Today, I’m with a young entrepreneur inspiring people to be themselves by starting a clothing line, Be You! Apparel and he is only 18 years of age! Hey Cameron, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me, Welcome to YHP, How you doing?
I’m doing good thanks a little annoyed that it’ freezing cold and raining again but I guess that’s the British weather for you *laughs*
Before we jump right in, Can you give us some background information about yourself?
Basically, I’m an up & coming designer studying Fashion at College. I started designing about 3 years ago, Creating custom Myspace layouts then slowly moved onto T-shirt designs as I had a little experience printing T-shirts using a heat press and then finally I moved onto working on my own brand
Is this your first company?
I used to have a clothing company before called ‘Imah Flyboy’ & ‘Imah Flygurl’ which was running for about a year or so until I saw the designs on another person’s page when I stopped, but I had Be You! Apparel in the wings at the time so this didn’t really phase me at all and I just moved on.
How did you come up with the idea to start a business?
As I used to print T-shirts and such, I thought it would be easier to have a brand that had the clothes printed in a factory then me doing it manually, which was very time consuming and got in the way of college.
How did your business get off the ground?
Basically after many months of research into printers & stockists I finally found someone who could tend to our needs and just took a big risk and went on from there.
Who are your target customers?
Our customers are mostly the Younger crowd (13-24yrs) although some of the garments produced can be worn on literally anyone hence the name ‘’Be You!’’
Why the name Be You!. Did it have to do with something you were going through at the time?
I’ve always got my biggest inspiration from my surroundings and at that time I was seeing a lot of people who were very fake. I call Be You! ‘’The Honest Brand’’ because we focus on the three true aspects of people which I have interpreted as “Arrogance, Vanity, Selfishness”, so these are the 3 main elements of the brand. To ‘Be You!’ is to be truthful to your true personality.
How did you raise money to start the business?
At the time I started I was employed so I used most of my pay as well money I had saved up and invested it all into starting Be You! Apparel. If I’m honest finding finance to start up and then expand a business has to be one of the hardest challenges every young entrepreneur has to face.
You recently turned 18, how did you get into business so early?
Having studied business during Secondary school, I had a healthy introduction to business grasping the basics quite easily and once I got into college I tried to keep myself up to date with different businesses and how they were running.
What do customers say when they find out you are so young?
Most of my customers are my age so they’re quite impressed but it doesn’t really phase them though they are surprised just for the simple fact that around South West London, there is a lack of designers, we’re more the musical side of London… so seeing someone doing something different then music to get themselve’s out there is quite rare.
How do you deal with the legal aspects of running a business? Who helps you with contracts, paying taxes, and so on?
Most of the legal aspects are covered by Lucas (PR & Marketing) who has experience from running previous companies with those issues and so luckily I don’t have to worry too much about them! *laughs*
How has the journey been so far for you?
The journey has been quite bumpy, nothing I wasn’t expecting but the only problem that has arisen is raising awareness and lately funding for expansion and this has made the journey quite hard but as they say ‘Everything that’s worth having is worth fighting for’ -and no that’s not from the Cheryl Cole song-
How many people are involved in the company at the moment?
At the moment, there’s Me (C.E.O), Lucas (PR & Marketing), Nathan (Head of Promotions) & Joshua (Head of Sales)
What was the most challenging part of starting the business?
The lack of confidence… the constant mind changes, I was very aware of other people’s views on everything and I just kept changing my mind.
What has been your most successful method in advertising the brand so far?
The most successful method by far has got to be advertising with the Facebook page and groups. If I’m honest at the moment social networking accounts for virtually all our advertising and without I doubt whether our brand or for that matter many other brands would be able to operate as effectively or even exist. Social networking has truly revolutionised the internet and opened up a world of social connections and free advertising... as you can probably tell I’m a big fan of social networks!
How do you balance college and also running a business? How do you manage your time?
This has by far been the most hardest aspect of running the business, because if I’m honest, the business has come in the way of college many a times, as I’ve always got my blackberry I’m mostly connected to everyone in the business all day, so that helped defeat the communication problem. I manage my time to deal with business from Thursday to Tuesday as my college week finishes on Thursday.
So what should we be expecting next from you? University? Your business?
Yeah, university is just around the corner and to be honest I really can’t wait, I’ll be studying Business at Uni to just update me on everything I need to know before I start working on getting Be You! worldwide. We should be releasing a shop with Freakological in the next year or so called ‘Be Freaky’ and last but not least, the Summer series, where we will release a new line of products every month of the summer.
What was the biggest mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?
The biggest mistake was bringing out a “collection” of clothes instead of just releasing 1 design on a different range of garments. After seeing the demand for certain designs which I couldn’t tend to I had to scrap the collections. I’ve learnt that as the brand is still in an introductory state, a collection is too much selection.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who are getting started in business?
Start a business because you have a PASSION for it, don’t do it just for money or because you see other people doing it, a business has to have a meaning.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“Enjoy who you are. Don’t hate yourself for what you aren’t” I only came across this quote quite recently, but it just relates to the brand in so many ways.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in secondary school that applies to our generation?
I think that it’s only at secondary school where you start to understand that people are going to look at the same things and events you do and form completely different opinions then you did and be able to justify their opinion just as well as you do yours. So I would say that the biggest lesson you learn at secondary school is that everyone is going to have their own opinion about something and that just because their opinion is different from yours doesn’t necessarily mean its wrong after all everyone has the right to be themselves.
Who do you think could be really good role models for teens, and why?
To be honest although they often get a lot of flak I would say young actors like for example Jamie Bell are good role models, they’re successful but they only got there by hard work –yes believe me acting is hard work It’s not anywhere as easy as it looks I know I tried it at GCSE and it was NOT easy- determination and taking risks. Business wise I would say business guru’s like Richard Branson and my personal inspiration Tomoaki ‘Nigo’ Nagao –founder of BAPE Clothing- are also good role models for teenagers and in fact for anyone; like all successful people they were persistent in their efforts to be successful and they were willing to take risks and put everything on the line and look where it got them!
How important is family support for a young entrepreneur?
Family support is important, but at the same time the only person you can really rely on is yourself, so even without family, as long as you have the passion and the right dreams, the world is your oyster!
Any plans to expand the current business?
We are hoping to rebrand the first t-shirts we brought out as ‘Be You! Originals’ and bring out a new series called the ‘Good Times’ Series but any further plans for expansion are on hold while we look for additional investment so we can expand without taking too much of a risk.
What are the sites, social networks or groups a young entrepreneur should join or follow to get advice?
Well obviously there’s the big ones like Facebook which is invaluable for any entrepreneur because of the connections you can make on it and the free promotional opportunities it offers.
Myspace especially if the young entrepreneur is or wants to be involved in the Music or fashion industry and Twitter which is great for networking and quickly starting and learning about trends as well as you know... just following people that inspire you.
Aside from those I would recommend http://cmypitch.com/ a great website which allows you to make a video pitch available to hundreds of potential investors and http://www.enterpriseuk.org a social networking site for young entrepreneurs.
Of course I would also recommend that young entrepreneurs set up their own website especially if they are going to be involved in retail for example we have an account with bigcartel a site that provides a hassle free platform for clothing companies and other small businesses to sell their products without much in the way of monthly fees or ‘hidden’ costs. So as you can probably see there’s lots of opportunities out there for young entrepreneurs to use the internet as a key component of their business.
Thank you for your time Cameron, hope you have you back on the platform in the future.