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K-State Today

February 13, 2018

Mortar Board Senior Honor Society hosts 'Last Lecture' by Dave Dreiling

By Hannah Schauf

As a part of Mortar Board Week, Mortar Board Senior Honor Society will host a "Last Lecture" by Dave Dreiling, founder of GTM Sportswear at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, in 1092 College of Business Building. As made famous by Randy Pausch, a last lecture is intended to be given as the last lecture one could ever give; to reflect on experiences and life lessons. 

Described as a "hard core" entrepreneur since the age of 6, Dreiling grew up in the small towns of Smith Center and Concordia, where he spent every spare moment learning how business works in his parents' family clothing stores.

Dreiling started his first business, raising earthworms, at the age of 6. Next was a local produce play at the age of 12, a bike company at 15, a precursor to AirBnB at 19, and then a limo service in Manhattan while attending K-State.

Upon completion of his degree in marketing from K-State in 1989, Dreiling and a partner launched It's Greek To Me by selling decorated sportswear out of their van to fraternities and sororities from Indiana to California. The business averaged a 25 percent annual growth rate for 27 years and became known as GTM Sportswear, which is now the largest nongovernment employer in Manhattan with more than 600 team members. Its growth culminated in the sale of the business to Hanes Brands in September 2016, and Dreiling remains the managing director.

Along the way, Dreiling dabbled in the restaurant business with a Quizno's franchise in 2001. One led to six, which has now morphed into Hungry Cats Inc., a restaurant holding company that owns and/or manages 28 Freddy’s Steakburgers and Frozen Custards, along with Manhattan eateries to include Coco Bolo's, Cox Bros BBQ, Powercat Sports Grill, and The Hut. Hungry Cats Inc. is currently building six to eight new locations per year and has more than 1,600 employees.

Other business ventures included the creation of a patented vinyl chair back for college stadiums. K-Staters would know this as the Cat Cushion. Dreiling formed this into a company that leased and serviced chair back programs to more than 40 Division One collegiate athletic programs throughout the U.S., before selling the company to IMG in 2011.

Most recently, Dreiling got into the pet hospitality business. "Woof's Play & Stay" has a location in Kansas City and Manhattan, with several additional locations in development.

On the philanthropic side, Dreiling led the charge to create an entrepreneurial program at K-State, which was recently recognized at the number one emerging program nationally. Today he heads the advisory board, spends time in the classroom and his office there, and mentors several budding entrepreneurial students.

This event is free and open to the public.

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