First of all, I would like to say thank you to DMU for giving me the opportunity to write this blog. I had the time of my life whilst I was there, and I also got help to start my business!
So let’s get to the point. My name is Kieza. I’m a 21 year old DMU graduate from South London and I studied Graphic Design at uni. My business is Wear Your Heart Out; a garment decoration company that specialises in T-shirt printing. We can do big orders, small orders, embroidery, screen printing, vinyl transfers and digital printing.
The core of what we will be doing in the future is helping people to start their own clothing brands and help them to flourish in to success. If you need help with designs for your brand, E-commerce or just choosing which blank stock to use for your range then we can help. Now, I’ve been printing T-shirts for the best part of 5 years and it was never my plan to actually start a company whilst at uni. I kind of just fell in to it, you know? I didn’t grow up saying “when I get older I want to print T-shirts for a living”. It’s a skill that I learned, I enjoyed and I could earn money from it.
My story starts at Hustlebucks, a Youth Social Enterprise based in South London. I got involved in the project in 2009 when I started my BTEC in Art and Design at college and the design skills I learned there complimented my studies. I always knew I wanted a career in art and design and Hustlebucks offered me the opportunity to develop my skills and knowledge. Before I knew it I was doing freelance graphic design and digital illustration for people. The problem was that people don’t really want to pay a 16 year old much money to do this and getting a job was hard, so I learned more about T-shirt printing instead and I had a natural flair for it. Soon I was able to offer printing services and my customer base started growing and growing.
Fast forward to February 2013 and I’ve registered my first company: Wear Your Heart Out. I started the company because I had a vision to help people to grow their own brands. A lot of my customers send me awesome designs and ideas that really have potential to go far and I would love to be a part of that. I posted images of my printing work on Facebook and Twitter and people wanted to buy them so I thought I was definitely on to something.
Some may ask, why start a company so soon? But I think a limited company allows the flexibility and clarity you need when it comes to finances and being a legitimate business with limited liability. Also, as my customer base and my services grew I came under more pressure to deliver. I was the ’T-shirt guy’, indistinguishable between myself and my business. No director of any company really wants a bunch of people to have their personal mobile number. I mean, you don’t want people calling you and asking for quotes when you’re at a wedding reception with a glass of Wine in your hand at 11pm on a Saturday, do you?
Managing expectations is one of the challenges that come with starting a business, but when you’re a student as well it’s a whole new ball game. Picture running a committee, being in your third year, having a part time job AND running your company? Where does all your time even go? Believe me, it’s difficult and not for the faint hearted, but it isn’t impossible. You have to have a thick skin, be resilient, refuse to give up, sacrifice sleep sometimes, be very self disciplined and strict with your time and be willing to learn.
One of the things I done to manage my commitments is look at where they over-lapped. I saw my final major project on my graphic design course as a chance to kill two birds with one stone, so I chose to work on the branding and identity for my company. Not only did I save bucket loads of money on it, I also got a finished product that I’m happy with and proud of AND it counts towards my degree!
I think the best thing about being self employment is the freedom you get to make your own choices and dictate how you spend your time. This doesn’t mean that as a self employed person you should fling yourself out of bed at 1pm everyday just because you can, that’s just plain lazy, but it does mean that you can choose to work based on your own terms and what works for you. Also, there’s no limit to how much money you can earn. Believe me; being a student with enough cash to enjoy yourself on nights out, buy those pair of trainers you like, pay for all the studying materials you need and eat well is awesome. Whilst everyone else is wondering how they are going to pay their rent, you can rest easy that you’ve taken care of yourself when it comes to money. That is, if you’re running your business well of course!
The Enterprise Team was so helpful to me with the Business Venture Competition. They gave me advice on writing my business plan and useful links for research and making contacts. It was encouraging to hear from them that my idea was pretty solid and they believed in it. I guess it kind of helps that I also won the business venture competition in 2013! The free start-up surgeries were useful as well. DMU students and alumni get the chance to speak to established professionals in marketing, finance and law about their business for free thanks to the Enterprise Team, and the Innovation Centre is a great place for you to go for information on starting a business and getting a space for your business.
Now that I’ve graduated I’m hoping to grow the business further. I want Wear Your Heart Out to be the McDonalds of garment decoration, the first thing you think of when you hear the words ’T-shirt’ ‘Hoody’ ‘Embroidery’ and ‘printing’. I want stores all over the UK where you can go and get your favourite designs printed within a day, and most of all, I want to help you (yes you) to turn that small idea, that drawing you done, your awesome design in to something that people can relate to and want to wear. I want Wear Your Heart Out to be the catalyst for people’s ideas to become bigger and greater.
The best thing I learned during my time in business is that no man is an Island. Yes, you have to be prepared to go it alone and work your socks off to get things off the ground. You have to be ready for things to go wrong and take responsibility when it flops. You must understand that losing sleep will be a part of your reality, but you have to keep going and keep learning through it all and find people who will ease the pressure off you and can help your business to operate. I may run the company by myself at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I do all of the work myself! You’ve got to be willing to let others in, you can learn a lot from them and save yourself time and pain.
What’s the worst that can happen? You are young. You are ambitious. You have hunger, passion and dreams that shouldn’t be crushed just because the going gets tough, and when you demonstrate this time and time again people who can help you will gravitate towards you.
For those of you thinking of starting up a business, I recommend that you ask yourself honestly whether you are ready. What risks are you willing to take to make your idea work? Have you proved your concept? Does it sell? If you feel you are ready then you need to become a sponge and absorb all the information that is available to you and build your network. Ask people about what they do professionally. Have conversations about what your peers want to do in the future. Write down all your ideas. Get a planner, use it, and make sure you never wake up without knowing what you will be doing that day. It’s time to get disciplined.