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A new take on Norwegian sweaters

By Alexandra Wertz '12
December 1, 2011

Ian Rollwitz '12 sells Norwegian-sweater T-shirts in Buntrock Commons. The shirts have been a hit, with the first 300 nearly selling out in just two days. Photo by Thomas Dunning '15.

At most college campuses, thick-knit, multicolored Norwegian sweaters aren't exactly in style. But at St. Olaf, especially during the week of the annual Christmas Festival, they're all the rage.

There's just one problem: These stitched sensations typically cost hundreds of dollars, an amount rarely found in the wallet of college students.

So this year a group of entrepreneurial St. Olaf students came up with a way to make these hot commodities accessible to all Oles. They put the design of a Norwegian sweater on a T-shirt and started selling them for $10. The shirts were a hit, with the first 300 nearly selling out in just two days. The group is now taking orders for the T-shirts, and plans to sell them to Christmas Festival visitors as well.

The Norwegian-sweater T-shirt was the brainchild of Isaac Prichard '12. In order to help bring his idea to life, Prichard enlisted the help of Vance Ryan '12, Aaron Matuseski '12, Michael Erickson '13, and Lynne Dearborn '13. Those friends of his are in a marketing class that challenged them to come up with a product idea, market it, and ultimately sell it for the benefit of a nonprofit organization.

The group called in Jonathan Halquist '12 to design the shirts, and he successfully translated the knit pattern of a sweater to an inked T-shirt design. "It is both a great tribute to the Norwegian tradition of St. Olaf while also being a comfortable and casual alternative to the more traditional Norwegian sweater," Ryan says.

The group is donating the proceeds from their T-shirt sales to Kiva, a nonprofit microfinance organization that aims to alleviate poverty across the world through microloans. Ryan says the nonprofit's mission seems to align well with St. Olaf's focus on providing its students with a global perspective. "The ability to help people in some of the most remote parts of the world create opportunities for themselves and their families is very important us," Ryan says.

The group's goal is to raise $1,000 for Kiva, and so far they've raised $650. "By far the most fun part of the project has been seeing this idea come to life," Ryan says. "It has also been so rewarding to see the reaction of students. None of us thought this would be as successful as it has been, and we owe a huge thanks to all of the students who have supported us and Kiva."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or