Young entrepreneurs are community minded

BGSU students find success with Boss Up Clothing

By Marie Dunn-Harris

Being an active, involved student on campus takes a lot of time and dedication — not to mention keeping up with classes, jobs and internships.

Three Bowling Green State University students have been able to do all of that, along with managing a small business.

Junior political science major Jauntez Bates, senior geography major Brenden Foulks and senior accounting major Dion Brooks are the owners of Boss Up Clothing. They started the company in February because they were getting tired of paying top dollar for designer clothes.

"All of us were wearing designer clothing, but we didn't want to spend that much money on other companies when we can make our own," Bates said.

Brooks came up with the name for the company, which represents their hometown of Detroit.

"It took us weeks to come up with a name and we eventually decided on Boss Up, which is a term of endearment in Detroit," Bates said.

While most of the clothing started out being Detroit-focused, the company has sold shirts in several major cities across the United States., including Cleveland and Chicago.

"Each shirt has its own special detail, featuring that city's skyline," Foulks said.

While the owners come up with the ideas, the shirts are designed by one of their interns, sophomore graphic design major Deja White.

"She's very instrumental in the things that we do. We'll come up with the ideas, but she's the one who brings them to life," Foulks said.

Boss Up Clothing sells all of its products online, so social media has been an important part of the company's advertising.

"It's the best way to promote," Brooks said. “That's how we reach people all over the country and how we promote our community service events."

For the owners, Boss Up Clothing is more than just a business. It's a way for them to make connections and build relationships with people in their community. Over Thanksgiving break, they volunteered by handing out food to the homeless in Detroit, and plan to do the same on Dec. 3 in Flint, Mich.

"We never would've made it this far without somebody giving back to us, so we want to be that helping hand for other people as well, and look nice while we do it," Bates said.

Being student leaders on campus has enabled them to have strategic ways to advertise. Bates is president of the Black Student Union, Foulks is vice president of the Black Intellect Group and Brooks is involved in ROTC and the National Association of Black Accountants.

"I think that all of us being leaders on campus, it gives us a voice," Foulks said.

"The way we market and do things revolves around us being involved already," Bates said. "We don't really care for the fame or the limelight; it's more about bringing people together."

Earlier in the semester, Foulks, Bates and Brooks wrote more than 200 letters of endearment and passed them out to women on campus.

"It was a small token of our appreciation because women buy our shirts more than anybody so we thought, why not support them as well with a letter of our appreciation?" Bates said.

Boss Up Clothing was recently featured in a video contest sponsored by AT&T. The contest sought out compelling stories about entrepreneurs told through video and words.

Senior film major Matt Henkes knew Bates through the Sidney A. Ribeau President's Leadership Academy and approached him about creating the video for the contest.

"We were already looking for a decent promo video, so it worked out well," Bates said.

The video made the semifinals and the winner was picked in a contest through voting on the AT&T website. Boss Up Clothing came in seventh place, but the exposure they received was priceless.

“That experience was amazing because we put so much work into it,” Foulks said.

“It was great. I almost shed a tear because it really shows every aspect of what we do,” Brooks said.

Two of the Boss Up Clothing owners are graduating soon, so they're starting to look into the company's future. They’re hoping to utilize resources and students on campus who can gain experience while working for their company.

The owners also have a vision for a brick-and-mortar store in the inner city that can be a place not only to buy their clothing, but also to learn about being successful in life.

"We want it to be a place where people can hang out, learn about business and college at the same time at an early age, because we were never exposed to that," Bates said.