The almighty tee-shirt has evolved from rock group and slogan boasting urban trend wear into now a universal fashion statement appearing on the runways of New York Fashion Week and European catwalks. They can range in cost from a few dollars to big bucks. The casual wear with the long, long longevity is part of the fame game and a staple of American clothing. Supermodel Naomi Sims was outed for her scathing reprimand of an employee who washed one of her favorite tees in a washer.
What makes a good t-shirt a hot property – the statement, and for African Americans that means an ultimate statement like ‘Genius, Don’t shoot.” Some of the more iconic tees evolve into premier full-service custom design studios as is the case with Genius Club which features specialty designs for the metro-Millenials.
Entrepreneurs Reggie Guynes and Eugene Donald, widely known as the Young Turks, partnered in 2015 to cooperatively build their brands it was a matter of a melding of the minds and the businesses.
Donald launched his specialty clothing line, Kevin Clothing in 2012 while majoring in business administration at Western University in Kalamazoo, MI (the same school that has turned out renowned business leaders like Bill Pickard of GAO and Ron Hall of ?). He sold t-shirts around the mid-Michigan college town from the trunk of his car. And when it came to financing his venture, Donald like many aspire entrepreneurs, readily admits that he had to get creative about finding seed money for the unconventional start-up. He used school refund checks to fund the budding business. “I had a $300 book credit, and instead of buying books for school, I paid my friend $100 for a logo and I spent the other $200 on t-shirts and screen printing.” He never got the books, and eventually left school in his sophomore year to make his mark in the world of retail. Donald and Guynes successfully took what was once a pre-tech unconventional route, and relied on online websites and social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote their respective brands and market their statement-making shirts.
“Once I got the logo, I took it to Northland Mall and put it on a t-shirt under the Kevin Clothing brand.” Donald later expanded his screen-printing offerings, and in 2015 he opened Fresh Baked on Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale to accommodate a litany of specialty merchandising options across a broad spectrum of printing platforms. “I do big jobs and small jobs … no job too big, no job too small,” he says with a rhythm. “We do bumper stickers, flyers, business cards, backdrops, dye sublimation, cell phone cases, candles, custom puzzles, hats, tablecloths will do any printable surface.” Under the Fresh Baked moniker, Donald recently landed a contract with DPS to provide 600 banners for 10 schools.
“My goal is to be like Vistaprint, but better,” says Donald, who also intends to create a consumer-friendly interactive retail outlet based on the Build-a-Bear brand model. “It will be a creative workshop where consumers can come in, bring their families and create their own-t-shirts rather than having to submit an online order.”
Enter his ambitious young partner Reggie Guynes. “Eugene is a close friend of mine and we talked about doing our own thing. Eugene encouraged me to go for it and I established Rich Jeans in 2014.”
Guynes says the Genius Club concept was conceived from birth. The product of a long line of successful entrepreneurs, the 28-year-old self-starter was destined for self-employment. “We have a family legacy of making money and making it legitimately … that’s my legacy.” So, when the ambitious brand expert took the leap into the business arena he was buoyed by an inherent inclination to seize the opportunity and turn it into a profit-making enterprise.
“My T-shirt line is called ‘Geniu$’ because that’s in my DNA,” says Guynes. “I like money and my character is a little bit nerdy, a little bit edgy and a little bit brilliant.”
Guynes attributes the success of the Genius Club t-shirt brand to an age-old formula with a new twist on supply and demand — giving the buyer what he or she wants in spectacular fashion.
The industrious and remarkably creative pairing is making a huge splash in the millennial marketplace.
Guynes revealed in our exclusive interview that he’s taking his Genius Club line up a notch and branching out to children’s apparel. “We’re creating t-shirts for young geniuses anywhere from three months to 14 years old.
On advice to other aspiring business tycoons, “Bet on yourself and just do it,” Guynes says. “One of my role models is Emory Jones who is a close advisor and friend to Jay-Z. I listened to him and his story encouraged me.”
Guynes and Donald offer sage advice to their potential peer business owners, “If you want to be successful, go in knowing that how well you do in business is based on how well you treat consumers and the community. Make both a priority and they will support you.”
For more information visit Instagram @geniusclub_