These three entrepreneurs didn?t just create another clothing line; they managed to create a lifestyle.
Nailah Wright, Whitney Bryant, and Ernest Freeman, the names behind Sneakah Boutique, located in Teaneck, New Jersey, challenged a question that may evoke an array of answers: Is entrepreneurship innate or is it better learned in the classroom?
These New Jersey natives tried the classroom approach. Wright attended Bergen Community College; Freeman attended Kean University, as a finance major; and Bryant attended New York?s Fashion Institute of Technology as a fashion major.?
The trio realized they weren?t getting a return on their investments, education wise and for their own individual reasons, and dropped out of college.
Wright became a sales account executive for Dish Network, where she then met Freeman, and Bryant was a junior publicist for Miles Ahead Entertainment.
Then in May of 2013, Wright followed her instinct and left the Dish Network.
?I always liked the 90?s and 80?s eras,? said the 28 year-old entrepreneur. ?I felt like there was nothing out there like it that had that retro feel with a modern-day twist. So, I thought about it riding home, and then I no longer worked at Dish.?
A month later, she introduced the idea to Bryant, whom she knew from the same neighborhood, and three to four months later, Wright brought Freeman onboard as her final step.
Then in Sept. 2013, Sneakah Boutique was launched.
Initially a footwear boutique, the three realized there were more accessories than just footwear. Sneakah Boutique is a m?lange of street wear, sex appeal, comfortability and self- expression. They?ve expanded their brand adding a woman?s line, Madame SB and SB Plus, selling an assortment of items including acid rain bucket hats; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpacks and snapbacks and funky sneakers. In their explicit women?s line, Madame SB, Wright, Bryant and Freeman?s main focus was for their customers to feel confident.
Customers can purchase bodysuits with ?Married to the Mob,? logos and chic eyewear. Those are just some of the items that set the year-old company apart. And Sneakah Boutique?s owners demonstrated the importance of digital media by adding SBTV, the social media and visual leg, to their venture.
?[Customers] want to be able to connect to something that they can hear, see and touch that?s real, and you can’t really do that when you?re reading a magazine, or when you?re looking at a blog,? said Bryant, the 25 year-old, creative director. ?Sometimes, it’s cool to be interactive. We want to be able to give our audience the feeling that the celebrities they look at are not that far away from them, and that the dream is not such a stretch. That?s the flavor that we bring to the visual component. They can be there for the behind-the-scenes photo shoots, commercials, [or] for the ghostwriter, or rapper that they enjoy. It’s like a point-to-point shopping experience ? just a little different.?
Once acknowledging the correlation between the style of an individual, his or confidence, and favorite celebrities, that led them to appointing Ashley Bermudez, famously known as ?Sassy? from VH1?s hit reality show ?Black Ink,? as their brand ambassador.
?Sassy is really down to earth, and she?s also from around the way?like most,? says the 25 year-old, creative director. ?Her style speaks to exactly what we cater to: edgy, funky and not afraid to be a little grungy. She kind of speaks to that. And with SBTV, she just has a really good way of communicating herself, and it only seemed fitting to be rocking SB wear.?
In a perfect world, if money were not an option, some of the big three?s dream brand ambassadors would be celebs like Gwen Stefani and Kanye West – and even Justin Bieber.
When it comes reality stars and celebrities-turned-entrepreneurs, Sneakah Boutique doesn?t seem to be upstaged or fazed by their growing fame.
?Just because they have a platform, that doesn?t mean that?s what they?re meant to, necessarily, do,? says Bryant. ?Just because they might have an audience doesn?t mean they always know what they?re supposed to be doing. It’s kind of trial-and-error on their part, too.?
Looking back, none of them regrets making the big decision of not continuing college.
?Why go up the ladder, when you can own the ladder completely,? says Freeman, the 21 year-old, business developer for Sneakah Boutique.
Sneakah Boutique?s 28-year old founder agrees. Wright insists that being an entrepreneur is not anything that can be taught; it’s instinctive.
?When it comes down to sacrifices like wearing every hat in your company, a lot of people won’t be able to do it,? Wright says.
Starting up, some of the sacrifices and risks they had to take were their finances such as pulling from their IRAs, savings and 401k?s, Wright says.
But, as the brand started to grow it was being misunderstood. That became a burden.
?Sometimes you have to sacrifice your personal life. You?re not able to do some of the things your peers are doing,? says Wright. ?A lot of your peers are getting married, having a bunch of babies and you?re off trying to change the world.?
According to Wright, within the past year, Sneakah Boutique, has managed to do a little over $280,000 in revenue -? and their fiscal year hasn?t ended yet. ?
For fall 2014 into 2015, Sneakah Boutique is modifying their approach on brand ambassadors by diversifying their platform culturally. By September 2020, the partners not only hope to see more collaborations with different companies, but new features with e- commerce and overall more brand awareness both domestically and internationally.
Wright?s advice to those that would like to start their own business? Do research, surround yourself with people that are like-minded and follow your instinct.
?I?m the kind of person that acts on instinct,? says Wright.? ?I?m a big believer in the idea that if you keep working for somebody, and you have a dream, you?re making them rich. But if you took that same momentum, and put it into yourself, there?s a lot that you can do. Never second guess yourself, and if you have a great idea ? jump on it!?