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With a boost from the football team, NDSU student launches Bison-themed apparel brand

For "super senior" Izaak Nosbisch, what started as a challenge with friends to get off social media has morphed into a full-fledged apparel company. Roll Herd's unique designs heavily feature skulls and flames to deliver a style you won't find at the campus bookstore.

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Izaak Nosbisch, a North Dakota State University engineering student, holds one of his T-shirts for sale Saturday, April 23, 2022, in his booth at the Fargo Pop Expo. He has started a business to sell clothing with his original Bison-themed art.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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FARGO — There’s a new line of North Dakota State University Bison apparel, but you won’t find it at Scheels or the campus bookstore.

Izaak Nosbisch, a self-described “super senior” at NDSU, has created his own brand of unique, Bison-themed clothing called Roll Herd . Serving as both designer and entrepreneur, Nosbisch launched the brand in September 2021.

Roll Herd’s T-shirts and hoodies would stand out among the typical sea of green and yellow seen at Bison tailgates and sporting events. That’s because Nosbisch largely eschews the university colors in favor of his own flair: skeletons and flames. “Most of my designs involve that type of style where it has that little bit of edge to it, not over the top with it,” Nosbisch told The Forum. “I’m usually trying to think of stuff that’s unique. I don’t want to copy things. I want it to have a sense of originality.”

Combining his passions

The seeds for Roll Herd were planted in 2021, when Nosbisch and a group of friends took a challenge to delete their social media accounts.

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Without social media occupying his time, Nosbisch began to ponder a way he could merge his passions for clothing, apparel and creativity. It also offered him the chance to think about what he wanted to do once he was finished with school. “I had pretty much zero distractions and had a lot of time for myself to think. I spent a lot of time trying to decide what I wanted to do in the future,” he recounted. “I started thinking, ‘I love clothes and I love artwork. How do I combine those passions and explore something while I’m in college?’”

The intersection of those interests resulted in Roll Herd. While it seems like an unusual fit for an engineering student, Nosbisch has always had a passion for creativity, which he likely inherited from his mother, who is also an artist.

Nosbisch officially launched Roll Herd on Sept. 4, aligning with the Bison football team’s season-opening win over Albany . Outside of a few friends-turned-customers, it was slow-going at first. “Right away, it was kind of slow,” he said. “You get your friends who are really supportive and they’ll buy a few T-shirts and everything.”

Things took off in January, though, when Nosbisch — himself the treasurer of NDSU’s Entrepreneurship Club — pitched the business to a young entrepreneur’s panel on campus. “People seemed to really like it,” he said. Nosbisch even caught the attention of a fellow student with video production skills, who has helped produce promotional videos on social media.

Thus far, he’s been happy with the “slow, progressive growth” for Roll Herd. It’s better that way because he doesn’t “need this to blow up out of proportion where I can’t handle it.”

‘Uncharted territory’

In a time where college student-athletes are able to profit off of their name, image and likeness, a key component of Roll Herd’s growth has been partnering with NDSU football players.

The new rules surrounding NIL are “uncharted territory,” Nosbisch said, but that doesn’t mean he’s been afraid of diving head-first into the promotional opportunities NIL presents. Some Bison football players have promoted the brand on their own social media accounts, while Nosbisch recently filmed a promotional video with five more players. “It’s very fun to see what is possible with NIL,” Nosbisch remarked. “It leaves some doors open, which I think is great.”

The football players with whom Nosbisch has teamed up have been equally excited about the possibilities.

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Junior cornerback Jenaro Ocama kicked things off when he reached out to Nosbisch via Instagram to ask about partnering with Roll Herd. It was Nosbisch’s rivalry collection — a tribute to the school’s rivalries with SDSU, UND and USD — that first caught Ocama’s eye. “He had just dropped some T-shirts and they were super sweet, super cool, original designs,” he recalled.

It didn’t take long for more football players to get on board. Next up was Ocama’s roommate, junior wide receiver Braylon Henderson, who was also eager about the possibilities new NIL rules presented. “Honestly I feel like it was a big step in the right direction,” Henderson said. “For us to get compensation off our our name, image and likeness, I feel like it was a great thing to do. It should have been done a long time ago.”

For both Ocama and Henderson, wearing Roll Herd apparel has generated quite a few head-turning reactions. Ocama said he’s been asked where he got his shirt every time he’s in the weight room, while Henderson recalled a similar experience. “Any time I wear any of the pieces Izaak has made, if I post it or if I’m wearing it, I get a lot of reactions. Heads turning, people walking up to me complimenting,” Henderson said.

They’ve both enjoyed working with a fellow student to help bring Roll Herd to life. Nosbisch keeps Ocama and Henderson involved in the creative process, collaborating with them on a weekly basis. “It’s definitely meshing well,” Ocama said.

It’s a particularly natural fit for Henderson, who is pursuing a minor in fashion merchandising and retail. “This kind of stuff is right up my alley,” he said.

Handling NIL deals the right way, Ocama said, is an opportunity he’s always anticipated. “Being an athlete, you have a platform and it’s a blessing to have the platform that a lot of us do,” he said. “Using our platform to spread other platforms that we believe in, that’s just a great opportunity for us to grow and make something out of nothing.”

‘What do I really want to do with my life…?’

At the moment, Nosbisch still plans to pursue a career in engineering, though he didn’t rule out turning Roll Herd into a full-time gig if the brand takes off. “The first four years of engineering, I was strictly focused on engineering. It’s a very rigorous degree,” he said. “Once you start to get closer to the end of college, you start to think, ‘What do I really want to do with my life once I graduate?’ Engineering is still a path for me, but I want to make sure I explore other opportunities where I find passions, especially when I’m young and at this age where I can take risks like this.”

He’s looking to give back to the campus community that helped him get started. For one, he plans to give away a $500 scholarship once he reaches $2,500 in sales.

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Additionally, even though he’ll soon be moving on to a full-time job in the Twin Cities area, Nosbisch is looking for NDSU students to continue flying the Roll Herd flag in Fargo. “It’s still a Fargo-based company and I want to keep it that way,” he remarked.

Nosbisch has also relished the learning experience that comes with being a young entrepreneur. He recently had his own booth at the Fargo Pop Expo and is planning to do the same at the Downtown Fargo Street Fair this summer. “I am really avid to learn more about the business side of things,” he commented. “If it doesn’t make money right away, it’s really more about the experience for me.”

Readers can reach InForum reporter Thomas Evanella at tevanella@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella

Thomas Evanella is a reporter for The Forum. He's worked for The Forum for over two years, primarily reporting on business news. Reach him at tevanella@forumcomm.com or by calling 701-353-8363. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella.
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