Dante Ludlow used his knowledge of vintage sports apparel and high‑end athletic shoes to launch Dante’s Deals LLC, an eBay business that grossed more than $70,000 in sales last year.
Ludlow, a junior from Kirkland, Washington, started the six‑year‑old company when he was still in high school. But it was during his entrepreneurship studies at WSU’s Carson College of Business that Dante’s Deals really took off.
“My entrepreneurship classes helped me create a vision for the business,” Ludlow said. “Until I created the business plan, my expectations had not run that high. I moved from ‘this is something I do for fun’ to a more disciplined approach.”
After Ludlow took accounting, he started using QuickBooks to track his expenses. As a result of his studies, he’s also organized Dante’s Deals as a limited liability company. He’s currently working on more efficient tracking systems for his 2,000‑plus items of inventory, and developing protocols for managing other students who occasionally work at Dante’s Deals.
On Thursday, Ludlow and two other students will participate in the WSU Center for Entrepreneurial Studies’ annual Business Plan Competition. The teammates will draw on Ludlow’s real life experience with Dante’s Deals in their hypothetical plan for creating franchises.
Ludlow embodies the entrepreneurial trait of perseverance, said Marie Mayes, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
“Lots of students start small eBay businesses, but few persist and scale their business the way that Dante has,” she said. “His enthusiasm inspires other students to move their ideas forward with action.”
A pair of Air Jordans launch business
Dante’s Deals grew out of Ludlow’s love of brand name athletic shoes. After four ankle surgeries as a youngster, Ludlow, now 20, gravitated toward high tops. To find quality shoes at affordable prices, he turned to thrift stores.
One fateful day, he spotted a pair of Air Jordans that weren’t his size. They were on sale for $20, but he knew their retail value was much higher.
“My mom showed me how to list them on eBay. I ended up selling them for $150 to some guy in New Zealand.’” It was the beginning of Dante’s Deals.
When Ludlow left for WSU, he decided to take Dante’s Deals with him.
Business matures from hobby
Ludlow chose WSU for its sports management program, which is his major, and the Carson College of Business, where he is an entrepreneurship minor.
He’s attracted to the business side of professional sports, and envisions himself working in management for a major league team.
“I’ve always had that athletic, competitive mindset,” Ludlow said. “My goal is to contribute to a winning franchise.”
He anticipates continuing to operate Dante’s Deals from Pullman while he gets his career established, hiring student workers to help out. Ludlow will give the concept a trial run this summer, when he moves to Corvallis, Oregon, to work for a summer league baseball team.
Working for a professional sports team is likely to land him in a large metro area with high living costs, Ludlow says.
“Having an extra source of income as I start my career is going to be beneficial,” he said. “I’m learning if I treat it like a business, it will treat me back the same way and produce like a real business.”
Investing profits to grow the company
Proceeds from Dante’s Deals pay for part of Ludlow’s room and board at WSU and his car insurance, but he invests most of the profits back into growing the operation. Ludlow rents 750‑square feet of warehouse space for his inventory.
Although the Dante’s Deals started with thrift store finds, Ludlow now works with dealers all over the country to secure inventory. A recent shipment brought him a track suit from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
“Every time I rip open a box, it’s kind of like Christmas,” he said. “I’ve got 100 items in front of me that I get to take pictures of, make them look pretty, and sell for a profit.”
Ludlow spends 30 to 40 hours each week on Dante’s Deals. Besides a full load of classes, he also officiates as a referee for four high school sports and works in facilities maintenance at the WSU athletic department. His schedule requires careful time management.
“Friday and Saturday nights, I’m not on Greek Row,” he said. “I’m at my warehouse listing things on eBay.
“Sometimes when I’m sitting there working, it still amazes me to see how big it’s gotten. And it started with one pair of shoes.”