When you think of an online clothing retailer speaking at a regional conference for the e-commerce platform Shopify, you might not expect that professional to be a freshman in high school. However, this scenario is the result of Derryfield freshman Steven DeCesare taking a passion for gaming and a bad birthday present, and turning it into a successful business venture.
An avid gamer, Steven received “a really cheesy gaming t-shirt” as a present and hated it. He took a look around for cooler alternatives and discovered that there weren’t many options that combined streetwear and gaming. Steven did some brainstorming, ran a business plan by his parents, and took the money he had earned from a summer marketing internship to launch Velocity, a gaming-centered clothing line targeted to under-21 males in urban markets.
While Steven received a few tips from his mother, who is a business coach and sales trainer, he found that YouTube offered a wealth of tutorials and tips for building a business plan, launching an e-commerce site, and designing and advertising merchandise. He even established a sponsorship program that gives small streamer/content creators discounts for wearing Velocity gear online. Steven believes the success of his business is based on the process of identifying a problem – even if it’s a minor inconvenience in everyday life, finding a solution, and making it possible.
In fact, this process precisely models the path of Derryfield’s STEM-X course sequence, which has courses in Design Thinking, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship; courses Steven is really looking forward to taking in the future. For now, he is honing his marketing skills in his Exploration Course, Marketing for a Cause, taught by Director of Philanthropy and Engagement Anna Moskov.
Flash forward to one of Shopify’s regional conferences, held in Boston in January. Steven shared his experience building a business on the e-commerce platform with a group of mostly adults, co-presenting with an SEO professional who was at least a decade older than he. “I thought I’d be nervous, but it ended up going really well because I was talking about my own experience.” The highlight was the Q&A session, where he spoke energetically about his belief that anyone can be an entrepreneur.
What’s next for Steven – besides finishing his freshman year of high school? He is launching a new line of clothes, 99 Zulu, which is more focused on alternative, abstract graphic streetwear. He is excited about branching out into a platform (still hosted on shopify) that moves beyond the print-on-demand model and gives him more control of the packaging and branding of the merchandise.
Steven encourages other kids to take the leap he took in launching Velocity. He adds, “It helps to have a passion for the idea you’re building a business around.”