The Buffalo Boys

Buffalo, NY, an all-American city, a place for professional football, wings, and infamous snowstorms. Although this city may not be your first thought for finding fame and fortune, for founders Matthew Keeler and Nick Ciavarella, It has been not only a home but a place of ultimate success for their revolutionary hockey streetwear brand, Just Dishin. Keeler, straight out of college and eager to begin his own business, began pouring everything he had into creating Just Dishin, a unique hockey apparel brand. Keelers’ intentions from the beginning would be to change the status quo of the hockey culture. Just Dishin is known for encouraging self-expression through streetwear styled merchandise. The brand has created many unique designs and inventions for hockey apparel and has seen great interest from hockey players of all ages, both in America and Canada. The brand mainly is a business from customization on skates and hockey uniforms but has recently created its newest product to change hockey traditions. As I sat with the partners

“Hockey is one of the most traditional sports; not much progress or new ideas have been acceptable in hockey. We have seen a big turnaround with the NBA and the NFL regarding rules and regulations for uniforms and individuality on the fields or the court. Organizations and teams are now allowing their professional players to wear their own brands and merchandise and add individual touches to their uniforms. Hockey is still behind the times as far as this advancement, and my goal is to change that.” ~Matthew Keeler 

In 2012 Keeler met former junior hockey player, Nick Ciavarella via social media and found the brand’s missing piece, their partnership. With his own Interest and knowledge in business, fashion, content creation and hockey, Nick was noticed by the brand early on through Instagram. Ciavarella was interested in Just Dishin as a very early follower of the account and decided to contact Keeler for some business advice. It wasn’t long after meeting that the pair decided they needed each other to take the business to the next level, which is exactly what they did. 

Keeler, Ciavarella, and Ben Madaferri, the company’s PR director, quickly jumped into designing, filming, and promoting their brand throughout the city of Buffalo and on social media. As quickly as they could design and restock new merchandise, their designs, clothes, and extra products were sold out. Ciavarella explained to me, ” It was a lot, we would be up all hours of the night fulfilling orders in Matthew Keeler’s small studio apartment in the city of Buffalo, and this went on for a while.” Keeler explained, we started a business out of college, it was taxing, and there was a failure, but it motivated us to press on and push each other to do whatever it took for the brand, and we have never regretted that.” 

The Vibe 

We all know how difficult it is to keep up with the times, whether fashion trends or choosing the next best IG post. Just Dishin is the next company to making that happen; ask Dion Dawkins; yeah, you read that right. As the brand has become a sensation with today’s youth and young adults, professional athletes have taken advantage of this unique brand. The brand has had some of the most high-profile clients that the Buffalo area has ever seen, such as DJ Augustin of the Milwaukee Bucks, Dion Dawkins, and Captain Buffalo Bills, and Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leaves. Everything from custom apparel, designing merchandise, and creating a brand for these professionals is under this new and inventive brand’s belt. Perhaps the unique aspect of this company is the vibe. The team is a young, cohesive group of artists and entrepreneurs that use this brand to let out their passion and artistic flow on something that everyone in the world can connect with fashion. 

Fashion or Familiarity 

Fashion is a national language that speaks, individually, unpredictability, and an expression of self. Over many decades and hundreds of years, sports have been the epitome of tradition, familiarity, and predictability for self-expression and the external appearance. While the purpose that these characteristics serve has been a staple of many sports, the times are changing, and players’ need for the ability to self-express is an era we are stepping into. Just Dishin is hoping to do just that, making a mark in the sports world as a brand to promote and provide never before seen products of self-expression for every athlete as well as helping athletes monetize their personal brands. Simultaneously, many sports have come out of their shell of external appearance restrictions and expectations. Just Dishin is soon launching a brand that’ll first change the game of hockey and, hopefully, in the future, a staple product for other sports. While the company produces its own line of “Just Dishin” apparel, most of the companies’ client interest comes from the ability to custom design sports apparel and the first every hockey skate cover; they call “Skate Skins.” 

Skins Skins Skins 

Just Dishin “Skate Skins” are a brand-new invention that no brand, store, or company has been able to create and make a success. Matthew Keeler spent his 2020 COVID lockdown creating a lightweight cohesive wrap that sticks on any hockey skate. The wrap or “skin” can be used and taken off the skates as many times as desired and will never lose its stick or flexibility. The skins will be one of the first nontraditional pieces of a hockey uniform that fans and players have ever seen. As I sat down with the partners of Just Dishin, I had to ask what has made these products so successful, not just with amateurs but professionals. Unfortunately, the team has some secret trick up their sleeves, but I found the answer they could give me admirable and humble. 

“To look back four years ago to talking here now with you is crazy, and we like to look at where we are, and it’s humbling, and not everyone gets a chance to realize how blessed they are and be successful career-wise in their passion. We have made many sacrifices, and we’ll tell you now that we put a lot of what we make back into the brand. We have many people trying to steal our ideas and discourage us, but we believe in the brand. We know no one can make our products and work environment even remotely close to how we make it. I think that mindset, assurance, and focus make the brand work.” 

~Keeler and Ciavarella

The Future 

This team has had a whirlwind of trial, error, and success, but just because they have reached a high point, they have no intention of slowing down. As the world changes through innovation, imagination, and creativity, we can all set our sights on a bright future for our generation and generations. What does the future hold for Just Dishin, you may ask? It is merely the tools they have always held tightly. It is creativity in design and media, and imagination to change hockey and innovation’s status quo before its time. As the team set forward to accomplish a common goal for business owners, to be known, celebrated, and remembered, Just Dishin has a few tricks up their sleeves for the upcoming year. As a growing company created by two college students, I asked founder Matthew Keeler and Chief Operating Officer, Nick Ciavarella for some words of encouragement and wisdom to future entrepreneurs. 

“When you become a business owner, the key to success is valuing your self-worth, ideas, and product through hard work, determination, and humility. If you can do that, the company will far exceed what you ever thought was possible”.

~Nick Ciavarella 

“Life as a successful entrepreneur is how you handle and deal with rejection and failure; if you can’t handle it, it’ll last throughout days and prevent you from doing the work you need to do to be successful. If you can brush it off and use it as fuel for your fire, that’ll make you more successful. You need to be the type of person who can handle rejection and decline. If you are positive about yourself and your business through the ups and the downs, that’ll grow you and your company for the better, more than you know. 

~ Matthew Keeler