They say every journey begins by taking a single step. A moment where we start writing the next chapter in our lives ever-changing story. The roads we once traveled will soon change directions into what will become our new beginnings. Knowing that to be true, I decided to take my first step on this exact day three years ago, with a single dream that would later change who I was as a person. That dream I so passionately desired consisted of three simple letters, but the impact it would have on others would be the beginning of a movement. That movement is known today, simply as KIE.
Upon making that bold choice three years ago to open my store, I started to embrace what it really meant to be a young Entrepreneur. From there, and with the support of my friends and family, I took my dreams and the cash in my pocket and began building what I had dreamed about since I was a young child. Looking back now, that first year spent building KIE was full of many challenges and emotions that I had never experienced before. However, those sleepless nights spent creating the concept behind the KIE brand will forever be some of the happiest times in my life. In that moment I felt a way I had never felt before, giving my life a sense of purpose and meaning for the first time in a while. My heart was full and I never loved anything like I loved this.
When the doors opened in December of 2014, I hit the ground running, hoping and praying people would love what I had worked so hard to create. Every second, of every hour, for the next three years would be spent behind those four walls, building something truly incredible. From that day forward I dedicated my life to KIE, making sure my business stayed true to its mission of helping others become the best version of themselves. That vision later turned into reality and for once in my life, I was exactly where I needed to be when I needed to be there. This was my calling and I was fearless.
Over the next two and half years, KIE would go on to accomplish things that I'm still so incredibly proud of. From establishing brand partnerships with some of the industries biggest designer brands, to the Shoppe launching it's very own clothing line (The KIE Kollection) in 2015, KIE began making an impact on the world of men's fashion from the small town of College Station, Texas. Outside of the support from within my community, the Shoppe also started gaining attention world wide, landing the brand on the covers of international magazines, reputable menswear blogs, and on to the backs of various celebrity customers. As exciting as those accomplishments were (and still are) I remained humble from my achievements and continued working hard to grow the thing I loved the most, KIE.
The next year I continued spending my time manning the fort at the store, open to close, seven days a week, making sure I personally met every single customer that walked through those doors. Each morning I woke up, my goal remained the same, to build relationships and introduce people to the brand I loved so much. It was the driving force that got me out of bed each morning and I relished in every moment of it. As the evenings approached and the Shoppe would begin to close, I began letting my creative mind wonder, spending most of my nights developing innovative ideas on how I could expand my brand, both personally and professionally. Soon afterwards, I started focusing in on those dreams immensely, and when I did, I began to realize the opportunities that awaited outside the four walls of 900 Harvey Road were endless. From that moment on, something inside of me changed.
I spent the following months that lied ahead managing the store and working on the expansion of The KIE Kollection clothing line, adding additional products and designing jewelry for each new season as it approached. Eventually, The KIE Kollection would end up being featured in the season-opening video for the NBA's very own, Miami Heat. From there, The Kollection continued to grow and landed itself on to the shelves of retail stores outside of my own and on the backs of customers outside of my hometown of College Station. Grateful for those opportunities, my hard work was beginning to pay off tenfold. Later that summer, I began working alongside some 'higher profile' clients that really grew to love my brand and appreciated my unique and individualistic style. From that point forward, I guess you could say I became what this industry would refer to as a 'Celebrity Stylist' (BRB. changing e-mail signature and updating my Instagram bio. Wait what?) This role eventually gave me the opportunity to gain exposure on a more personal level outside of the store. Not only that, it allowed me to continue using my talents to help others become the best possible version of themselves, a job I still feel so incredibly lucky to do.
As new doors began to open for me, I walked right through them, launching this very blog on 1-5-16 (hence where the name Fifteen Sixteen came from) See what I did there!? Sorry, I have this weird obsession with dates that line up numerically (side note: if you didn't already know, I opened KIE on 12-13-14) Okay I'm done for now. Months later, I found myself stepping into a different arena, becoming the Creative Director and Co-Owner of the Texas-based publication, Maroon Weekly. With all that being said, I became a man who wore several hats (all stylish ones of course) on a day-to-day basis.
As 2017 approached, and for the lack of better terms, I began feeling very overwhelmed juggling the various task and responsibilities I had created for myself, ultimately creating me to lose sight of what was most important; my personal happiness. All of these roles (both new and old) were seemingly great and all, but left me feeling incomplete inside. I needed to take a step back and see what it was that made me feel like Chance again. Most importantly, I needed to figure out what it was that made me happy again. That answer seemed simple at the time...the Shoppe of course! KIE was like my child and the sole reason I was even able to do all of these incredible things. What I found out was, that even though I may not have ever psychically left my store, my mind was everywhere but there. After I came to that realization, I threw myself into reverse and began focusing all my attention back where it belonged and prayed I wasn't too late. I stopped doing this Blog, put my clothing line on hold, passed on opportunities to travel with my styling business, and also cut back on my involvement with Maroon Weekly. The following months that lied ahead would be challenging, but I was back where I was needed the most.
I spent the following weeks leading up to this summer discovering new brands for my customers and researching where the retail industry was heading next. On the other hand, as excited as I was for the future of KIE, a part of me still desired to be actively involved in all of those things I had worked so hard to build. That desire grew stronger as I began noticing that those very things I had helped create, were still a crucial piece in the expansion of my brand and business. I knew from that moment on that I couldn't just give up on those things. People still needed them and so did I. Determined to find a solution quickly, I dived back into my research and started watching the trends within the retail industry. What were the retailers I aspired to be like doing? How were they doing it? Why did they do it? After doing so, I discovered something shocking. After getting their brands built and established, most of them moved their stores online and did the majority of their business on Instagram and Facebook. Not only were they taking the leap of faith online...they were doing extremely well at it! As the summer approached I continued finding myself torn and began praying for that same courage I had once had three years ago when I opened KIE. At first, I was unsure as to why I feeling this way because in my mind I was doing everything I had ever set out to do. However, what I discovered was that, what I thought my life should look like on the outside, no longer was in sync with the way I felt on the inside. I had to finish one chapter of my lives novel and begin writing the next.
With the power of prayer, and a whole lot of courage, I made the bold decision this summer to close the doors to my brick and mortar and focus on myself and the other avenues that needed me most. Despite the opinions of a few non-important people, and a handful of misinformed individuals, (hi haters!) the choice to do so was very much my own and one I'm very happy I made. Today, I'm overcome with emotion as I officially announce the return of KIE MEN'S SHOPPE ONLINE STORE this winter! I'm beyond excited to start this next chapter and look forward to starting my new beginning...
A S P E C I A L T H A N K S
First and foremost, I have to thank the man upstairs for his continual blessings and unconditional love as I start this next chapter in my life. It's through His guidance that I am where I am today. Without Him, none of this would be possible.
To all of my friends, family members, and loyal supporters of KIE, thank you for continually believing in me and my vision. Your support means the world to me.
To all of my KIE Guys (new and old) thank you for being a part of my dream team. I couldn't of asked for a more a loyal groups of guys to represent my brands and the legacy it will leave behind. I love you guys.
To my photographer James Barrett, thank you for stumbling into my store that first month I opened looking for premium denim in College Station. From that moment on, you've selflessly contributed to all that I do visually, both within my brand and businesses. Your immense talents have tremendously helped in bringing almost every single one of my visions to life over the past three years. I'm so lucky now to be able to call you my friend.
To Katherine Morrow and Versy Picone, the dynamic duo that makes up my "Man-Glam" team, thank you for always making sure I look my best when at times I may have been at my worse. I'm beyond blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside some of the best in the industry like you two beautiful souls.
To Courtney, my manager, confidant, and best friend. Words can't even begin to describe how much I appreciate our lifetime of friendship. You have always had my best interest at heart and are a constant reminder that good people still exist in this world. I'm beyond grateful for the connection and unbreakable bond we both share. Your continual dedication to my businesses and brand mean the world to me.
Lastly, I would like to thank the most important person in my life and the one responsible for making all of this possible. My biggest fan and number one supporter, my constant reminder to never give up, my best friend and Mother. Thank you for being the most incredible Mother to my sister and I. Not only do you believe in my larger than life dreams, you constantly make sure I never give up on them. Twenty-eight years later you still manage to do the same, and for that, I'm forever grateful to call you my Mom. Love you to the moon and back...