by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer
When Classic Events! holds its annual “Youthpreneur” event later this year, which gives local youth and young adult entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their products to an audience, count Jamara Melvin in.
Eight years ago, as a 12-year-old, she made and designed tutu skirts for the girls who were in the fashion show portion of Youthpreneur.
Now, she’s back—this time, launching her own new T-shirt line called Campus Culture, which are stylish T-shirts that have unique phrases that college students will definitely understand.
The shirts, available for men and women, will have phrases such as “A’s before Baes,” “11:59 p.m.,” and “Tuition, $7,000, Books, $3,000, Oxygen, $7,000.”
“I honestly believe that if you’re in college, you’ll definitely understand these T-shirts. There will be a connection. People will want to purchase what they’re feeling,” Melvin, 20, told the New Pittsburgh Courier.
Sure, Melvin, a 2017 West Mifflin High School graduate, has a job that helps pay the bills, but she told the Courier she’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit. “I always liked to have something of my own that people know my name for,” she said. “I came up with a lot of ideas but I wanted to do something that relates to me, and no one that I’ve seen do in Pittsburgh yet, which is college struggle shirts.”
She’s designing them as we speak, and the various-phrased shirts will be available for sale at Youthpreneur, which will be held later this year, according to Ralph P. Watson, founder of Classic Events!, which sponsors the event.
That’s the concept behind Youthpreneur—youth showcasing their creations, their products.
“The youth are our future,” echoed Watson. “We’ve got to reach back and pull them through. We’re losing too many of our youth to the street, we’re losing them to gun violence, we’re losing them to teen pregnancies and then they feel that hopelessness, that they can’t move beyond this point. It sets our kids back…and it’s hard to catch up.”
Watson told the Courier that 15 entrepreneurs up to age 21 will be on hand at Youthpreneur. There will also be a Rap Battle Showdown, sponsored by Cut ‘n Play Barber Shop. Other supporters of the event include the City of Pittsburgh, state Rep. Ed Gainey, Highmark, and State Farm Insurance Agent Danielle Howard.
Melvin’s T-shirt entitled “A’s before Baes” could become one of Melvin’s more popular offerings. “In college there’s a lot of distractions, there’s a lot of guys, a lot of girls, and sometimes people put their social life before what they’re there for,” Melvin told the Courier. “So ‘A’s before Baes’ is just a little reminder of what you’re at school for; you’re there for good grades, you’re there to pass, you’re not there to date.”
“These young people are excited,” Watson said. “They’re excited to showcase their business, their product, their service that they created. Imagine that, creating something, and watching it grow. This is what these young people are doing.”
Much of Melvin’s entrepreneurial spirit comes from her mother, Desiree Pemberton, who is a well-known event planner in Pittsburgh, in addition to her 9-to-5 at Allegheny Health Network. Pemberton said it’s imperative that African American parents teach their children the art of “being selfish,” in a good way.
“Being completely selfish is OK as far as self-care and making sure that your life goes exactly the way that you plan it to go,” Pemberton told the Courier. “Don’t let anyone else take the reins. Have creative control, in life and in business.”
Ask most successful entrepreneurs, and they’ll tell you how many times it took for them to strike gold on a product or service. Mishaps or missteps are a part of the path to entrepreneurial success. For the youth and young adults part of Youthpreneur, it’s their first foray into the art of entrepreneurship. For Melvin, a soon-to-be junior psychology major at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, she feels her mindset is strong enough for any ups or downs.
“I feel like I have already in my head that I will be somebody that is known,” she said, “so there is nothing that will make me feel like it (success) won’t happen.”
(Editor’s note: The “Youthpreneur” event was originally scheduled for Aug. 3, Downtown. However, due to the cancellation of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, organizers have postponed the “Youthpreneur” event until later this year.)
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