Virginia Tech alumni Scott Michael Cowan and Karen Bednarczyk Cowan found a unique way to stay connected to their alma mater inspired by a game day visit and the school's favorite bird.
In the fall of 2011, the Cowans brought their daughters Grace and Eden to their first Tech football game. Although their kids were too young to understand the concept of football, they still loved the experience and were completely captivated by the beloved Hokie Bird.
“When we went to the game, the Hokie Bird was out on the field, and they were fascinated by him. They couldn’t get enough of him,” Karen Cowan said.
In a quest to find the perfect Hokie-themed gift for their children, the Cowans came up with an original idea. Instead of just buying their kids another Tech t-shirt, they decided to create their own line of Hokie Bird inspired children’s towels.
The towel line, now called Little Sinks, LLC, was not an immediate success. It was competing with much bigger players in the collegiate merchandising industry. The Cowans turned to the power of social media to spread the word about their new product.
“I’ve had so many people reach out to me after seeing the Hokie Bird towel on Pinterest or Facebook,” Karen Cowan said.
The towel is solid maroon with a hood modeled like the head of the Hokie Bird. The back of the towel even sports the Hokie Bird’s tail feathers.
After establishing their product online, the Cowans finally got the opportunity to sell Little Sinks’ towels in stores. The first place to take interest in the product was the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. The choice to sell the towels in a store within close proximity to Tech was a huge step for the business.
“Because it was the very first place that was geographically close to the heart of Blacksburg, we were doing backflips,” Karen Cowan said.
The Christiansburg Aquatic Center is home to the Tech swimming and diving teams. Both teams use the Little Sinks towel line.
Another store familiar to most Tech students, The Campus Emporium, also carries Little Sinks, LLC. The store initially took interest in the product because of its originality.
“It’s very unique. I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Ken Phillips, manager of the Campus Emporium.
So far, the store has seen success in the sale of the school-spirited towels.
“We’ve sold almost half of them already in just a few months,” Phillips said.
Although Little Sinks, LLC currently only produces and sells towels, future plans for the business entail much more.
“A lot of the products we hope to create in the future would continue to center around the Hokie Bird,” Karen Cowan said.
She also expressed interest in expanding the line toward other school mascots as well.
One of the greatest rewards from the entire Little Sinks experience, Karen Cowan said, is it has allowed them to sustain a connection both with the school and other alumni.
“Andre Davis, who is like Virginia Tech football royalty from a few years back, actually reached out to me personally and wanted personalized towels for his children,” Karen Cowan said.
As word of Little Sinks spread, more and more alumni have reached out to the Cowans from all over the country.
“It has been so exciting to just feel the support from alumni who are just genuinely proud of Virginia Tech, and they have been incredibly encouraging of both me and my husband during this entire journey,” Karen Cowan said.