Marketing student Giovanni Morgan, 21 from South London first launched a clothing line aged 16 at Sixth Form College which developed into a denim brand – MGX Jeans. He embarked on a Selfie Year in 2020, with the help of ASPIRE and the Business Start Up Journey. Here he talks night-time needlework, developing a brand identity and the unique use of a hotel cart…
“I was first year of 6th form college when I first started making clothes, I have just always loved fashion,” explains Giovanni. “My first business was Moudre Apparel. It wasn’t denim based but street wear fashion.”
Having studied textiles classes at the age of 14, the teen topped up his relatively novice sewing machine skills by pouring over YouTube videos and how-to websites.
“It’s not really the thing most teenage boys sit and do late at night, but I had a vision. Before long, I was customising my own clothes and stuff for pals.”
But the youngster also knew that to succeed he needed business skills and The University of Kent was his first choice.
“I lived in Lewisham and was looking for something close by. I also knew how well respected the School is and was impressed by the rankings for the course I wanted to take – Marketing.”
On joining the course in 2018, he wanted to build on his digital marketing skills and build a fashion label. He embarked on the Business Start Up Journey.
“At that point, I hadn’t realised how much I could have been utilising staff like Rebecca and Adam Smith along the way. When I opted for the ‘selfie’ year my brand was already built – MGX Jeans – a denim customisation service, dedicated to realising the ideas and designs of customers. MGX add in prints and zips, distressed areas and tearing to make a unique product.”
The M and the G stand for Morgan and Giovanni and the X is representation of the customisable element of his brand, X representing an unknown factor, something you can add in.
“It was a clever little addition that I thought up,” he chuckles. “The start of me thinking like a real brand owner. The brand really started gaining traction in 2020, when I started the Selfie year.”
The Selfie Year allows students to take a year out of study to work on their own business, instead of an existing industry. Experts from ASPIRE are on hand to help students every step of the way.
“Adam Smith was amazing. He’s such an entrepreneurial mind and helped me to put together some clever marketing ideas – like the use of a luxury hotel cart, to display our clothes on in our photography. Something you always think of when you see our denim. Rebecca helped me to get to grips with supply chain, staffing, tax and balancing the books – the less creative side but equally as important.”
He has also moved on from purchasing his denim from existing High Street stores and ordering online in bulk from overseas to save money.
Throughout his selfie year, his social media channels have grown. MGX Jeans now has 4,000 members on Instagram. Giovanni takes an average of around 10 orders a week and hasn’t seen a lockdown dip.
“I had a contingency plan, I put out a giveaway asking people to tag and share to get a free customised product, something which would keep the energy going of people snapping themselves out and about. In reality, I seemed to get more orders anyway perhaps because people we online a lot, and stumbling across the brand on Insta.”
Giovanni credits wavering motivation and at time, intense workloads and missing out on a social life as some of the biggest challenges of being your own boss but says the benefits greatly outweigh any of these concerns.
“There were many missed parties pre-pandemic, when my mates would be out socialising and I was sat up with my sewing machine. It could get lonely, but I have a lot of drive and this is my business for the rest of my life.”
The brand is going from strength to strength. MGX now employs three members of staff, and has its own working premises. Giovanni credits the Selfie year for really accelerated all the hard work he had put in previously.
“I would advise anyone to take the selfie year if you have a business idea. It might be difficult to transition straight into the workplace immediately and this really allows you to take it in your stride. I am in a good place now – employing more staff, and moving to new offices in Canterbury. Things are going in the right direction and with lockdown easing, I hope more people will want our unique look for their days and nights out, too.”
Giovanni’s Top Tips for Launching a Start Up
- Identify a clear vision – know exactly what you want your business to do, visualise your furthest businesses goals and plan accordingly on how you’ll get there. A great place to start is to develop a vision and mission statement.
- Be solution based – it should be a priority to provide value to customers first, the best way to provide value in business is to solve a problem faced by customers. Building a business around a value proposition is key.
- Google and YouTube are your business advisors – it’s inevitable that you’ll run into challenges and hurdles on your journey. Every problem has a solution.
- Try not to rely too heavily on the support of family and friends to survive – ultimately a sustainable business is its own entity and must be able to attract external customers.
Check out MGX Jeans on Instagram
ASPIRE, the Accelerator Space for Innovation and Responsible Enterprise, helps current students from any course to launch their own business ideas. The 12-week Business Start-Up Journey is an inspirational programme which brings student business start-up ideas to life