Founder of streetwear fashion brand “The Ascent” and twice featured Vogue Italia model, this is not your ordinary college student
The room looked like the typical college student dorm. A lone poster of a model adorned the adjacent wall above a neat line of sneakers at the door, clothes were strewn across the bed and desk in the small single-person room. For the two-time featured Vogue model, the meager living space is not just a place to sleep, but the headquarters for his company “The Ascent Society.”
Ademide Adepetun, a 20-year-old sophomore business major at Northeastern University (NU) smiled proudly as he paused at his picture of the January edition of the Vogue Italia cover on his Instagram account. With over 2,650 followers, Instagram user “d.e.m.z_” uses his large following and modeling experience as a platform to showcase and promote his brand. He stopped again at a photo of him boasting “The Ascent” logo on a t-shirt before modestly saying “that was all me.”
Adepetun created “The Ascent Society “ back in October of 2015, a creative lifestyle-clothing brand based around the artistic and rebellious spirit of youth. This past July in the entrepreneur’s hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, “The Ascent” held its first pop-up shop in collaboration with groups “Traplanta” and “New World No Politics Mob.” Which included selling clothing Adepetun had designed and produced as well as featuring performances from a host of artists.
The event itself raised over $650 and Adepetun estimated that he has made a further $1300 in sales of the merchandise in two months.
“I have always been interested in fashion and creativity,” he said. “We are a creative collective of thinkers from different fields who come together.”
Where It All Began
Adepetun was born and raised in Nigeria to an upper middle class family, however he and his family experienced financial turbulence in his teens as a result of the poor Nigerian economy. “It was hard when times got tight, but being surrounded by creative mentality drove my entrepreneurship” he said. Adding, “my brother, Denola Grey is a successful fashion/style icon in Nigeria and so I was always surrounded by creativity.”
However, despite the initial success of the brand over the summer Adepetun has since halted production on his merchandise. “After the pop up store I did some re-evaluating, I wasn’t satisfied about the quality and trajectory of the brand.”
Since the stop on production, Adepetun has been in contact with production companies “NE Design” and “Emulsion Print House” to release a new line of clothes including denim jackets and sweatshirts, due to come out in the spring of 2017.
A post shared by Demz (@demz.____) on Jan 8, 2017 at 4:39am PST
College Entrepreneurship From a Business View
John Friar, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University, when asked about the trend of college students creating their own businesses said ““Some of the national data show that millennials are starting fewer business than prior.” However, “There is a lot more (entrepreneurship) activity in colleges, that is way up.”
Friar said that while it is very easy to create a small business that may make a bit of money, it is a lot harder to scale up and expand. In order to increase production “it comes down to experience” he said, “and it’s harder for college students as they lack experience.”
Adepetun spoke on how financially “The Ascent” is burdening as “I am paying for it out of my pocket.” Costs such as maintaining the website and the production of the clothes add up, making it hard for a financially restricted college student to amass the funds to expand the business.
“Micro-scaled businesses is what I call it” Friar said. “They have a tendency to be successful on a small scale… But trying to scale it into something big is hard.”
Timmy Fasheun a third year business major at NU and roommate of Adepetun was the first person talked to about creating “The Ascent.” Fasheun said “The first time I heard of this idea was in the gym. After the workout session we just started talking and he mentioned the rough idea he had in mind.” Almost a year later, Fasheun said “he got a ton of support from everyone, and not just his friends. (Other) people had a lot of positive feedback.”
Fasheun also spoke on the problems the brand was facing. “The only problem I have with it, sometimes is that it seems a bit disorganized in terms of business activities, i.e. trying to get into fashion, nightlife etc. at the same time.” Adding that “with more experience, will continue to improve.”
The Future and Beyond
“Big companies are looking for people who are entrepreneurial, so it can be a big plus, the fact that he sold a bunch of t-shirts and figured out how to do that those are all skills that the employers want to see.” Friar said
“Sometimes I wake up and think what the hell am I doing?” Adepetun said, speaking on the risks associated with starting a business. However, “getting confirmation from someone I didn’t know, basically enabled me to see that I am actually making a change.”