As teens, we often vow to make a difference, yet our ambitions can be hidden away in the midst of the stress from school, work and preparation for college. However, every once in a blue moon you come across incredible teenagers, contagious with inspiration, that seem to handle it all.
Last week's Disney Dreamers Academy gave me the incredulous opportunity of meeting talented youth from all across the United States. One such teenager was Matt Henderson, a high school student that formed his own sweatshirt company. His company, Amour Fraternel, has designs inspired by the "City of Brotherly Love," Philadelphia, Penn. His goal is to bring the most creative, original and best quality garments in the industry.
He has a huge heart and passion to help others. I had the chance to interview him, and just by his responses, I was encouraged to go out and do something in my community. Grab a cup of tea and prepare to be inspired!
Photo courtesy of Julia Schemmer.
J.S.: What motivated you to build this organization in 2012? How did you start it, and what were some of the challenges you faced in creating a business at such a young age?
Originally, it started because I wanted to provide for my mother and my other family. I've always been in to art, so this gave me an outlet to express my artistic abilities and make money at the same time. I told my mother that I wanted to start a clothing company but I didn't know how to get the start up money. My mom told me, "Just design every single day and put all of your extra effort in to your clothing and God will eventually place the money in your life for you to make it." I followed her advice and about a year later things became serious. Starting a business while being a full time student is extremely difficult and adds to the already stress filled schedule. What many people see in a clothing company is only the clothing, when in reality one has to worry about the business side. It's hard finding a balance between business and art, the two are like oil and water.
J.S. It was also very admirable that your designs are based on the "City of Brotherly Love." Being based in Montana, what inspired you to use designs from Philadelphia? Have you traveled there before?
I'm originally from Philadelphia that is where half of my family is from. My mother and grandmother are from Philadelphia. My culture is from that city. The city itself inspired a lot of my clothing. I take inspiration from the urban culture in the city.
J.S. What is your business philosophy? What do you believe is necessary to run a successful business?
Work ethic. You have to be able to give 150 percent of your energy to your business at any time. You have to be able to take every opportunity possible, you can't rest because you may miss the opportunity you need to be successful. You have to be obsessed with what you're doing to be successful. It almost becomes a curse, when you're trying to sleep the only thing you can think about is your business, when you're doing homework, when you're in school, when you're with friends. You have to be able to market your product in a moment's notice, without hesitation, only confidence. Don't go to sleep until you've done everything you can do that day, don't go to sleep with unused energy. I also believe that if you're not making anyone else's life better, then you're wasting your time. You will never become successful if you're trying to reach success for selfish reasons, the only way you can be motivated and inspired day in and day out is if you're trying to reach success for someone else, for something greater than yourself. I think it's important to give back to who made you you, because without them, where would you be? If you give, then you will receive.
J.S. As we grow older, our purpose in life changes as we develop new passions. Do you envision yourself always remaining a businessman, or do you have other ambitions as well?
I would consider myself, right now, an awkward hybrid of an artist and a businessman. Later in life I see myself getting more in to corporate business but I will always have a passion for art and clothing. I would still like to work in a corporate position and design at the same time, that would be my preferred occupation. My end goal is philanthropy, though. I feel like we were all put on this Earth to help people, if you haven't helped anyone by the time you die, then you've wasted an entire life on only your own life. Your own life is born, it lives, then it dies. Then it's done. The real purpose of living is so when you die, the things that you have done for other people and other lives continue to create and develop your legacy. No one remembers a millionaire that bought himself a Ferrari, people remember the millionaire that bought his mother a Ferrari, developed organizations to cure diseases, developed organizations to help inner-city youths, etc. . .
J.S. You're involved in quite a few activities. What is your secret to managing it all?
I play baseball and intramural basketball, leadership high school, youth group and I help out at my church as much as possible. The secret is to figure out your priorities in your life and from there just honor them. Make a vision board or something that will help remind you of your dream every single day, that will help you remember all your priorities and why you prioritize one thing over another. Organization is a big thing, I actually got to talk to Magic Johnson about this same topic and he agreed that organization is the key. You don't want to waste your time making mistakes in your work, so to avoid that you have to be as organized as possible. Realize that the biggest sacrifice is sleep.
For more information about Matt Henderson's company, please visit here.