Hero Collections; an upcoming fashion trend.
Super hero stories really have impacts on people’s lives to the extent of creating a fashion business out of them. So is the case of the CEO of Hero Collections, Jamez, designers of trendy T-Shirts with African fabrics.
He tells us how after months from school, having a number of his applications for job turned down, he got his idea of combining fashion with superhero fictions and he’s determined to save the world through art.
At this point let’s take you into the world of Hero Collections in this interview.
Who is the energy behind this exciting fashion trend on the rise?
I’m Jamez, Jamez Attiogbe. I like to refer to myself as 50% Human, 50% Machine and 100% designer. Confusing huh? Well let me explain.
I, like all humans, was born (in January 1991), eat, sleep, work and dance. With a B.A. degree from the University of Ghana and earn a living as a Designer. I love music and I play the guitar. I like fashion and technology. I love animation, which happens to be one of my major sources of inspiration. I love colours too. My favourites are blue and brown, just any shade goes. Most of all I love Jesus cos He’s the pillar that holds my life. I used to think I was doing God a favour by serving him. But no, it’s the other way round. Can you imagine the Monarch of the universe, choosing to live inside a man? Then who am I, but to humble myself before Him. Well, I guess that sums up my human side.
I’ve earned the reputation of a tech geek. As a kid growing up, I could operate any gadget no matter how sophisticated even without a manual. I can stay up to 60 hours without sleep. Probably because I’m working on a design project or reading. Most machines do that so I think I’m justified to call myself one. Don’t you think so?
I’m 100% Designer. I love design, I think design, I wear design, I speak design and actually buy stuff just because of its packaging. I believe it’s my sixth sense, yeah! I love branding, minimalism and advertising. I look for inspiration every chance I get, whether it’s by searching online or by observing the world and the fascinating people around me. Design is my life and it’s my greatest desire to save the world through the art.
What does Hero Collections do as a business and when did you start?
Hero is a multicultural lifestyle brand whose aim is to make products/services that empowers people to achieve greatness. Something which started out as a side business after my National Service in 2014, now a business I work on full time after I discovered it wasn’t just about designing and selling t-shirts for profit but the opportunity to affect the world positively by empowering people.
To make your business a world-class brand, further financial injections are needed. So please pitch Hero Collections.
Growing up as a child, I had a very low self-esteem and felt I could not accomplish anything because my parents didn’t have much. This changed however after I had my life impacted by the lives and stories of ‘superheroes’, both real and fantasy, who had the odds against them yet defied it and affected their worlds positively, inspiring me to believe in myself and that I could ‘save’ the world too.
By observing the world around me, I believe there are still a lot of people out there who still haven’t discovered their potentials. A lot of young people, especially Africans who are wasting their talent. And that’s all what Hero seeks to do. To build a lifestyle brand, that makes products and services, backed by inspiring stories to empower people to unearth their God-given potentials and achieve greatness, from the hands that made it to the hands that own it. So it’s not only about the functional benefits the products provides, but the emotional wants it satisfies. It’s far more than just T-shirts, it’s a mindset. And I believe that’s what sets Hero apart from other brands.
I currently run the brand alone (with the help and support from family and friends). Not necessarily for the glory of it, but to be a perfect example to my audience and a manifestation of the values I offer to my customers. Thus, I handle most aspects of the business in terms of Branding, Marketing, Sales, Advertising, Finance, Production as well as Delivery. Routine stuff for a ‘Hero’ I guess. But I hope to build a team definitely as the brand grows bigger. A team of exceptionally talented individuals who share the same vision.
Our Customers, whom I call Heroes (because that’s what they really are) pay for purchases upon delivery or through money transfer platforms.
What are the various collections you currently have and what influenced these collections?
I categorize my products into collections based on the inspiring messages they carry.
The first features what I call the ‘Shape Ur Life’ Collection, based on a research that our favourite geometric shape reveals our personality. There are five basic personality types and each prefers a different basic shape, namely, the circle, square, rectangle, triangle and squiggle, says Dr. Susan Dellinger, author of the hit book Psychogeometrics.
The next collection features the flags of nations with the aim of inspiring people to be patriotic to their nations. Standing for and defending their motherland in small and big matters. I call it the Hero Nations Collection.
My personal favorite is the Super Hero Collection based on the characters of the all-time bravest fantasy heroes, Superman and Batman. Though they are fictional characters, I believe their stories carry a great deal of lessons and principles we can apply to our daily lives.
And most recent is the Hero Mirage Collection. Features inspiring phrases. Phrases that have personally had a great impact and been a well of motivation from which I draw floods of inspiration from, since I set out on this journey of the unknown, even the world of entrepreneurship.
For now it’s just t-shirts. But the dream is actually to have a wide variety of products and services, ranging from clothing to accessories, electronics and even events. Not just cool-to-have products but premium quality stuff we would want for ourselves and inspires us.
Something striking about your collections is the use of African fabrics for designs. Why this combination and how are people accepting this concept when the superheroes are Western?
Well, one thing that we all have in common despite the differences in cultures around the world is People. And that’s what Hero seeks to promote. By merging these cultures and differences through our products, and to advocate solidarity and oneness of the different people around the world. So far, so good I must say. The concept has been well embraced by both locals and foreigners.
We see a good number of designers labelling their apparel with their names but you went for Hero. How did you come by your name and who are these ‘Heroes’?
The brand was based on my personal story of being imparted by Heroes, both real and fantasy. I wouldn’t like to go into detail of who I was back then, but trust me, it’s not really a good feeling when you develop a shattered ego as a result of people looking down on you just because you come from a humble background. It’s a natural human occurrence as I’ve come to understand. But I read stories of Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Mandela, Beethoven, Bruce Wayne (Batman) etc., and realized they had even greater weaknesses, and yet changed the world. So it’s a combination of lessons I tapped from these heroes and the passion to empower others, that’s how I came by the name Hero.
Take us back to how Hero Collections started.
Obsession: Six months out of college, the future was quite blurred as to what I could do for a living. With the economy in a critical condition, its currency fast plummeting and the government not recruiting, landing a permanent job hardly depended on your qualification but a matter of ‘whom you knew’. After having tons of job applications turned down, starting a business seemed the last straw to clutch for some of us. I lay in bed sketching some ideas for a new shirt to update my wardrobe while enjoying scenes from my favourite super hero movie, the Avengers. I love the stories of superheroes, both real and fantasy because they inspire me. And then… it clicked!
Idea: “Why not make clothes that could make people be inspired by wearing them?” I thought to myself. After brainstorming possible ways I could integrate this obsession into my designs, I began sketching ideas of apparel that looked like the costumes of superheroes, and that became my choice idea. I was so pumped I began working on a brand immediately. With my branding and graphic design skills, it wasn’t a problem choosing a name and logo. I shared the idea with a few friends and the response I got was very positive. But all the ecstasy came to an unexpected halt when a tailor I hired blew what was supposed to be the first prototype. I was so discouraged I almost gave up the idea of making superhero clothes. At that point, it even sounded insane to me. However I didn’t give up the idea of creating a brand that would inspire people.
Business: After months of waiting on God, brainstorming and sketching new ideas, that Aha! moment came. Cutting out and stitching shapes on t-shirts, what I now call the “shape ‘ur life” collection. With a GH¢ 100 loan from my mum and support from friends, I made the first samples and began an online marketing campaign to test the idea. The response was massive. So I made more t-shirts and began living that dream of inspiring people, and it remains that.
Was getting funding for your design idea difficult? How did you come by financial resources for your business and has there been additional funding from external sources yet?
Well, that is actually one of the major setbacks for entrepreneurs alike, funding. The main issue being the fact that,
the entrepreneurial journey is a dive into the deep sea with no life jacket or whatsoever and it’s just a handful that make it out alive.
As a result, it’s hard getting funding to fuel ones ideas no matter how extraordinary they are. Even banks desist from giving loans to start-ups because of this issue of uncertainty, unlike running a small scale business where the structures are already in place. Most people therefore resolve to self-funding, or count yourself lucky if you have a rich and supportive family. Because it’s quite a different story on my side. For me it’s been pure hustle, mostly depending on sales to fund the business as well as the little I get from my parents and loans from friends. But I’ve come to appreciate it as being a blessing instead because looking back, I realised it has forced a great deal of creativity from me in terms of growing the brand. Which I doubt having the required support would have done. Unfortunately, my dreams have grown bigger and actually need an external source of funding to thrive. I’ve approached sources with the vision and currently waiting for that big break.
Staying ahead of the pack means having people who are ready to direct your ways. Who is your mentor in this journey and how has it been beneficial having one? How about a business plan?
My mum. The strongest ‘Heroine’ I know as a matter of fact. She’s some sort of entrepreneur herself with a business that ensures people stay alive and strong. And trust me, she doesn’t’ have ‘rest’ in her DNA. Whether rain or shine, she just keeps going because she has a family to feed and people to serve. That’s one major attribute I’ve learnt from her and apply in my life and business. I don’t have a formal business plan even though I created a scruffy one with the help of google way back when I started.
I’ve actually come to understand that the best way of learning is by doing.
So I just figure things out as they crop up and also learn from the gurus who have already gone ahead of me in the industry. It’s an old trick I learnt from Isaac Newton, that, he was able to see further than his contemporaries because he stood on the shoulders of giants.
What are the things you wish you knew before becoming an entrepreneur and what lessons have you learnt so far that you can share with us?
Seriously, I wish I had taken my accounting class a lot more seriously. Managing finances and keeping proper books is a very integral part of running a business as I’ve come to realise. Lack of proper accounting is sure to land you retracting. Also, I wish I learned how to sew with all the time I spent playing Fifa 13 after college (lol). I would have been saving what I use in paying for simple stitches done by my tailoring partners. Morale of the story; the hand of the diligent shall bear rule, Proverbs 12:24. And remember time lost is lost forever.
Are there life experiences you are applying to your business to make it a success?
Certainly. And that is, simple courtesy and being nice to strangers. My parents instilled this discipline in me. Which is actually a golden rule in business, referred to as the “Customer is King” policy. I mean, you never know who is going to bring your next big deal. So I try as much not to judge a book by its cover cos it’s not all that glitters which is gold.
Is there any advice you want to give many who wish to enter this saturated fashion industry?
Yeah, and that will be one of the key principles I noted from one of my all-time favourite business literature, Rework, by Jason Fried. And it’s simply to POUR YOURSELF INTO YOUR PRODUCT. In other words, it’ll be a grave mistake copying other people’s works to establish yours. Other people’s works are a combination of their personalities and values, and what you see is just a fraction. At best we can learn from them, but pouring ourselves, or building a business based on our own personalities and values is the only way you can stand out from your competitors and make something meaningful.
As a founder of a young company, what mistakes have you made and how have you learnt from them?
It is very important when it comes to making decisions in this undefined journey of entrepreneurship. One right or wrong move can make or unmake and probably change the course of your entire destiny. And so I try as much to consult God for his will when it comes to making major decisions concerning my life and business. I believe as a Christian, He knows what’s best for my life, regardless of how unpleasant it may seem. I’ve really suffered some consequences in the past as a result of disobedience. Therefore, I try as much as I can to pray or seek Godly counsel when it comes to major decisions concerning my business.
What are the challenges you’ve had, and those you are still battling with? How are you turning them around?
I handle most of the day-to-day activities which ensures growth of my business. These include strategizing, designing, production, delivery, marketing etc. Juggling all these has been very challenging from the beginning even though it’s a life I always wanted. Good news is, I’m gradually adapting. Another battle has been with some of my production partners. Maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist (I only discovered this when I started business), but it’s quite appalling when they don’t show the level of seriousness to the vision, probably because it’s still blur to them. It’s getting clearer with some of them though, after they hear of your accomplishments. But I wish it wasn’t that way. I still dream of that extraordinary team of heroes with the same passion and vision I have for the brand. I expect more battles ahead, but hey, if it’s to make me better, then bring it on!
What is your philosophy for doing business?
God first, People Second, Myself last. As simple as that.
Are there plans to avail your products to other African markets?
Certainly. And even beyond the shores of Africa. It’s just a matter of time.
Design a mental picture of where you see Hero Collections in the next five years.
I see a brand that makes a wide variety of quality products and services, where people don’t just buy, they join. And living better empowered lives as a result of this association. That, because of Hero, a street kid went back to school, and a downhearted man boycotted a suicide attempt to give life another shot. A brand with a state of the art physical retail space and a massive online platform as the main mediums to spread this message all over the world. A brand that provides jobs and a source of income for 1000s. You never know. I believe in fairy tales.
Jamez, rather than being 9 – 5 worker, you chose to be a creative CEO. How does that make you feel?
For me it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made career wise. I’m glad to be part of the few who enjoy the privilege of creating their own future. Right from childhood, I never liked structured/controlled environments, cos they seem to suppress creativity. I’m not built for that. There are tough times I must say, but the rewards are super exceedingly amazing. I’m just too creative for a 9-5!
Fictional heroes inspire your collections but you are a real hero. Please inspire the multitude of aspiring entrepreneurs out there with your final words. A message also to your loyal clients and well-wishers.
Well I got just these words for you. No matter who you are, what you do and how you do it, always remember, NEVER GIVE UP!
Join the #HeroArmy today. Shop online at www.herocollections.com and follow Hero Collections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates on coming releases. And don’t forget to invite your friends.
So there you have the Hero Collections story. Are you inspired? Take action today and be a hero in people’s lives.
Some lessons learnt from his story:
- Side businesses can be turned into full time ventures
- Stories of superheroes was a turning point to impact the world in spite of adversity
- Lack of funding causes creativity
- Proper Book Keeping knowledge is an integral part of running a business
- Don’t go chasing non-existent jobs
Have you got a startup and want to share your story with Africa? Send a brief detail of your company to firstname.lastname@example.org
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