By Dylan Deprey
It is hard to open a clothing store from the ground up. It is even harder when all four business partners are scattered across the U.S.
Before Gifted LLC. opened its doors on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., it was four friends with a dream to help other people follow their dreams.
Carlton Leroy and Jamaal Hayes were kindergarten buds, and JaVaughn Porter and Javonte Davis met in elementary school. After Leroy moved to Porter and Davis’s school, they all became friends. The stars aligned when Hayes moved to the same high school.
It was as if they were meant to meet.
“It all clicked,” Hayes said. “We kind of bonded instantly when we all met. It was our little group and it happened naturally.”
They all had the same interests, played the same sports and lived close enough to each other’s to hang out. They went from acquaintances to friends and eventually best friends to business partners.
While finishing his senior year at University of Dubuque, Davis’s final graphic design project tested him. He had to create a sustainable business that focused around his craft.
“I liked to draw, do animation and surrealism, but how do I make money?” he said. “I knew Carlton (Leroy) went to school for business, JaVaughn (Porter) for management and finance. At first, I thought maybe tattoos, but it didn’t make sense. Then, I was like let’s just put my designs on clothes.”
From there he called up Leroy, who was in the military at the time. They then got on a three-way call with Porter, who was out of state for school. As they brainstormed a business plan, Leroy found a manufacturer for mock ups.
They wanted to bring the business back home, and Hayes was the guy to tie it all together.
“He’s good with communicating with the community because you need somebody that has a relationship with the people in Milwaukee,” Davis said.
“It just happened so quick. As soon as we saw the mock-ups it’s like, ‘Let’s keep it going,’” he said.
Gifted Clothing LLC. was created in 2017, and has grown from a school project to an underground clothing business. Davis would create designs, and as a collective they would finalize the pieces and sell them to family and friend. They started at an analog pace but it grew by word-of-mouth and hand delivery.
The bear is a sign of courage and also their flagship representative. From shirts and sweatshirts, to hats and phone cases, the Gifted Clothing LLC bear is a reminder to stay strong. Their brand resonated with those refining their talents.
“Everybody has a gift or talent, and they should showcase it to the world. Today, we have people that don’t have enough courage or maybe somebody already bashed their dreams in. So, we want to be their support,” Porter said.
Eventually Leroy began looking for a store to establish a hub for Milwaukee to share their gifts.
“It had grown into something that we could see ourselves actually doing something with, and we all gave it that 110% commitment. We had a solid work ethic and we pushed through the trials and tribulations because we push each other to keep striving for excellence,” Davis said.
They officially opened their flagship store on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on Jan. 25, 2020. They said they were honored to be given an opportunity to open a black owned business on Dr. MLK Jr. Drive.
“Location is everything, no matter business you’re in,” Leroy said. “So, picking MLK Drive shows a symbolic message that we were raised in the inner-city Milwaukee, this is where we’re from and we’re trying to uplift it by bringing attention to it.”
As a part of the diverse business owners along Dr. MLK Jr. Dr., Gifted Clothing LLC also wants to create a space for creatives to showcase their talents. They ask anybody looking to collaborate to reach out.
“It’s not limited to time or space, even if you’re not from Milwaukee, we want to highlight your talent,” Leroy said. “If we all market together and use our resources together, we can make a lot more things happen.”
Visit Gifted Clothing LLC at 2714 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and online at https://www.mygiftedclothing.org/