Persevere: (a verb) meaning…
To persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.
Persevere clothing line, also known as PRSVR, is a popular clothing brand created by Detroit-born and Chicago-based designer Brandon Williamson. The well-known label has been worn by the likes of Nicki Minaj, Nelly, Bow Wow, Teyana Taylor and Fabolous. Persevere founder and CEO Williamson sat down with 1st Amendment Media to discuss his 15-year journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur. He openly discusses his challenges and how he’s persevered through it all. He also shared how he wants others to persevere as well.
Teen Entrepreneur Seizes Opportunity
Williamson’s journey began in the early 2000s. As the second child out of six, Williamson has always had a business savvy disposition. He began his first business venture while still in his late teens and early twenties. Williamson and his friends began catering to his peers by formulating a custom design shoe company called No. 1 Draft Pics. The company eventually became Fresh out the Box. The young CEO had a knack for designing Air Force Ones. From Gucci fabric to Lou Vuitton, Williamson would take all white Air Force ones and design them precisely to match his customer’s taste. According to Williamson, “No one else was creating custom shoes,” so they were in high demand.
Perseverance is Born
Unfortunately, Air Force Ones would only create the all-white shoe in the summer time. This situation left Williamson and his team out of work during winter months. Custom designed shoes turned into custom designed t-shirts. At this point, the brand changed names and became Persevere. The new name was emblematic of the hard work and challenges they knew they would endure on their rise to the top.
“It was like we’re gonna have to persevere in order to get where we want to be,” said Williamson. “That word that we used, that moniker, with it being so powerful, yea it means good in the end but throughout that process it’s going to be challenging.”
Although the brand is called Persevere, the acronym PRSVR is also used. It stands for passion, resilience, sacrifice, values, and respect. These are all the qualities that Williamson believes are important in order to persevere through obstacles.
First App, Excitement, Bust, then PRSVR
After developing Persevere, he branched out further and deeper into the sneaker industry to develop a sneaker app called Soul Search. No one else was doing such an app at the time. The idea of the app was to help people find sneaker stores throughout the world.
“The sneaker store was like the barbershop without the haircut,” he said. “They’re gonna tell you where to go, what to eat and all these different things. So you go out of town for the weekend and you know everywhere to go.”
Williamson was sure his new app would be successful. After all, it had gotten approval from Apple and no one had the idea before.
“We thought this was gonna be it,” he exclaimed. “We finally got something.”
An App Before its Time
When asked what happened, Williamson laughed and said “Nothing!” According to the designer,
“people were not ready for their phone to do all that.”
During this time, Apple had just released their first IPhone and people were not yet big into apps. Furthermore, the gym shoe industry did not yet have a large following.
“At that time, the sneaker culture wasn’t as big as it is now,” Williamson explained.
Feeling discouraged, his entire team quit and moved on to try new endeavors outside of sneakers, design and apps.
“You know you get super-hot because we know this idea is [the] bomb,” he said. “But it was taking too long and we were dumping money into it. So they went off and did new things, one by one.”
Forced into Becoming a Designer
After his team left, Williamson, who typically handled the day to day logistics, was forced into learning design. Self-taught, he began to put all of his energy into building up his Persevere brand. Luckily, through the process of designing gym shoes, t-shirts, and apps, Williamson’s contact list had become enormous. “I knew everybody. I had at least shaken hands, sent an email,” he said. “They knew who I was…”
With a large contact list, celebrities recognizing his brand and a new team consisting of his wife, Margaret and a few new associates, Persevere was taking off. One of his first big trends, leather track wear was becoming global.
“We’re to blame for all those dudes wearing leather in the summer time,” he said. “They were like ‘it’s not hot, it’s not hot, it’s lined so it’s okay,”’ he laughed.
Facing Jealousy, Other Obstacles and Persevering
Due to his success, he has, of course, encountered jealousy from people and business associates. They’re the ones who don’t or refuse to recognize his struggle and how he’s persevered through it all. Williamson, however, says he uses that jealousy as motivation. Similarly, he says when someone tells him he can’t do something he takes that notion and perseveres forward to exceed those expectations. For example, Williamson remembers that as a three-year-old child, he could not pronounce the word yellow.
“My mom said I used to not say yellow, I would say llellow,” he said. “So she would be like ‘you can’t do it, you just can’t do it’. But I went away and came back and said it. I need the challenge at the end of the day.”
With Williamson’s motivation in the face of obstacles, jealousy and being told what he cannot do, his brand has continued to flourish. According to him, his favorite season to design is fall.
At Persevere every season follows a theme. This season’s theme is “Concrete Cowboy.” Williamson says this theme caters to who people truly are. People wear suits to work but, he says, “we got people that work hours during the day and DJ at the top night clubs at night. We’re outfitting the alter ego of people when they transform, and [we] turn them into the people they really are.”
A New Kind of Urban Cowboy
The new line consists of new versions of cowboy boots and denim suits’ reminding you of an “urban warrior.” It’s not cowboy in the sense of riding a horse,” he said. “But they’re hitting the pavement.”
Since the beginning of Williamson’s 15-year career, he has been inspired by perseverance. According to the CEO, he has 25,000 plus followers on social media and he is adamant about sending a positive message of perseverance five days a week. Every day there is a quote posted relating to the PRSVR acronym, passion, resilience, sacrifice, values, and respect.
“Five fundamentals, five days a week,” he said. “25,000 followers, people are more engaged by the quotes than they are the clothes.”
Williamson Feeds His Followers
Williamson feels a responsibility toward his followers.
“I have to constantly feed them. Not everybody goes to church, not everybody reads,” he said. “If I’m that little bit that gets them through something terrible then cool. You have to change the world…change how people think.”
To see Williamson’s line or find Persevere locations check out http://prsvr.com/.