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Putting On Your GameFace

Three brothers from New Jersey offer the fan a way to let his visage show where his loyalties lie

It was cold, it was wet, and it was on my face. It dried quickly, leaving half my face yellow and the other half black. I was wearing GameFace for the first time.

GameFace is makeup that my brothers and I have been marketing to sports fans because, according to our brochure, "watching the game should not be a spectator sport." We came up with our idea when we were sitting in our family's house in Bloomfield, N.J., watching St. John's play DePaul in the 1987 NCAA basketball tournament. The TV camera zoomed in on a crowd of St. John's fans who had painted their faces red and white, and my older brother, Herb, suddenly turned to our younger brother, Barry, who was then a junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "I asked him what he had worn on his face when RPI went to the 1985 NCAA hockey finals," recalls Herb. "He said that he wore chalk and that other kids wore lipstick. I couldn't believe there wasn't money to be made in selling specialty makeup to sports fans."

That spring, Barry got in touch with the manufacturer of the Halloween makeup that he used to wear to our Bloomfield High football games. "I remembered it was easy stuff to use," says Barry. "It came on a tongue depressor. You opened the packet, dipped the tongue depressor in water and applied it. You took it off with soap and water."

The manufacturer proved to be as agreeable as his product. He said he would supply a minimum of 5,000 packages of any given color and would repackage the goods under another name. The name, Herb decided in a moment of inspiration, would be GameFace.

Because we wanted seven colors, we were faced with having to buy 35,000 packets of makeup. Our multicolored rainbow needed a pot of gold. Dad helped secure $7,000 in loans, my brothers and I scraped up another $3,000, and soon we had set up shop around the Ping-Pong table in the family basement.

We prepared samples and trained our sights on 150 Division I colleges and 500 high schools. June 9, 1987, proved to be a historic day for the family: I got my diploma from Princeton, my parents saw Brooke Shields at graduation, and my brothers mailed 650 samples of GameFace from the Princeton post office.

Three days later, the first order arrived. By August we had 15 clients, including bookstores at Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska. The people at the University of Miami bookstore ordered 50 packets and 300 more a week later.

We kicked off our on-site merchandising at the 1987 Kickoff Classic between Iowa and Tennessee at the Meadowlands. Standing in the parking lot on a hot August afternoon—I was in Iowa's yellow and black; Barry, in the Vols' orange and white—we unloaded 25 packets and considered this a pretty good day's work.

In April 1988, Barry attended the National Association of College Stores trade show in Cincinnati. He cut deals with 11 more campus and off-campus stores. As of today, more than 40 stores have purchased GameFace. In the meantime, the directors of our homegrown company have outgrown our home. Herb has moved into an apartment near Bloomfield, Barry has moved to California, and I have entered law school. GameFace Inc. has lost some steam, not to mention its infrastructure, but it hasn't expired.

Requests for GameFace still come in over the transom. For instance, before Virginia's showdown with Georgia Tech last football season, Mincer's store in Charlottesville, Va., placed an unsolicited order. Dad retrieved the phone message in the GameFace office—the bedroom that Barry and I used to share—and called Barry. Barry relayed the details to Herb. Herb put together the order—100 orange and blue packets. John McCormack, our family's 71-year-old neighbor, delivered the package to the local UPS station. Teamwork.

With more than half our original inventory still under the Ping-Pong table, we can fill many more orders. "We've done O.K.," says Barry, "but we still haven't made back our investment. At $2.50 per packet, that may take some time."

You can order GameFace by writing us at 37 Bryant Ave., Bloomfield, N.J. 07003, or by calling us at 201-338-7469. Additional business would make Dad, for one, very happy. He's legally responsible for much of that $7,000 in loans, and is still waiting for the racing-green Jaguar we said he could buy with his share of the profits. Mom just wants to know when we're going to clean up the basement.



A hot market for GameFace existed at Michigan.

Michael W. Klein is a third-year student at the Boston College Law School.