Two college students land a major investment from their university for their booming business.

Tony Smith (center) and Justin Ruffin (right) as they land a major investment for their campus company, Inhouse GFK (pronounced “graphics”) after winning a business competition from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Boyd Venture Fund

Tony Smith (center) and Justin Ruffin (right) as they land a major investment for their campus company, Inhouse GFK (pronounced “graphics”) after winning a business competition from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Boyd Venture Fund

Jer’Mykeal McCoy

Phresh & Professional

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- College friends, Tony Smith and Justin Ruffin land a major investment for their campus company, Inhouse GFK* (pronounced “graphics”) after winning a business competition they lost at the prior semester. The Knoxville, Tennessee based company rose to campus and local success with their screen-printing services it provides.

This past November, the Inhouse team competed in a business competition for grant money from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Boyd Venture Fund. According to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the teams compete for $20,000 worth of the fund that is administered through the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the College of Business Administration at UTK. The Boyd Venture Fund is available to any UT Knoxville student-owned business and is awarded each spring and fall. The grant from the Boyd Venture Fund is the third Anderson Center competition.

After a disastrous showing in the spring’s competition, the team stayed up until 5 a.m. the night before the fall’s competition to be ready for the big day said Smith. The long night of preparation paid off this time for the team, when Inhouse won $12,500 of the grant money.

“We were so blessed and fortunate to be the winners of the Boyd Venture Fund Business Competition. There’s only been one other company to ever win the amount of $12,500, and we accomplished that as well. Tony Smith and myself strive to become some of the best young entrepreneurs in today’s society. In trying to achieve such, we have to make sure that we put in the work and effort that goes along with a great feat. A huge thanks goes to Randy Boyd, the CEO of Radio Systems Inc. and the Competition’s donor, and also to the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”  Said Justin Ruffin, Creative Director for Inhouse GFX and UT-Knoxville student studying in Advertising.

Smith says that winning the grant money was a big accomplishment, but winning the competition just shows the growth for Inhouse.

Tony Smith and Justin Ruffin, the faces behind the success of Inhouse GFX*. Photo Courtesy of Justin Ruffin

Tony Smith and Justin Ruffin, the faces behind the success of Inhouse GFX*. Photo Courtesy of Justin Ruffin

Inhouse GFX was founded by Tony Smith and a college friend (who’s name is disclosed) during the summer of 2011 at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The two had backgrounds in design as well as a passion for business. According to the Inhouse website, the two students decided to join as partners that summer to produce print designs, logos, and small video projects for clients who were in need of their services.

After a summer of success, the two opened their own location in an upstairs loft and signed off on $10,000 worth of equipment.

The name of the company came from a random thought when the two had while sitting around naming company ideas. Many names were thrown on the table until Smith blurted out, “Inhouse! Because we do everything in house.”

After a few months the business relation went sour between the duo. Smith, 21, then brought on college friend, Justin Ruffin, 21, as Chief Creative Office to revive the company’s image and exposure. According to Smith, Ruffin’s talent added interactive expertise for their public media presence on YouTube, Vimeo, and for local television commercial spots.

The company re-launched in the spring of 2012, Inhouse gained many new clients ranging from campus fraternities to sororities to clothing designers who are looking to launch their apparel.

“We like to have fun and be loose around the string on what we do. And we accept more ideas and know our target market,” said Smith in describing what makes Inhouse GFX different from its competitors.

Inhouse GFX apparel in support of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Photo Courtesy of Inhouse GFX

Inhouse apparel in support of their university. Photo Courtesy of Inhouse GFX

This growth is primarily due to a strong support system of their fellow college students.

The youth of the Inhouse staff gives an inside view of what college customers want, since their students themselves. They credit UT-Knoxville as being a great incubator for their talent and success. “The biggest thing for Inhouse in our collegiate customers, its that they see us as one of the,” said Smith.

When it comes to expanding Inhouse, Smith wants to have campus liaisons at different universities to have a personal connection with the students. This approach according to Smith allows Inhouse to stay active and current on the trends on campuses.Inhouselogo

“If you have a vision, you just have to get there. You don’t have to have thousands of dollar, I learned from Youtube.” Says Smith in giving advice to young entrepreneurs. Smith stated that his earlier leanings about graphic design came from watching YouTube videos.

According to Smith, the future for Inhouse entails a revamped website that will be more user friendly and make designing shirts online a simpler process as well as a more creative enjoyment for customers. The site will also offer a daily deals section to customers to help them save more money on our effective services.

The future for Inhouse GFX is very bright; they both plan to finish their degrees at UT-Knoxville with Smith graduating in May 2013 with a degree in Public Relations. Ruffin will be graduating in 2014 with his degree in Advertising.

Contact Jer’Mykeal McCoy at info@phreshprofessional.com or leave a comment below. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram @truerealmccoy. 

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