Interview By: Taren Vaughan
Urban Belle: Coming up with an idea to start a company can happen instantly overnight. Or it could come from years of contemplating on it. How did the idea of Subject 2 Change come about?
Jamie Patterson: I came in the business just a little after inception…the back story on that is Duke beat UNC in March 2004 and Zach Hawkins and I went to the bonfire. We ran into Nykki and her friend Kelli out there. We were talking and Nykki stated that she, Kelli and another person had started a t-shirt company named “Subject 2 Change” and my question back to her was “CAN I GET ON!?!”. Nykki said that 3 partners were enough and that was it. Fast forward to June 2004, the 3rd partner stopped to promote parties and I could join them if I still wanted to, and since that day, we never looked back.
Urban Belle: Starting a company of any kind can be a challenge and requires a lot of time and effort. How would you describe the start-up process for you all and was it how you expected it to be?
Nykia Elvy: The beauty of the inception of Subject 2 Change is that it actually started as a hobby. As a member of a greek organization, I was always in the market for new and unique paraphernalia, and with the limited offerings available locally, I started to create my own. I found a website that allowed me to create my own t-shirt design, and when I received it, I thought this was something I could do myself. Then, as I began to talk with others about unique ideas for other organizations, I quickly realized that there was a real need for custom apparel, with particular focus on making these apparel items fun and fashionable. That’s how Subject 2 Change was born!
Urban Belle: There are numerous apparel companies in the Triangle Area and other parts of North Carolina. What do you think makes your company stand out amongst the rest?
Jamie Patterson: Well first off, we did a lot of research on local apparel companies and at the time, there was a lack of real customer service in the custom apparel field; a lot of hidden fees and other unnecessary things which drove customers away. We spotted that and jumped on it and it’s been our mantra from the beginning. Another thing is that we can relate to what customers want because we were members of a lot of the groups that had custom apparel needs. In regards to sticking out, we are using a lot of the social networking tools at our discretion and that thing WORKS!
Urban Belle: Being that you are located in Durham, North Carolina in close reach of schools like NCCU, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, do you still feel as though you are able to successfully reach other student bodies in other parts of North Carolina (i.e. NC A&T, Wake Forest University, UNC-Charlotte, etc.) If so, how do you go about doing that?
Nykia Elvy: Our geographic location has been the key to our success. As you mentioned, we are so close to NCCU, Duke, and UNC, and have built lasting relationships with so many campus organizations at each school. These relationships often extend beyond the undergraduate organizations as well, because our customers often refer us to their friends and colleagues in their workplaces, churches, or other groups and organizations. That said, we rely heavily upon “word-of-mouth” and positive references, and certainly hope to expand our growing network to reach more schools in North Carolina and beyond.
Urban Belle: Although Subject 2 Change is headquartered in NC, would you all be willing to open locations in other parts of the United States?
Jamie Patterson: Sure! Our company has 2 arms, “Subject 2 Change Customs”, which does apparel for groups, churches, businesses and the like. “Subject 2 Change Apparel” is the arm of the company that creates imaginative, inspired apparel that we would place in retail outlets and actually have stores to sell the apparel, similar to O’Reilly, Billabong and Pac Sun. I would love to have a location on Ocean Blvd in Miami and another one in Hollywood.
Urban Belle: Apparel companies that start in the U.S. have a tendency to expand over seas. Is there any chance of Subject 2 Change going international?
Nykia Elvy: Absolutely! As long as a company has a website, its reach is international! As we continue to grow, I know that Jamie and I will travel to countries to Europe and Asia to draw inspiration from the culture there, and look for new markets in which to sell.
Urban Belle: As business partners, the responsibility of running a company takes great communication, planning, and time commitment. With you and Nykia living in two different areas, do you feel that that ever has an effect on how well your plans for the company come together?
Jamie Patterson: No. Communication has not been a strain with us. A phone call is a powerful thing, couple that with email and google chat and we’re unstoppable. Early on, in the beginning, Nykia and I discussed that she would be leaving NC for Business School at Fordham and we should start communicating with the available technology. That was in 2006, and at this point, it’s the way we operate. If she has any questions, she’ll call or email me and we communicate and make decisions from there.
Urban Belle: The support that you and Jamie have for each other is obvious as your company has been going strong since 2004, but how have other people showed their support for your company and its mission?
Nykia Elvy: I love this question! You’re right: Jamie and I have a lot of respect and admiration for each other. We have a strong partnership, and I think other people see that and respect it. We’ve been blessed to have created an inviting company, where our customers and friends are able to come share ideas, fellowship, and network with people of common interests. Our office has been a meeting place for so many events (photo shoots, album listening parties, wine tastings, etc.) that all bring people together. Our friends are our greatest support!
Urban Belle: As Subject 2 Change focuses mainly on apparel, do you ever host or participate in any events on behalf of the company or in conjunction with other organizations?
Jamie Patterson: As a company, we specialize in screen printing, embroidery, promotional products and graphic design. In regards to events on the company’s behalf, we have our annual “Express Yourself” T-shirt party with SoNi Events. Nykia is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Inc. and I’m a brother of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; we’re both very active with our local chapters and assist wherever we can with our business. Each semester we have interns from local universities (i.e. NCCU, UNC, NCSU and/or Duke). We have hosted annual meetings in our offices with local Durham Youth from “YO:Durham” and “Partners for Youth”. We co-sponsored with the Purple Champion Hospitality Group their 2nd Annual Shoebox Campaign in conjunction with Durham Parks and Recreation Department. All of our hard work and dedication to community and business has netted us the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award from The Durham Chamber of Commerce.
Urban Belle: Where do you see Subject 2 Change in the next five years?
Nykia Elvy: My focus is going to be on Subject 2 Change Apparel (the arm of the company that will sell ready-2-wear clothing), and opening a store in NYC. Once that store is up and running, we’re looking to expand to Miami, Los Angeles, and then who knows…stay tuned!
For more info on Subject 2 Change, visit the company’s website.