The fashion biz is tough, but 13-year-old Trey Brown, the Lansdowne-based founder of the sportswear apparel brand Spergo, is handling it.
In the first year and a half of his self-made style grind, Brown has sold more than 6,000 pieces of his unisex sportswear line, which includes T-shirts, hoodies, sweat suits, fanny packs, and, my favorites, slides in vibrant primary hues and saturated pastels. Thanks to a robust Instagram presence – he now has some 16,600 followers – Brown caught the eye of Invesco, an Atlanta-based management company. Together with CNN, Invesco produced a commercial featuring Brown.
This summer Brown, with his big, cherubic eyes and black Spergo sweatshirt, was part of a digital billboard flashing in Times Square.
"I was so excited," Brown told me. Of course, he was wearing a Spergo T-shirt (it's the only brand he wears). He draped a fanny pack over his shoulders like a cross-body bag. It's a special Spergo design, with two zippers, and it's waterproof.
Gucci has nothing on him.
"We screamed. We all screamed. When I went home (from the unveiling), I cried," he said.
Brown was born with the entrepreneurial spirit. His first business foray was in the rap game. His mom even bought him some studio time. But the music business, Brown said, was a little too shady for his taste.
So Brown turned his attention to fashion.
"I wanted to show youth that they could do great things without being violent," said Brown. He chose the name Spergo because it's a combination of the words sports and heroes. He added the catchy 'go' to the end because, Brown said, "I'm always on the go, getting things done."
On his 12th birthday, Dec. 31, 2017, Brown received $178. The following month, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Brown and his mom, Sherell Peterson, held Spergo's first business meeting. Peterson, a third-grade teacher with a degree in fashion who has also dabbled in clothing design, explained to Brown the concepts of profit, marketing, giving back, and most importantly, investing in oneself.
"It's my job to protect him and encourage him," said Peterson who home-schools her son.
The two reached out to local entrepreneurs like Nehemiah Davis for advice. It wasn't long before Brown had his first set of T-shirts, which he sold door-to-door for $20.
"We went out on Saturdays and I sold at barbershops," Brown said. "And I was disciplined, like I wouldn't let myself eat until all of the shirts were sold."
Brown has reinvested all of his profits in his line. He and his mom found manufacturing in Philadelphia, as well as overseas, and expanded the line to include cozy sportswear, including sweatshirt dresses for women. He raised his prices; T-shirts are now $30. His most expensive piece is an all-weather zip-up jacket that goes for $90.
Invesco and CNN reached out to Brown in the spring and released the commercial in June.
In July, Tracy Allan, owner and founder of Charity Share Times Square, saw the CNN spot and reached out. He met with the family, and the spot went live on the digital billboard for two hours in August. It's still in the rotation.
"I was in rapt by this young man," Allan told me. "He has a clear path to what he wants to do and what he wants to accomplish and he does it without bling or bravado, but (with) appreciation for his fellow man."
Early Spergo pieces featured a lion because, as Brown puts it, he's a young king. But it's the soon-to-be released fall collection, emblazoned with Spergo in block letters, that's really special. The very word Spergo, Brown said, encourages him every day.
"In the beginning when I started Spergo, there were a lot of people who laughed at me," he said. "In order for me to keep going, I would say to myself: 'I am powerful. I am strong. I am courageous.'"
With Spergo, Brown says, he's making a seat at the table. And you can't get more empowering than that.