Clothing with Freedom in mind
What started out “on a whim” involving three friends “tired of wearing other people’s clothes” has blossomed into a growing small business gaining corporate recognition and on the verge of expansion.
Freedom 5 Clothing was founded in 2008 when its current chief executive officer Akeem Bourne, marketing manager Romaine Lovell and head designer Richard Carrington decided it was “cool” to become entrepreneurs.
The business name sounded good but at the time they had no idea what it really meant. Back then there was “no huge vision” for the company, but that has since changed.
Bourne, who told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY Freedom 5’s entry into the urban apparel market had turned out to be the right decision, said it had proven that there were opportunities for young Barbadians to get involved in entrepreneurship and do well.
“We really just wanted to make our own clothes; we really didn’t have a huge vision for what it is we were doing until time progressed and the Lord really began to reveal the purpose behind the brand to us. At first it was just we were tired of wearing other people’s clothes and that we would start printing t-shirts and that was it for the first year to two years,” he said.
“But then moving forward, we all are Christians and we were able to get some sound advice which told us what Freedom 5 stands for is freedom by the grace of God because five is the number of grace so from getting some counselling we were able to fit a meaning to the name after we had the name.”
The 24-year-old University of the West Indies student and graduate of that institution’s Student Entrepreneurial Empowerment Development (SEED) programme said Freedom 5 produced a number of items, including T-shirts, snapback caps, dress shirts, pants, and wooden accessories.
“We are looking to get some belts. The brand is a full line, anything you can think of except sneakers we make. The t-shirts and caps are produced the most but moving forward we want to be able to meet that demand with a larger supply of dress shirts belts, and bags.
“We have the connections as it relates to getting this stuff made but obviously you need more financing to be able to crank those huge numbers,” he added.
Bourne also said that the response to the brand was overwhelming, noting that at this year’s BMEX both he and the organizers were surprised when all of the merchandise on sale was purchased.
“The response has been overwhelming, I didn’t expect Barbados to react to a local company like the way they have reacted to us. I think it has a lot to do with the way we market our products, we try to always have that global feel to the brand, we put a lot of time and energy into marketing our products.
“We just need to continuously be educating ourselves as it relates to the functioning of the brand in this market . . . ,” he added.
Having started out with no real focus, Freedom 5 definitely now had a vision and a purpose Bourne said. He added that one way he knew this was true was the fact that the company won a business plan competition sponsored by CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.
The intention now was to firmly establish the company in the minds of Barbadians, diversifying its operations, and attracting more overseas buyers.
“Our vision is to have a store at some point in time but outside of that, everything that we do is online.
“We are actually working on our website now so that it is fully functional where we can export because we have internatoinal customers as well so we want to be able to export and receive as much benefit from all of our customers all over the world,” he said.
“We get orders through Facebook and we deliver here and if anybody overseas wants a product then they would contact us through Facebook as well and we would then ship it. Our exportation is not huge but it is growing.
“Other than it being a global brand and it being a dominant player in the urban apparel industry, I think that moving forward there is going to be a change in the structure of the organization. Right now we are in the incorporation phase. We are incorporating a number of other companies that will come outof Freedom 5.
“Our vision is that Freedom 5 is not just the clothing company but a parent company for many other companies.”
Bourne also attributed Freedom 5’s success to the SEED programme and its coordinator Ayana Young Marshall, his mentor.
“Ayana is a remarkable woman. The SEED preogramme is like a diamond in the rough. It has a very good model and every year it’s improving. She has excellent ideas for each entrepreneur who comes into contact with the SEED programme to be mentored and I feel very proud and privileged to be a part of it,” he said.