GOOD NEWS: Passion for design becomes a business

ALPINE When Juan Aguirre enrolled at Sul Ross State University, like many Lobos he decided to fill some of his free time with a student job.
“I applied at the library and print shop to help pay for school,” he said. “They both offered me a job, but the print shop called me first. So that’s where I went.”
After doing his share of pamphlet folding, Juan’s supervisor, Coordinator of Publications Services Lauren Mendias, asked him to do some design work.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2012. He then moved to El Paso and leveraged his degree into an entry-level position at the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office.
In 2013, he was joined by his girlfriend Miriam after she completed her Sul Ross bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a business minor.
“I suffer from anxiety,” he said. “And after a panic attack in 2016, I realized I had become too comfortable at my job, and that I wanted to do more than just paperwork. I wanted to work on what really made me happy, and that’s design.”
The vehicle for Juan’s design work became a startup t-shirt company called Nerdy Chic Shirts which initially focused on apparel with funny sayings and imagery. Juan’s designs quickly evolved to include El Paso-specific themes, and the change stuck, leading to their business’ current name: Nerdy Chic: Nine One Five Apparel. (El Paso’s telephone area code is 915.)
The couple saw their t-shirt sales grow rapidly—a development which made their apartment-run business a challenge.
After first year sales of nearly 300 items, Juan and Miriam sold over 2,000 items last year, having purchased more advanced equipment to improve their production efficiency. They have also expanded beyond t-shirts to sell souvenirs, glassware, and cold weather apparel.
Now working out of their Horizon City house, the couple have their bedroom back and an eye towards even greater business expansion.
“We see this becoming a full-time business within the next two years,” said Miriam. “We’ve already been looking at places in downtown El Paso to have our own brick and mortar location.”
Last September, just before their nine-year anniversary as a couple, Juan and Miriam got married. These Lobos who met as student volunteers in the Sully Productions office have quickly produced a post-college business success. And they both point to experiences at Sul Ross as playing vital roles.
Nerdy Chic: Nine One Five Apparel products are currently sold online at and in-person on most Saturday’s at El Paso’s Downtown Art and Farmers Market. Customers who purchase items are not only supporting Juan and Miriam’s business venture but other local entrepreneurs as well.
With short-term plans to expand product offerings, and medium-term plans to move to a brick-and-mortar operation, the couple may eventually create a long-term plan to move their business closer to a familiar Sul Ross campus.