High Powered Customs Garments on a roll in Garment Printing
A black-owned roller rink slated to open in Spryfield this summer is turning heads, and all of the company’s swag is made by another local black company, High Powered Customs Apparel.
Stefan Williams, owner and operator of High Powered Customs Apparel, said he never met Shane Upshaw, the owner of Upshaw’s Roller Dome, until recently Upshaw approached him about a business relationship.
“It’s very important to support black businesses so that the money can circulate in the community,” Williams said in an interview with the Examiner. “Many black businesses don’t survive because they don’t have the support of the black community.”
Williams said Upshaw wanted to use an upcoming roller skating event as an opportunity to promote the opening of the Roller Dome. He contacted Williams to order clothing for Upshaw’s Roller Dome to sell at that event and eventually for the store itself.
“Big thanks to Stefan Williams for the quick and great work on our swag. If you’re wondering, yes we will be making apparel,” Upshaw wrote in a post on Upshaw’s Roller Dome Facebook group with pictures of one of the hoodies.
Williams said the majority of his clients and clients are either Black, other Black-owned businesses, or Black organizations and groups.
After a string of jobs, Williams returned to school at NSCC in 2012 at age 31 to major in business administration. While there he designed a logo “I Am HP” – HP refers to the black community of the Upper Hammonds Plains where he grew up.
With no money to print the logo on t-shirts, Williams began promoting the shirts through social media and taking pre-orders.
He put the profit he made from these sales back into the business. Williams was able to leave his other job to pursue High Powered Customs full-time.
Williams said the acronym for High Powered Customs was deliberately intended to reflect the nickname he and his colleagues created when they were kids, growing up in their “Hammonds Plains community” — “HPC.”
“When we were young people, we just called it HPC, a Hammonds Plains community thing,” Williams said.
“A few people even have HPC tattoos and stuff. My thing was, how can I turn it around? So I came up with High Powered Customs just trying to keep the acronym.”
Williams said the fact that most of his clients are black likely stems from widespread connections he forged in black communities.
“I’m well known in the black communities just because I’ve lived all over the cities. And I have a good reputation in town. people know me And after I’ve done my job, people like the job, so it’s word of mouth.”
“Most of the business is black businesses. And not just black companies, but black people too. Even those starting their own clothing line or starting their own business.”
His first major client was Habitat for Humanity. Williams has also designed jerseys for basketball tournaments, Black Lives Matter golf apparel, apparel for Studio 26 Dance Company, and apparel for a black entrepreneurship event through the Tribe Network.
He said he designed his own clothes, which many people may have seen but didn’t know who made them.
“There’s a lot of Black Lives Matter shirts out there, I mean a lot… that I’ve printed. Another, ‘Scotian Since 1783’, which is another shirt I developed a few years ago and released during Black History Month,” Williams said.
Williams was also approached to design a logo and t-shirts for the African Nova Scotian Freedom School. One of the teachers at the school is Wendie Wilson who also designed and designed the African Nova Scotian Flag.
Wilson told the Examiner how she and Williams connected through his work with the Freedom School and teamed up to design shirts for the African Nova Scotian flag.
“I’ve seen him out there trying to do his thing and the quality of the work, so I reached out to him and asked if, as a small black business, he would be interested in getting the African flag outfitted from Nova Scotian so that he would benefit from it, but he also agreed to give back 25% to Africentric Education Initiatives in Nova Scotia,” Wilson said.
“I think it’s paramount that we support black businesses and keep black dollars in the community. I think it’s one of the most important factors in building sovereignty and self-sustainability, and it only benefits me when my community is doing well.”
“I just think it’s really important in general that I think if someone in our community — the black community, the African Nova Scotian community — does well, then it just benefits everyone. That benefits us all.”
Williams said he talks to his teenage kids about what it takes to run a business and make a living.
“I’m not sure what they think of it, but I talk to them a lot about it,” he said. “I’m very transparent with my kids, even when it comes to how much profit I make. For example: ‘I bought this for this amount of money, this is how much I’m selling it, so I was able to make this amount.’”
“I try to let them know that they don’t even have to work for anyone and try to teach them that there are other ways to make money.”
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