Means (Owner & Creator of "Black Owned")
"Black Owned" Apparel
"Black Owned" in the Cincinnati Enquirer
Me & Means
Trying on my new jacket for size. Get yours HERE
Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down with the owner and creator of the fashion brand “Black Owned” located in downtown Cincinnati, OH. The short time that I spent speaking with Means was very informative to say the least. As a budding entrepreneur myself, I took time to absorb all of the information that he had to give about the business of fashion and his own business he built from scratch. Check out everything Means had to say below…
What is “Black Owned”?
When I created “Black Owned”, it had a certain meaning to me, but as the brand developed, I realized that “Black Owned” means something different to the customers, which I’ve never tried to steal that away from them because that is what they hold on too. “Black Owned” to me, when I created it I was thinking, I’m tired of everybody’s name on clothes, like Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton. It seemed like it had to be somebody’s name that sounds cool but none of these people are actually black, I mean you got your Sean Combs, but for the most part they are not black. I wanted to take fashion and wrap it into something cultural and also be an inspiration piece so that is how I came up with “Black Owned”. It was more so about ownership, I knew by being black it would create that dialogue, people are going to think its black power. But that may not be a bad thing because it is creating that dialogue. But it was all about ownership. I remember calling Merk (his business partner) and saying, I own myself and I just happen to be black, so if I own me and my own destiny, then I’m “Black Owned”. The color black itself represents “sophistication”. I’m Greek so that’s where a lot of this comes from. The color black represents “sophistication” and “success” so if you’re owned per say or inspired by black, no matter what color you are, you are “Black Owned”. It’s the sophisticated side of life. This is what it meant to me.
How was “Black Owned” birthed?
I came up with the concept. I started playing around with the letters and that’s how it started. I went to my business partner Merk and he encouraged me to do it. I got twenty guys together. I asked them all to give me $15 and of course they wanted to know for what. I told them it was for a shirt. No one knew what I was doing, but they trusted me enough to give me the money. I could have given it back to them if it didn’t work out. So once I created the shirt, I told everyone that we have to wear the shirt on the same day and we will all post it at the same time. And when we did it, the next day I had about 20 people sending me facebook messages wondering how they could get a shirt. I couldn’t believe it!
Can you tell me a little bit about the creators behind the brand?
I have always been into music and fashion and I feel like there is an overlap, you can’t have hip hop culture without fashion. If you grew up in music, which I did, you are going to be introduced to fashion right away. If you go back to when rap started, it was about competitiveness and how fly you were. So that is where the desire to be in fashion came from. My business partner (Merk), I’ll be honest isn’t really into fashion, but he is a hustler, so me being the business mind behind “Black Owned” and the one who likes to dress and him being the hustler, I felt like we work well together. We both know our lanes and we try not to overlap, even though I am a very hands on person. He can get tired of me in that aspect. But for the most part he’s learned to allow me to do me and I allow him to do him.
How does it feel to finally have this space (their new location) to house your brand?
Awesome! I just texted Merk this morning before I came in here and said, “In just 40 minutes I will be opening the doors to the business that we built up from a vision, let’s keep going”! It’s easy to get caught up in the work and forget about what you are accomplishing. A lot of times we don’t take time to appreciate what we have accomplished because we want more. Neither one of us are satisfied with what we have. We aren’t content, but we are appreciative of where we are. We used to sell shirts out of our trunks and it got so big that we had to start selling merchandise out of his house. Due to safety issues we got to a point where we knew that we couldn’t do that anymore. When this location opened up, the landlord was concerned about who would be coming in and out; he didn’t want any “thugs” coming in. I had to school him really quick and let him know that just because we are a part of hip hop culture, doesn’t mean that we are thugs. Yes the two can run together and you can have overlap but it doesn’t mean the same thing. We showed him our business plan and he of course ended up giving us the place. It makes a statement because of where we are at. You have a Jewish restaurant, a Lebanese restaurant, city hall, and then “Black Owned”, which is like, wow! It’s a small space, but it’s intimate. This is what I wanted, I didn’t want it to be too big where I wouldn’t be able to interact and know the people who came in. I think it’s big for culture, for African American business owners who ride by here and know and see that this type of thing is possible. We may not be the top; the ones that hit the top in black owned businesses might be coming after us. We have no idea, but we may have set the platform for them. That is what this store is about. We have kids that come in from the performing arts school and they say, “You are the guys” and were like no, “you are the guys”! You are the next generation to do this. We are just a piece to this big puzzle that is about to happen. We just want to do everything we can to help everybody.
How do you feel “Black Owned” is influencing the city of Cincinnati when it comes to fashion?
People always ask, how are we doing this? But to be honest we do not have a formula. There is no specific formula to this. We are just doing what we want to do and it just so happens that people like it. To be honest, I feel like we have inspired people to take on what they already had in them. I can’t say we created this wave, but once again I think we created a platform for people. A lot of times we feel like you should do what you want, but don’t do exactly what we are doing. When we do something or come up with an idea, we may not be the first to ever do it. But in this market we see people that are doing the same thing, and that isn’t cool. But that comes with it. You have the big mac, then you have the whopper, you have Chevy, you have Infinity. Overall we feel like we have influenced someone to do what they already wanted to do anyway.
“Black Owned” has expanded to carrying duffle bags, varsity jackets, and more. How do you see the brand expanding beyond that in the future?
Our goal in the next year would be a full manufactured line. That would mean we no longer do wholesale pieces. We are currently working with manufacturers overseas to make our product specific to our brand. So you wouldn’t see another one of our items on the market for another brand because they have been created specifically for us. We want to be able to have all of our items created just for us. It takes a lot of money to do that. In fashion you have to operate at least a season ahead of time, and the bigger companies operate a whole year ahead of time. This means that you have your inventory in the back as well as your spring inventory at the manufacturer. That may be $60,000. We are trying to get to that point. In the next year we want to offer some more different items. We don’t want to ever move away from street apparel because that is what we are known for and what we are comfortable with , but we plan on incorporating some more sophisticated items like polo’s and sweaters so that we can be both sophisticated and relaxed.
Well there you have it folks! I hope you new and budding entrepreneurs were jotting down notes and burning these words into your memory because these are little golden nuggets that can help launch your dreams forward!
Thanks again to Means for taking a few minutes to chat with me about your rising business! Good luck to “Black Owned” in everything that you do! I wish you much success!
To purchase from “Black Owned” visit HERE. Follow them on IG, Twitter, and FB @IMBLACKOWNED