Newcastle United players help kickstart student startup
A student at Newcastle University has, with the backing of some local Premiership footballers, established a clothing company that promotes Jesmond as a dream world – and they’ll be showing their latest designs on April 12th.
23-year old Guy Thierry Tiacoh, now a third year Business Management student, started the Young Enterprise Heroes (YEH) clothing line with classmates and £500 in their pockets when in second year at Newcastle University. Thanks to propitious contacts with some Newcastle United football stars such as Cheick Tiote, Leon Best and Sammy Ameobi, the line has become a success since its founding in February 2012.
“We had to build our own startup company as part of our course module, explains Tiacoh. “Me and my friends decided to do something on clothing. Since I knew many Newcastle United players and many people in Newcastle, I thought, ‘Why not?’”
At the time Tiacoh was living with Cheick Tiote, a friend of Tiacoh’s elder brother, in Jesmond. “Then I had my own place, which is five minutes away from his house. So I was spending more time at his place than at my own house!”
Their friendship meant Tiote knew about Tiacoh’s assignment. Tiacoh notes that ”I did not even ask him to endorse my clothing line, [but] he’s not big-headed. He’s a very good person. He’s helpful and kind to everybody. So he decided to help me.”
Tiote’s help led to the clothing line spreading through the Newcastle United dressing room. “Leon Best as well, one of the good guys I know, helped me promote the brand,” says Tiacoh. “One day, I said to him, ‘Besty, you want to wear my clothing line?’ So he was like, ‘Yeah, no problem.’”
It has not been all plain sailing for the brand. “It was very hard, initially, in the second year. I didn’t get my student loan. I had to borrow money from my friends. And [21-year old co-founder] Anu Ogunbiyi asked his parents for some money” to keep the company going, Tiacoh points out.
Ogunbiyi was the designer of the Jesmond Dream t-shirt, which sought to encapsulate, celebrate and poke fun at the luxury lifestyle of some inhabitants of the area.
There have been other designs with a wider focus, too. Tiote and Tiacoh supported the controversial Kony 2012 campaign by giving away 10 limited edition t-shirts with the African map printed on them.
“We wanted people to know about Africa. We also designed a shirt with the Nigerian flag. There was a conflict between the Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, so we wanted to do something for the Nigerian people and show our support,” said Tiacoh.
A year since the first t-shirts rolled off the production line, YEH clothing has earned success. It was judged the Most Creative Company at the Young Enterprise annual Regional Trade Fair in 2012. The initial print run of t-shirts broke even, according to Tiacoh, and the company has expanded to beanie hats and jumpers. “For this year’s collection,” he adds, “our stocks – especially the beanie hats – sold out for the second time. We still have some jumpers left. Since winter is almost coming to an end, we are selling them at a discounted price.”
Tiacoh also approached Independent Fashion Space, a retail shop selling independent fashion labels, who agreed to showcase YEH’s designs.
“At the end of April we will be releasing vests, for the summer, and shirts in different colours,” says Tiacoh. “We’re doing a fashion show on April 12th, at the Assembly Rooms, along with other fashion brands. So hopefully we’ll get more people to see our brand and buy more of our designs.”
When asked about YEH’s plans for the future, Tiacoh hopes “to make it big, not just in Newcastle, but other universities and cities as well, where students live. If you’re from Leeds or Manchester, there are many students living there. If they can buy a t-shirt with the name of the place where they lived, so when they leave uni, they have something to be proud of.” The Jesmond Dream could shortly become the Cheshire Dream, all being well.