When you open a small business and suddenly have to close it because of a global pandemic, what do you do next?
You get through it, say David Faulk and Lamir Whitlow of Madison, who, having just turned 13 and 14, respectively, are wise beyond their years. Dressed in the T-shirts they designed, they sat at their dining room table recently for a Zoom interview, poised and ready to talk about the evolution of their small business, The Bro Shop, which has flourished in the past few months.
Back in January, Lamir’s dad, Louis Whitlow, opened The Compound – an athletic incubator facility – and the boys, who became stepbrothers three years ago, “wanted to have a business,” says David.
Operating as The Bro Shop inside The Compound, they got started by stocking a minifridge with water and Gatorade to sell to customers. Soon they added snacks, keychains and stickers with their logo on them.
But in March, as the coronavirus pandemic hit, The Compound closed. “When COVID happened, we realized people couldn’t buy our things,” says Lamir. “So we thought of the T-shirt idea. That’s how we got our motto.”
The motto appears in cursive script across the short-sleeved T-shirts, which come in black, white, mint green and pink: “Get Through It.” On the back: “The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.”
They’ve enlisted friends as “ambassadors” to help market the T-shirts. “We have the best friend group who wanted to help spread the word,” says David. “We gave them Bro Shop swag, and they post about it. Our main goal is to build a brand.”
They feel strongly about empowering others. “We want kids to know their voice matters,” says David. “We can play a part in making this Earth better.”
“We’re stronger together,” says Lamir. “If we come together as a unit, more people will be able to hear us. If we have adults backing us up, they’ll start to listen to us.”
During this time in history – when the threat of the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus has overlapped with protests in response to the tragic deaths of George Floyd and others – the boys feel that their motto is especially important.
“We’re still young, but we’re trying to grasp police brutality and racial injustice,” says David. “We just know it’s not fair and it’s not right.”
“Some people are scared to go outside because they don’t know what will happen to them,” says Lamir. “You can’t live in fear. You can’t forget the important things in life, like family, holidays and birthdays.”
When they’re not working, David plays soccer and describes himself as a “video game enthusiast” who also likes to draw. He’ll be in the eighth grade this fall. Lamir, an upcoming freshman in high school, plays baseball and also enjoys video games and hanging out with his friends.
Both boys are friendly, self-assured and laser-focused on their mission. David says his mom, Tiffany Jordan, “has inspired us to be polite and mannered.”
Since The Compound reopened, the boys are again selling merchandise at the store, with a drop box where people leave their money. A sticker at the top of the box reads, “Thank you for supporting our small business.” They’ve both become proficient at Excel spreadsheets, and they keep up with their sales and inventory in an official Bro Shop binder.
“We’ve learned to manage our time,” says Lamir. “We can’t keep people waiting. They’re expecting you to get their shirts out on time.”
The T-shirts are also sold via a Google order form. At first, most of their orders came from family members. But they have now shipped T-shirts “all over the world,” says David.
“We thought the entrepreneur thing would be fun, but we didn’t know what we were getting into,” says Lamir with a laugh. “It’s not fun when you have 50 orders to fill.”
Their job might soon become even more demanding, but if anyone can get through it, these two can. The hardworking teens are saving their money to start a website, which will make it easier for people to place orders and allow them to expand their product line.
In a couple of YouTube videos posted on The Bro Shop’s Facebook page, each boy speaks about the meaning behind their motto. “The power to get through this and all of our emotions – anger, depression, sadness, uncertainty – is actually within us,” says David.
This advice, from a young man barely 13, is a powerful reminder to all of us of our own strength in the face of adversity.
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This story was first published by AL.com.