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New company lets college fans show their stripes

MEMPHIS, Tn. — As college football season kicks off, fans of every university are wearing their gear. Thanks to an upstart company in Tennessee, you can now rock it on the water and be safe at the same time. Life Jacket Solutions is selling U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets with your favorite college team’s logo. West Virginia University’s flying WV is in the design and approval phase, but is expected to be ready soon.

To understand the idea behind the Jersey Jacket design, one needs to know the story behind Life Jacket Solutions. Dave Lee is the company’s Founder and CEO. He had no ties to the life jacket industry, nor the boating industry or any other potential link which would lead to such a company. His connections to life jackets and water safety was born purely out of tragedy.

“We got into the business for the sheer fact a friend of mine’s son drowned,” Lee said on Nothside Automotive West Virginia Outdoors on Saturday. “I started doing a lot of research after the funeral and found out drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. We wanted to target that, and the data showed 10 people drown every day, most of them between the ages of 10 and 14 and mostly male. So we really went after the male market.”

His first design was a “buff body” life jacket for children. The suit featured the outline of a fantastic set of ripped pectoral and abdominal muscles. The inspiration came from a child’s costume who came trick or treating at his door a few years ago on Halloween. Lee holds patents on the buff body and abb designs for life jackets. The college logos came next as he looked for a niche to give his product a market. Collegiate logo gear and jersey jackets are the best selling items in sports marketing.

“All we’re trying to do is create awareness and make people want to wear their life jackets,” he said. “It’s just bringing fun back to a device that nobody likes to wear, including myself. But we’ve found if you put the logos on there, people are excited to wear it.”

The first schools Lee approached with the idea were all in his immediate area, LSU, Tennessee, Florida, and Ole Miss. All four were on board quickly and the idea caught fire. He’s continued to expand ever since, working with each individual school to make sure the use of the logo and the product design is favorable to them.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Lee who also adds his company donates a portion of every jacket sold to a charity tied to their story. “We support the Hugs Foundation for Children. It’s a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance and treatment for families of children who have survived a near drowning incident. Generally those kids have brain damage and we try to support those families through their tragedy.”

Lee said it was important for them to produce a flotation device which was U.S. Coast Guard approved. The recent drowning death of the son of country music singer Craig Morgan is cited by Lee as an example of the difference the Coast Guard seal can make.

“His son sank and they couldn’t find him for four days,” said Lee. “An accident can happen in two seconds flat and it’s just about being prepared.”

Jerry Greer, 19, was due to play football at Marshall this fall.

Although still in the approval phase, the West Virginia University life jacket is available for pre-order and will ship when the design is approved and production is complete. This is the link for the pre-order.

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