition meetings, creating content and preparing for merch drops.
“Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve always said that as much as it’s a struggle to practice all the time, do gymnastics all the time, I’ve gotten everything I’ve ever wanted,” Reinstein said. “You know, it was great. I mean it’s definitely a struggle and a lot to keep up with. If you do poorly this week, don’t compete. So it’s a constant 24/7 competition, but it keeps you on your toes and it pushes you.”
One of the biggest battles for Reinstein that most college students can relate to is time.
“There’s never enough time, but there never will be enough time,” Reinstein said. “It’s a bit like controlled chaos.”
Still, Reinstein managed to keep the rock going, especially with Walter Mitty. He is currently working on the third drop for his brand and hopes to continue releasing drops a few times a year.
Eventually, Reinstein hopes to see his clothes in high-end stores and possibly even showcase his work during Paris Fashion Week in the future.
“I would say now that I’m dropping more and more clothes, it’s only going to get easier,” Reinstein said. “I would also say that it is very difficult to have a clothing brand. It’s all about the name and how people perceive the name and the brand itself. The hardest part is just building slowly, getting the name out there and keeping the aesthetic that I want.”