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Interviewer: Tanysha Bolger
Starting up your own business can be a scary and daunting adventure, but for young entrepreneur Jesse Chapman, things have only just begun. ‘Prodigious’ is a company that was founded in 2010 when Jesse was just 15 years old. Now, at just 18, Jesse has launched his own clothing line, for both men and women. The designs for the clothes began, like anything, just a concept. Refining and re-editing them, he began to learn the fundamentals of what setting up a business is like. Below we chat with Jesse about some of the challenges he has faced and what he sees for the future of the company.
So tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Jesse Chapman, I’m 18 and I live in a small town called Uraidla in the Adelaide Hills and live on a large apple orchard. I love music, photography, design and on the other side I am a fanatic about motorbike riding, every action sport and just being adventurous.
How did the idea for Prodigious come about and what does ‘Prodigious’ mean?
Prodigious came about when I was 15 in 2010. I always had the idea stuck in the back of my mind that I wanted to make a difference and the thought of starting up a business always thrilled me. I was inspired by an employee from an advertising company whom I had done work experience with, he was creative and had started up his own business. This had inspired me so I played around with some designs which then led to clothing designs. Prodigious means 1.Remarkably or impressively great in extent, size, or degree. 2.Unnatural or abnormal. I came up with idea, by basically looking through a dictionary for an unknown word that had a strong meaning and could be recognised easily as the brand we know now.
How did everything begin?
I started producing designs by drawing them or using computer software such as Photoshop or Illustrator. One of my first major designs I used to advertise on social media, being unaware of how powerful social media was, I soon became inundated with orders for this one design. However being inexperienced I was unsure of how I was going to produce the design. I spoke to a couple of suppliers which ended up being very costly so I ended pulling the pin on the idea which didn’t leave a good impression.
Later Dad I decided we should give it another shot so we thought of an inexpensive way, and so we built our own T-shirt printer called a screen printer. Printing was a fairly large process as we did all the setup of each design and we had to get each process near to perfect.
What are some challenges you have had to go through in order to get where you are?
With owning your own business there are many different fields you have to cover, each having their own challenges. To me screenprinting was probably the most challenging thing to begin with. For every single colour of a design, I was required to make up a screen, which was a long process in itself. The process can consist of about 5 different steps. If one step wasn’t done properly I would have to start again and I didn’t have a very good success rate. Another major challenge I encountered was actually making a profit, as in the first year I spent 100’s of dollars. When buying a garments I needed to order in bulk for it to be worthwhile although I didn’t have the customer base at the time.
What was the experience like designing the logo?
When designing the logo it became a fairly quick process, the idea however took a bit of thinking. I had to make sure it was unique and original along with being simple so it was easily recognised as Prodigious. The idea actually occurred to me while in bed keeping the idea fresh I quickly drafted it up the next morning and refined it. About half a year later I decided to refine the logo to just a one colour scheme to make it more versatile.
How did the company launch go?
We had the launch down at the BeacHouse function room. From the very beginning I realised I never properly launched the business off. I had been working on some projects to release along with a whole new range of clothes. Basically on the launch night I wanted to release it to my close friends and family and I wanted to introduce our new Prodigious Team, launch our brand new website and launch our new promo video we had been working on.
What is your main goal for the business and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have many goals for the business, my main goal at the moment is just spreading the word and making the business bigger and better. I’m working on some projects at the moment with our sponsorship program, I am also a strong believer in fair work so all our garments are sweat-shop free and I’m trying to much sure we have a cleaner environment by ensuring a low use of synthetic materials right down to the way it is delivered. I’m really trying to push that side of things as well. In five years, I hope that I will be able to get the brand into some major stores and really my ultimate goal is for it to be my career,
What are some things you wish you were told before starting your own business?
I wish I was probably told many things before starting my own business. I think a major one would be to gain a good knowledge of all aspects of running business and its specific field of ‘t-shirt printing’. Another point is organisation, there is a lot of preparation that’s involved in getting a business up to scratch, I think I kind of rushed into it before organising everything. Although I received a lot of encouragement from people, I also received a lot of other discouragement when I first started the business. I think that created a lot of doubt, however it also pushed me to prove them wrong.
Where’s your favourite place to travel in Australia?
My favourite place in Australia would have to be Queensland, both northern Queensland near Cairns and southern near the Gold Coast. However recently a few friends and I went on a road trip to Yorke Peninsula for the promo video and I would say that would have been my favourite part of South Australia.
Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?
I would say follow your dreams, as corny as that sounds.
-Be prepared for a the workload as business is a lot of work.
-Get a good understanding of starting up a business and the nature of your business.
-Be expected to not make much money or no money (like me) in the first couple of years.
-If you want to really take off, find a niche or just find a way to connect to your market unlike other competitors.
-Lastly the best advice I could give is to stick in there and not let people discourage you.
If you were given the option to have coffee and chat with a notable person such as a famous photographer, writer or actor (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
If I could have a coffee with any human being it would definitely be Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters. He is such an incredible musician not only that but one of the most successful entrepreneurs turning a small garage one piece band into one of the most successful rock bands. I purely would love to meet him because he’s so inspiring and is such a great character.
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