George Patterson reaches into his pocket to pull out his business cards with a glint of amusement in his eyes.
“I guarantee, if you read my title, you will laugh,” Patterson said.
Stamped under his name, G.B. Patterson, are the words “Effin President.”
Patterson, a 52-year-old Pitt alum and resident of Sewickley, began his business, Effin Bags, in July 2016. For Patterson, Effin is the latest in a string of business ventures since graduating from Pitt in ‘87 with degrees in communication and business.
Patterson picked up several corporate positions after graduating — the last of which was executive vice president for Olivet International Inc., a company which sells clothes, sporting goods, home goods — and bags. In this position, he found himself having to place his life on hold at a moment’s notice and catch a plane to other continents for business meetings.
“My daughter was two years old at the time, and I realized I had essentially missed the first two years of her life. And I said, ‘I’m done,’” Patterson said.
Patterson left his job in May 2009 to expand his own company, The Patterson Group — a side business he established in 2001. His company specializes in selling products from wholesale brands to retailers.
Patterson describes his work with The Patterson Group as a “26 hours a day, 8 days a week” job. Peter Rowan, a 2014 Pitt grad who interned with the company in 2013, recalls being inspired by Patterson’s energy in spite of the heavy workload.
“He was just a highly motivated guy,” Rowan said. “He’s very wildly entertaining guy to be around, and you feed off of his energy and his natural charisma.”
Between researching brands and shadowing business meetings, Rowan also remembers some early mornings during the internship.
“It would be like 4:30 [a.m.],” Rowan said, “And we would already be heading to attend this buyers meeting that was taking place at the other side of the state.”
Chasing down the right buyers requires travel — along with good luggage. Patterson’s clients are dotted across the country, and he finds himself in a plane traveling to places like New York, Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida nearly every week.
“I’m a two million mile flier,” he said, pointing out a rectangular American Airlines flyer miles tag hanging off his black Effin bag. “I’m working on my three million in the air, a dubious honor.”
While traveling from city to city, Patterson — who had insider knowledge about the bag industry because of his work with Olivet International Inc. and The Patterson Group, was frustrated to find his bags often falling apart.
“A seam would blow out, a zipper would fail, something would tear,” Patterson said. “I’d say, ‘these effin bags broke!’ And my wife would say, ‘Well okay, genius, you’ve been to a million factories. Why don’t you make your own effin bag?’”
Patterson trademarked the brand “Effin” in September 2016, partnering with his friend Wayne Chen at the AfterGen Corp. in California, a company he’s worked with in the past, to manufacture his product.
The first Effin bags hit the market in July 2017. The two bags available on his website, the Suprimo Professional Backpack and World Tour Travel Bag, currently sell for $125 and $150, respectively. Patterson created the bags with the help of friend and freelance designer Mark Drussmer, who worked with him for six months to finalize the product.
The nylon backpacks feature easy-access pockets on the side — which Patterson calls ElephantEars — along with a ventilated bottom with a laundry locker compartment for belongings such as bathing suits and towels.
Stamped across each product are the words “Effin Bags” in flashy Old English font.
“It’s a little bit of a naughty brand,” Patterson said. “It’s a little bit off-color, it’s a half step out of bounds, [but] it’s not going to offend anybody.”
Patterson said he has found that his brand resonates with millennials and college students. He launched a brand ambassador program for Effin bags at Pitt to connect to his target demographic, as well as to mentor and offer jobs to college students.
Patterson himself is no stranger to the college life hustle. He worked his way through Pitt, mixing drinks around the City as a bartender, interning at Warner Bros. and watch company Swatch, editing columns as The Pitt News opinions editor and swinging a sledgehammer at demolition sites over the summers.
“I remember being that kid,” Patterson said. “I want to give kids who are motivated a chance to make money.”
While Patterson has collaborated with Pitt in the past by offering an internship through The Patterson Group, he strives to leave a larger impact through the Effin brand ambassador program.
When Patterson came to campus in December 2017 to inquire about running an advertisement in The Pitt News, he met Matthew Houck, a junior music and economics major who works as sales manager for the paper. Houck officially became the first campus brand ambassador for Effin Bags at Pitt in January.
Houck, who wears an Effin Bag around campus, said he already has potential customers interested in the brand and makes 10 percent commission off the retail price for every bag he sells for Patterson. While Houck has just begun his job as a brand ambassador, he said he’s already enjoying collaborating with Patterson.
“He’s super cool, he’s forward, he’s up-front, he’s going to be real to you,” Houck said.“He’s funny, he’s a good guy, he’s always looking out for you.”
In the long term, Patterson looks forward to building Effin. He plans to expand his brand ambassador program to other big schools, such as Ohio State and Michigan, and has considered licensing his brand out to an apparel maker. Eventually, he plans to sell the Effin brand and leave it with someone else.
As someone with an illustrious background in bartending, cheerleading, founding two independent businesses and even publishing a book of haikus, the future will bring yet another “effin” adventure for Patterson. Inspired by nights spent watching Property Brothers with his wife, glass of wine in hand, Patterson is already mulling his next possible venture — breaking into the world of real estate.
“There are no limits. The limits are what we create ourselves,” he said. “You can really do whatever the heck you want to do in this world.”