After 10 years, RetroDuck keeps East Lansing presence

MSU alumnus Sean Maday didn’t wait until graduation to start his first company. His T-shirt company, RetroDuck, was born in his Mayo Hall dorm room when he was a freshman at MSU.

Now, celebrating its 10th anniversary this week, RetroDuck is run by Maday’s friends. Luke Hackney, president of the company and a childhood friend of Maday, said that Maday had his friends involved in the company from day one.

Maday also received help from Adam Van Lente, who designed and maintained the website, and Arun Das, who handled the T-shirt orders.

Hackney was the only one of the bunch who didn’t attend MSU. A student at Grand Valley State University and later Wayne State University, his duties were mostly regulated to online work, and commuting back and forth.

Das, who currently lives in Chicago and is directly involved with managing the company, said in an email that it was challenging maintaining a company while being a full-time student in college.

“During those years, RetroDuck was in its infancy and really required nurturing,” Das said in an email. “Balancing that, plus a full classload, was tough. That being said, working with a good group of people growing a business together that you love made it easier.”

By the end of his sophomore year, Maday moved the company from his small dorm room to the office at 210 Abbot Road, Suite 22, where the company is located today.

Hackney also said the business hit its biggest growing point in 2007, but the stress of the workload was balanced nicely with the money that came as a result.

“Those first couple of years we were making good money, especially for college students,” he said. “But I wouldn’t have said that we were gangbusters by any stretch. We were still a relatively small company.”

Das said despite the multiple responsibilities, he enjoyed his time with the company and global attention they received.

After graduating, Maday had to fulfill his military obligation as a member of the Air Force and ROTC. That’s when the company was handed to Hackney. Maday currently works as a Geospatial Engineer for Google in Boulder, Colo.

“(Maday) moved on. Arun graduated and moved to Chicago. So I had to come in and help Adam, and I ended up taking over the company altogether,” he said.

Although the company has changed hands throughout the years, its presence still has a strong customer following. Patrick Duke, who runs the statewide DJ competition, Capital City DJ Olympics, has purchased T-shirts from RetroDuck for the past four years for his competition.

“These guys know what they’re doing,” Duke said. “They keep me updated with the latest designs.”
Hackney said for the company’s future, he’s considering expansion.

“Adam and I are talking about starting up another location somewhere possibly on the West Coast, and maybe even another location in Michigan,” he said.

For now, however, he looks forward to servicing the local community.

“We love East Lansing and the community,” he said. “We definitely want to stay here.”

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