Kevin Dewayne Harris and Miquel Jessup are Indianapolis brothers who own and operate small businesses together. Harris’ brand Damaged Petals is a streetwear line with motivation as the main driving force behind it. Jessup’s brand, Christian Miquel, offers hair and beard care products for men, as well as a line of leather wallets.
Miller Kern: Can you describe the motive or message behind your brand.
Kevin Dewayne Harris: It is to motivate. To inspire. I don’t want to just put it in a box, but I was trying to show young African Americans, young kids of color, that there’s other paths to take to get to the finish line. So dream big and go for that. That’s why we created the brand.
MK: Do you come from a family of entrepreneurs?
KDH: We don’t really have entrepreneurs in our family, but we have a lot of hard workers. I think that’s instilled in us. Myself and Miquel, we come from a family of people who put in a lot of work with their hands. But we didn’t have a way to really give back. So that’s what Miquel and I want to do.
MK: Where do you pull inspiration for your designs? I know there’s influence from Tupac.
KDH: Tupac was the inspiration. He is just an idol of mine. I like what he stands for; the empowerment of people, knowing your worth, and standing for something. I get the inspiration from seeing my mother struggle, not having a father, and growing up in underprivileged homes and neighborhoods. That’s where my motivation comes from, and seeing that — maybe I can be the change in the world.
MK: How do the two of you work together?
KDH: We don’t really collaborate creatively; we’re more like business partners. We decided we wanted to go into business. I had something I wanted to go into, he had something he wanted to go into. Our brands are not really the same, but we’re brothers, so like why not help you and you can help me?
MK: What are some brands you look up to?
KDH: I like a lot of the old school brands. I was big on Tommy Hilfiger. Tommy Hilfiger changed the genre. It was so big at the time. When Tommy came out, people just had to have it to the point where they would knock it off. You would get knockoffs and that was so dope.
MK: What are some of the main challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
KDH: Getting people to buy in.
Miquel Jessup: Yeah, getting people to buy into the brand. And sometimes working with the right people, like resources. Everybody’s all gung ho – they’re all happy – then you contact them, and all of a sudden they’re not doing what they said they were going to do. They’re not following through. It’s really just getting people to stick to their word and follow through. A lot of people are just talk.
KDH: Another big challenge I have right now is trying to cut the cost—the overhead. A lot of times I try to cut out the middleman. I’m an entrepreneur; that’s part of it for me. The more I cut, the better profit I get. And I’m not even in it for the profit. I have a passion for this. I love fashion. I’ve always been in love with fashion ever since I was a little kid. Me trying to cut the cost is just me trying to give more to the people. The more shirts I have, the more I can give away.
MK: Did you always want to go into fashion?
KDH: I always wanted to go into fashion in some shape or form. I wanted to be a musician at one point, but I was always into fashion. I always knew fashion was a part of it. I went to school for business administration, and when I got out out of school, my cousin went to school for graphic design. And Miquel has always been an entrepreneur – ever since we were little.
MK: What is the biggest reward of being an entrepreneur?
KDH: For me, when somebody really likes a design. When it motivates them. That’s what a lot of the shirts are. They’re to motivate you. They’re to tell you to dream big. When somebody comes up to me and they just appreciate it – that’s dope.
MJ: I love when guys buy my products and it solves a problem for them.
MK: What do you think Indianapolis can do to support local brands?
KDH: A lot more. This city doesn’t really show a lot of support for anything local. Then we’re so slow with the fashion and the music. Since that’s already a setback it seems like everybody’s just stuck on this one thing. Indiana is such a melting pot. Why can’t we be big on fashion?
MJ: We spend the money!
KDH: We definitely spend the money. But everybody wants to spend the money on things that are going to be out of season next year. Or it’s not going to last.
MJ: People buying all this cheap stuff.
KDH: It aggravates me. But that’s just this city though. I’m kind of used to it. But I’m willing to fight that fight. That challenge of it makes me want to go even harder. I want to show y’all in Indianapolis that there is a brand that you guys can gravitate to. I’m here for you guys. The more I put out, the more you help me put out, the bigger we can get. And then the next brand can come on, or the next artist.
Everyone wants to be successful but they never want to go through what it takes to be successful. People don’t see the hard work that somebody puts in. All they see is the last minute shot, the success of it. If you want to do this, I am not a hater, I will give you the steps you need.
MK: What are some ways you market your brands?
MJ: Definitely Instagram. Instagram, Facebook, word of mouth lately has been awesome. Once somebody buys it, they say, ‘Yo man, check this out.’
You can wear whatever you want and make it cool, because it’s not about fashion, it’s about style.
MK: Describe the type of person who would wear your brand.
KDH: My brand is for anybody, but for the most part, I get people like me. I get people from the neighborhood. I get urban kids who look up to Tupac, who really know the meaning behind the struggle. I don’t want to say just because somebody is from a suburban area that you don’t know the struggle, because there are different kinds of struggles that everybody goes through every day. That’s what the end goal is for me – I want everybody to share in this feeling that it brings to me.
MK: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
KDH: Keep pushing. It’s not going to be easy.
MJ: Never stop. Write down your goals. You can always go back and change them. Sometimes the simplest thing is just writing your goals down.
KDH: Attention to detail; I’m not saying don’t dream big, but you’ve got to have the little things down. You accomplish the little goals, and then the big goals will come with it. But, if you don’t accomplish little goals, you’re never going to get to a big goal anyway. You’ve got to keep pushing, keep moving. If money is your motive, you lost already. You’re not going to make it. Most of the time it’s not about money. If you don’t love it—you don’t have a passion—you’re working a job. If you’re in it for the money, quit. But if you really love it and it’s not about the money for you, push man. Don’t stop, keep pushing. Because one day the money will come. The money will come later if you really have a love for your brand. Or you just found something you love to do, so what could be the harm?
MJ: Use local resources. SCORE in Indianapolis has resources for entrepreneurs, low-cost or free. Go to a library. Next time you’re going to spend $150 on a pair of shoes, go and spend $50 on an online class in marketing or some aspect of business, then go buy a couple books.
KDH: You’ve got to accumulate knowledge.
MJ: Your best investment is you.
MK: How do you hope your brands will evolve in the future?
MJ: I hope both our brands go national. We sell online currently, but hopefully, we can get into different boutiques, and retail storefronts.
KDH: Boom. That’s the goal. Not just being an online store.
MJ: Start in boutiques, then maybe one day end up in Saks. They have all kinds of urban brands.
KDH: Boutiques though. That’s what I’m fishing for. A store of my own. But, I don’t want just my brand in there. I want all local brands though. I want artwork everywhere.
MJ: Chicago and New York they have big open settings. They have artwork mixed in with fashion. I think that’s so dope. It brings in everybody.
MK: How do you think celebrity-endorsed streetwear is influencing modern street style?
KDH: Oh, it’s big. Especially certain celebrities. And especially with the old school stuff. Everything is becoming retro again. It’s almost like it’s cool to wear anything. You got A$AP Rocky endorsing Nautica. Nautica was big when I was a kid, then it just dropped off the face of the earth. But now, people are starting to dive back into the old school fashion. If you can get a celebrity or something like that, it could open up so much for you. So I think it’s big, and I love it. But I love that they’re not just rocking Gucci and Louis Vuitton and Vera Wang. They’re diving into older brands and bringing them back to show the world that you can wear whatever you want and make it cool, because it’s not about fashion, it’s about style.