Originally published on The Industry Cosign April 6, 2015
The stronger ones are the people who go through a struggle and/or hardship and continues to, not only live life, but, stake their claim on the goal they are trying to achieve. As most entrepreneurs know, it’s never about just working but, more so, working on your dreams and inspirations. The ups and downs are a part of life, it’s a matter of how you handle them and rebound and/or sustain the up times. You will often hear from the more successful entrepreneurs that the time they knew they were successful or the pinnacle of their success, usually happens after some type of struggle, whether financially, emotionally, spiritually or, just in general.
Brooklyn….. Yes, maybe the most famous borough, not just in New York City, but, in the world (I’m from The Bronx and I honestly HATED to write this sentence!), has given most Brooklyn residents, whether they are from there or have ever lived there, a fascination and pride rarely seen elsewhere. You see at comedy shows, Hip-Hop concerts and any event where the person asking the famous phrase, ‘Is Brooklyn in the House?’, in order to gain favor with the crowd (Even if it’s only 1 person from Brooklyn in the house!). Yes, the relevancy of me mentioning Brooklyn has a direct purpose.
If nothing, Jamal Smith, should inspire you after reading this article. The owner of Everything Brooklyn, has raised the stakes when it comes to having NO EXCUSE to follow your dreams and accomplishing your goals. You often hear people saying, ‘The struggle is real’ and with Mr. Smith, this phrase is as real as it gets. The way I hear it used pales in comparison to what Mr. Everything Brooklyn has and is accomplishing. So, this may be my longest intro to any piece I’ve done over the years, but, after reading this, you’ll understand why as Jamal Smith explains why he is Everything Brooklyn.
It seems like most people from Brooklyn (And even those who aren’t) have a fascination about the pride of being from and/or living in Brooklyn, why do you think it is such a strong appreciation from hailing from Brooklyn, New York?
Well, I think Brooklyn has the reputation for being the best borough in New York. We have a lot of celebrities that come from Brooklyn, like Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, so when you hear those names, even if you are not from Brooklyn, you want to represent Brooklyn. Also being from Brooklyn, we think we are God’s gift. I recently heard that Brooklyn is one of the second largest boroughs in the world and I personally think we should be a city within a city.
That leads me to ask why did you name your company, Everything Brooklyn, and what made you decide to enter into the fashion business?
Well, I am from Brooklyn and rep Brooklyn to the fullest, so when I came up with the name Everything Brooklyn, it was more of the right thing to do. I never thought about doing fashion. The way Everything Brooklyn was born, comedian A.G. White asked me to do a Instagram post with all the celebrities names from Brooklyn and he wanted me to add his name into it. So I thought about to make it work and came up with the idea of making it look like the shape of Brooklyn and putting the names in any order and pronouncing certain names and putting Brooklyn under it. We both posted the shirt on Instagram and that day people asked if it was going to be a shirt. That moment I said yes, maybe I can make some extra money selling 10 shirts and from that day forward I was entered into fashion. Now I have over 40 different celebrities wearing my clothes and have been changing the line as the season change.
Your T-Shirts have been appearing on a lot of ‘old school’ artists as you have several shirts that feature the likes of ‘celebrities’ from the different boroughs of New York City (Disclaimer: I was featured on The Bronx edition! lol), what gave you the idea to feature the artists and acknowledge where they came from?
The reason I decided to feature the celebrities from New York City was to give them the love and appreciation that they deserve. A lot of them are not recognized for their contribution and some are, however, showing them the love and letting them know they have been recognized for what they have done is better than any award or Oscar they can ever receive. Funny thing is, I had a conversation with Malik Yoba and he actually stated, people don’t recognize him and he is thankful for the love he was given by being mention on my Bronx celebrity t-shirt. Even yourself, a lot of people don’t know what contribution you gave to the industry, so I did feature you as well.
From my understanding, you were actually homeless and had to really hustle to get where you are today. Would you like to talk about that? What inspired you to continue following the path to success? Do you even consider yourself successful yet?
Yes, I was homeless for a short period of time, I figured if I can keep the faith that God would continue to look over me as I continue to do this and inspire others to be able to do something on their own, no matter what the circumstance was. I would take the $5.00 that I had to make sure that the packages would go out before I fed myself. I seen it as okay if I can send this package out, I can get another order that would be able to feed me in a few days. So for a month I would either eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or I wouldn’t eat at all some days. I remember days that I only had $3.20 in my bank account & didn’t have cash, but wasn’t able to get something to eat because the store didn’t take your card unless it was over $5.00 so I wouldn’t eat. I also remember the days I had a panic attack and my really special friend just happened to call me as it started and she was able to calm me down and get me back to focus and let me know that she has my back.
So I ask, what is considered successful? I don’t consider myself successful at all, I look at it as trying to better my life and the people around me, even the people I don’t know. See, this story will inspire others and that will be my success story, knowing that someone or even everyone, took something from this. I have lost so much during this time from a career as a web designer, my car, people who I thought were my friends, my condo apartment, however, I keep something much more than that and that was my faith in God that it will get better. So am I successful yes but no. It depends on what you consider successful.
Could you let us know some of the people and companies you previously had as clients and that you’ve worked with over the years?
Well I was a very accomplished web/graphic designer and have the pleasure to work with several artist & companies such as Kenny Lattimore, MIMS, J. Holiday, Martha Stewart, Turner Broadcasting, GE, Airtan Airways, Vera Moore Cosmetics. In the 16 years as a web designer, I learned how to perfect my craft and become very successful with it. A lot of people would never know I designed the J. Holiday ‘Suffocate’ CD cover or designed Kenny Lattimore’s website for 2 years, I believe. I did web design for fun and it is my passion to be able create something that people want to continue to come back and look at either because they love the design or they just enjoyed the experience of being able to navigate through the website easily.
What drives you to continue doing business?
My love for art is what drives me, as well as being able to show my son, Jamal Smith Jr., that anything you want you can have, however, you have to work for it. I talk to some of my friends and they are my drive because if I can change their life by what I am doing then I am happy.
If there was anything you could do over again, if anything, what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t do anything over, I accept the struggle, I accept the challenge, I accept losing friends and gaining new ones, I accept the failures and losing family members because it has made me stronger and inspires me to continue on this path.
What is Jamal Smith doing in 15 years?
I will continue to make this a trend and branching out to do more with it as a whole. I am looking to make it a household name across the world.
Do you have any advice that you’d give to anyone who approached you about becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Advice!!! Don’t give up and don’t allow anyone to tell you NO. Believe in yourself. If you have an idea don’t take it to your friends, take it to the public. Your friends will always say that the idea is nice but will they buy it or invest in it. So take the idea to 10 people who have the no idea who you are and if they buy into it, then do it with more people. If you can go to the mall and sell 100 items of your idea in less then an hour, you have a great idea. Put it to work and don’t give up, you will face hard times and you will lose a lot but the reward at the end of the day is that it is yours and you are doing it because you love it. So keep the faith, work hard, pray and don’t ask anyone for handouts. Show people that you can do it on your own and let them come to you. Never be thirsty just be hungry for what you want.