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Lessons in Entrepreneurship with Route One Apparel Founder Ali von Paris

Nov 16, 2023

Maryland has a diverse, thriving business community filled with people and organizations making our state stronger. Among them are talented young professionals making their mark, who we’ll meet through the Maryland’s Rising Stars podcast — a new podcast series from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and presented by UnitedHealthcare.

In our inaugural episode, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Ali von Paris, founder and CEO of Route One Apparel, a company that has become synonymous with Maryland pride.

As we delve into Ali’s journey on taking Route One Apparel from inception to a household name, you’ll hear insights from a successful entrepreneur and amazing young professional who has much to share about building a brand, overcoming challenges and the power of community. Tune in to the full episode to get inspired by her story — and get a quick recap of our conversation below.

The Genesis of Route One Apparel

Ali’s journey with Route One Apparel began in 2010 while she was still a student at the University of Maryland. She designed a t-shirt to commemorate the closing of a favorite campus bar, and when demand quickly took off, a business was born. Now, Route One's fun, stylish designs featuring iconic local imagery are sold statewide and beyond.

A Legacy of Entrepreneurship

Rooted in a family of entrepreneurs, Ali’s great-great-grandfather laid the foundation for a tradition of business success in Maryland by starting the successful Von Paris Moving Company. This upbringing gave Ali a passion for entrepreneurship from a young age — and served as inspiration and support for the journey that awaited when she decided to start her own company at just 19 years old.

Challenges Faced and Triumphs Achieved

The path to success is seldom smooth, and Ali’s journey is no exception. From facing skepticism during a pivotal competition in her senior year to navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ali and Route One Apparel have weathered storms and emerged stronger. The pandemic, in particular, led to an 80 percent drop in sales. However, Ali’s attention to customer trends and responses presented an opportunity, including the introduction of face masks and products that not only sustained the business but propelled it to unprecedented success.

Licensing Deals and Collaborations

Route One Apparel's distinctive designs have captured the hearts of Marylanders and led to major licensing deals with renowned brands like Natty Boh and Old Bay. These partnerships have become a cornerstone of the business, allowing Route One Apparel to carve a niche in the apparel industry. Beyond traditional licensing, Allie has embraced collaborations, forming partnerships with nonprofits, charities and unique entities like Trash Wheel, showcasing the brand's versatility — along with Ali’s passions for community and partnership.

The Power of Maryland Pride

One of the driving forces behind Route One Apparel's success is its ability to bring people together through Maryland pride. In a world often marked by controversy and polarization, Ali is extremely proud that her business — and the Maryland pride it supports — serves as a unifying force. Wearing Maryland-themed items becomes a conversation starter, breaking down barriers and fostering connections among people both inside and outside our great state.

Challenges of Business in Maryland

Ali shared that while Maryland has provided good incentives and support, the high cost of living in Maryland has made it harder to run her operation. When employee rents and grocery costs rise, it puts more burden on business owners like her to increase pay — which, in turn, may lead to tough decisions for business owners from price increases to less business growth.

Ali also pointed out the scarcity of skilled talent in apparel and merchandising within the state. Unlike larger fashion hubs such as New York and Los Angeles, Maryland struggles to attract professionals in these fields.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Reflecting on her journey, Ali shared valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. In particular, she suggests not being intimidated by successful individuals, as everyone starts from somewhere. Taking risks, embracing failures and persisting through challenges are what she deems key elements to the entrepreneurial journey.

Conclusion: A Journey of Growth and Community Building

Ali von Paris's journey with Route One Apparel is a testament to the power of passion, resilience and community building. From humble beginnings to a prominent position in Maryland's business landscape, Ali has not only built a successful business but has also created a brand that resonates with the people who call Maryland home.

Key Entrepreneurial Lessons from her Journey:

Ali von Paris has built an inspirational brand that celebrates Maryland pride. Some key entrepreneurial lessons from her journey:

  • Leverage failures as learning experiences
  • Find ways to add value during difficult times
  • Build partnerships and collaborations
  • Do not underestimate yourself; stay persistentOutsource tasks beyond your core competencies

You can learn more about Ali and shop Route One Apparel's designs at, and be sure to check out the Maryland’s Rising Stars podcast to hear more inspiring stories of innovators and changemakers across the state.

About the Maryland’s Rising Stars Podcast

Through the Maryland’s Rising Stars podcast series, we’ll meet and hear the stories of our state’s phenomenal young professionals, entrepreneurs and visionaries who are making a big impact through their work. They’ll share their passions, their visions for the future, and how they are driving transformation in their industries and communities each and every day — and we’ll also get an early look at the emerging leaders who represent the future of Maryland, and whose ideas, innovations and commitment to service will shape our state for years to come.