Starting a clothing line was never on Nick Rovazzini’s checklist.
For the 28-year-old Schenectady resident, business endeavors had always been about unique flavors, farmers markets and making the best gelato outside of Italy, as good as he could.
Since the summer of 2019, Rovazzini had been prioritizing Second Scoop Gelato, the pop-up gelato business that he started after several stints in the local world of ice cream.
His treats took him to different local shops with his gelato cart, at local farmer’s markets in Troy and beyond and heading anywhere he could make a sale with gelato pop ups.
But gelato is seasonal. And when he lost all his in-person gigs as a result of the pandemic last March, and was essentially unemployed for the first time in his life, he needed a new form of expression to keep himself occupied.
That’s when Prey For Us, his new clothing brand, came to life.
“It was kind of selfish,” Rovazzini said. “At first I was like, ‘I just want to get really cool clothing that I like.’ I liked designs that I came up with and only had to pay a wholesale price for it. Then I realized I could make money selling it to other people. It was a business fueled by the ability to sell stuff online… I had all this time on my hands and wanted to be productive.”
Prey For Us launched in June and has since sold about 40 items a month. His selection of products includes tie-dye T-shirts featuring designs from local artists, hoodies with skeleton graphics and masks with the phrase “THE END IS NEAR” in large font on the front. Shirts run from $30 to $40, hoodies from $60 to $75, masks are $18, beanies are $32 and there’s plenty of other accessories. He packs all his clothes to ship locally, interacts with customers himself and grows the brand on a daily basis by selling the items on his website.
And a lot of sales also come from outside of the area; in fact, Ricky Armellino of the band Ice Nine Kills posed in his gear.
“For the most part, there’re so many talented people out there that turned my vision and exceeded my vision,” he said of the artists he works with. “Every single time I was like, perfect. This is what we’re running with.”
Just like gelato and its many flavors, everything in his Prey For Us arsenal has to meet a certain standard. Rovazzini has to love it himself before he puts a product up on his shop, whether it be his Black Metal Kitty Tee or Reaper Tee, both of which are a lot more conversational than his other endeavors.
“I just like the whole play on words of like, prey versus pray,” He said of his company name. “It’s more like, You’ll become a prey if you’re letting everyone else influence you. You define your own future, you define who you are. Don’t let the people who want to play the predators prey on you.”
While his business ventures seem entirely different, Rovazzini has noticed that the feeling tends to be similar when hearing reactions from customers.
“It’s amazing to see the reception of people and like that instant gratification,” he said. “Getting messages or people hearing a story on Instagram and being like, ‘This is the comfiest hoodie ever.’ I want to make the best version of everything that I can choose. And it’s the same thing with gelato where people would take gelato, have a bite and come back and be like, ‘This was amazing.’ And just like that, the instant gratification.”
And now, Rovazzini is seeing Prey For Us enter the top 22% of businesses on e-commerce platform Shopify created in the same week that his was, a measurement the platform keeps track of. He said it’s a bit surreal and he knows it’s only going to get better, but he appreciates that people like the designs that — initially — were just supposed to be for himself.
“I’m doing what I like, I’m doing what I’m passionate about,” Rovazini said. “And for the most part, I don’t do things that I’m not passionate about, because our time here is pretty short. So if I’m not living it to the fullest every day, I don’t really see much point in it.”