College roommates turned lifelong friends, Horbatuck and Orfe formed Driftline, a water sport activewear company.
Wes Horbatuck ’11 and Greg Orfe ’11 both found their way to Elon via high school friendships.
Horbatuck first came to campus while visiting a friend who was attending Elon. He immediately loved the campus and wanted to learn more about the Love School of Business, specifically the finance department. Orfe also discovered Elon through a friend from his hometown who was attending at the time and ultimately decided Elon was the right place for him after touring campus and receiving a grant from the university funded through Annual Giving. It was this grant that helped him pursue a major in communications.
As first-years, their paths crossed. They both were living in Moffitt Hall and they later decided to room together after they both became involved in Greek life, an extra-curricular that allowed them to spend more time together.
Their friendship became a strong foundation on which to build a business partnership, eventually forming their company Driftline, a water sport activewear company. However, before their company was created, Horbatuck and Orfe took two separate career paths following graduation. Horbatuck moved to New York City and worked in financial technology while he pursued his MBA through a night program at New York University. Orfe moved to Washington, D.C. and worked in advertising sales.
They remained in touch with each other during this time and continued to value their friendship. Their paths realigned once more when they both decided to move to San Diego, California. Both friends were excited to try new things — Orfe started graduate school for graphic design and Horbatuck was itching for his next idea. It just so happened that this next idea came to them while they were enjoying one of their favorite hobbies – surfing.
The two enjoyed the sport together and the idea for their product came when they were surfing during a transitional time of year. It was too cold for board shorts, but also too warm for a wetsuit. Both Horbatuck and Orfe noted that there had to be a better way to combat this transitional time of year, so they combined their expertise and created “Drifties,” a wetsuit-lined boardshort. The idea took root and led to them eventually patenting the product and starting their company.
“Our mission since day one was to create innovative watersport apparel – especially since the first product we launched didn’t yet exist on the market. Since then, we launched multiple iterations, colorways and styles to our original design,” said Orfe.
It was the “Drifties” product that became the start of Driftline, which launched in 2019. They spent time investing in the watersport community and worked hard to create a recognizable local brand. They also signed several well-known athletes and content creators, utilizing influencers through social channels to build brand recognition.
“The COVID years actually helped us in a big way since so many people wanted to be outside. So we doubled down by investing our time in the product,” Orfe said.
In 2021, their brand caught the eyes of the producers for the television series “Shark Tank,” making an appearance on the show in spring 2022 after months of going through the application process.
“The opportunity to pitch Driftline on Shark Tank was incredible. It took a lot of work to get there, but the ability to showcase our patented products to all of America was game-changing for us. Sales skyrocketed throughout the whole year, and it’s helped us launch into new and exciting projects that are continuing to grow the brand,” said Orfe.
Along with their premiere on Shark Tank, their journey has been rewarding. They took a passion and made it into a real-life business.
“For me, the most rewarding thing has been finding true passion in my day to day – essentially finding purpose through our craft. It’s so rewarding to be excited about what you do. Plus, being able to do research and design in the ocean is pretty awesome,” Horbatuck said.
Their start-up was not without trials and tribulations though. As with any company, building a business from the ground up is no small feat. They started their company without any hands-on experience in the action sports or fashion industry, so they had to learn through trial and error.
“Fear of the unknown is scary, but knowing that you can create something from that unknown is really amazing,” Horbatuck said.
The duo has a passion for innovation and they both credit Elon for helping them feel ready to confidently step into the “real world” with a sense of inner confidence and the tools that they needed to succeed.
“I personally learned a lot from my entrepreneurship and marketing classes that I still think about 15-plus years later and apply on a daily basis,” Horbatuck said.
Orfe echoed this sentiment, saying that Elon’s “small-school feel and social environment really allowed us to connect with others and carry that over into our careers.”
When asked to give some advice for students who would like to one day create their own products, both offered insightful feedback.
“This world needs more free thinkers and visionary leaders, if you’re questioning it, go for it,” Horbatuck said.
Orfe said students should begin to surround themselves with the right people. “Entrepreneurs live on an island, and no one will understand your highs and lows like other entrepreneurs. It’s tough to explain the 10,000 decisions you need to make in a day and to have a team around you that you trust will help you get to that next level,” Orfe said.
Looking to the future, the pair is hoping to continue growing and investing in their company, as well as exploring new products and collaborations with other brand owners. Not only are they looking to expand their business, but they also want to further their eco-friendly apparel, with their company recently joining 1% for the Planet and launching the first-ever eco-friendly wetsuit-lined boardshorts.
“I think we have a couple more exciting ideas up our sleeve. There is always room for growth and expansion in this ever-changing world – we are excited to innovate and create something that people really love,” Horbatuck said.