Paoli’s Darrell Alston Named Fall 2022 Entrepreneur-In-Residence At Penn State
Guest lecturer program follows the record-setting launch of Alston’s Bungee Oblečení fall collection at Neiman Marcus King of Prussia
by Melissa Jacobs
How do you create a luxury sneaker and apparel brand? Penn State students will find out when Darrell Alston, CEO of Bungee Oblečení, heads to Happy Valley to be the fall 2022 entrepreneur-in-residence. Alston will lead workshops, classes and events with students studying business, design and engineering at Penn State. His visit occurs during the university’s Annual Global Entrepreneur Week, Nov. 14-19.
Alston is honored to take part in the program, officially named the Bishoff Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the College of Engineering’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. It brings successful entrepreneurs with backgrounds in engineering, design, business or manufacturing to the University Park campus. Events feature entrepreneurs, local startups, innovators, and anyone interested in thinking outside the box.
“We are excited to have Darrell teach our students,” said Professor Ted Graef, director of the Penn State Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. “His story is educational and inspirational while demonstrating the tenacity he showed in overcoming obstacles to become a successful entrepreneur. Our students have a lot to learn from Darrell.”
Alston is honored to participate in the program. “I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned and I’m sure that I’ll learn a lot from students and professors I meet,” Alston said. “I passed up the opportunity to go to college, so being on Penn State’s campus will be a great experience for me.”
The Penn State program comes on the heels of the successful launch of Bungee Oblečení’s fall 2022 sneaker and apparel line at Neiman Marcus King of Prussia. The trunk show, held Oct. 14-16, set a new sales record for Bungee Oblečení. And it made history; Alston is the first Philadelphia designer to have a shoe in Neiman Marcus. “Neiman Marcus is the pinnacle of style and luxury,” Alston said. “To see my sneakers on the shelves was a dream come true.”
Alston is also the first Philadelphia designer to have a sneaker in Foot Locker. That milestone happened in November 2021 when Bungee Oblečení launched at the Foot Locker in King of Prussia. Since then, Bungee sneakers and apparel have been worn by Nick Cannon, Keenan Thompson, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Olly Sholotan, who plays Carlton Banks on “Bel Air,” the successful TV show.
Alston’s road to success has its own plot twists. A native of Paoli, PA, he graduated from Conestoga High School but turned down college football scholarships to pursue his music career. Alston sold drugs to maintain his rapper lifestyle, and that landed him in prison. Determined to change his life, Alston started sketching sneakers while incarcerated and created a business plan using a book that his mother mailed to him. After his release, Alston worked as a barber and saved money to get his first sneaker sample made. He placed the sample in the window of his barber shop. A client saw it there and became Alston’s first investor.
Alston seized the opportunity, but had to learn the ins and outs of running a business. It took years for him to master everything from strategic plans to budgets, manufacturing to shipping. Alston proudly says that he is a graduate of “YouTube University,” a message he relays during the many lecturers he gives to men who are still incarcerated. Alston has participated in prisoner educational programs run by the University of Pennsylvania and Eastern University.
“Darrell’s participation in our Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship is a highlight of our fall semester,” said Dr. John Fantuzzo, interim director of Eastern University’s Prison Education Program. “His product development will inspire our students to ignore the naysayers and trust their aspirations. His reentry story will help them appreciate how recidivism can be defied by hard work and dedication. Darrell’s willingness to show up to teach what he’s learned conveys a powerful message, namely, that the odds stacked against incarcerated persons can – and should – be overcome and transformed.”
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Note: Bungee Obleceni is a financial supporter of Main Line Tonight.
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