Meet the 13-Year-Old CEO Taking Over Philly’s Fashion Scene
Celebrities like Meek Mill, Diddy, and Tierra Whack are all sporting Trey Brown's clothing line SPERGO. Here's how and why he built it.
What were you doing when you were 13? If you were like me, you were playing Xbox and trying to be the best NFL Madden and NBA 2K player. Most 13-year-olds I knew were doing the same, but not Trey Brown. The South Philly native is not the average 13-year-old boy.
Brown, who turns 14 in December, is CEO of SPERGO, a lifestyle clothing brand focused on empowering and inspiring people to pursue their ambitions. Launched in 2018, his brand has been worn all over the country and sported by celebrities like Meek Mill, Diddy, and Tierra Whack. Last month, investment management firm Invesco featured Brown in a commercial and placed his business story on a giant digital billboard in Times Square.
While on his way to Washington D.C. for business this week, the busy teenager found time to talk to BizPhilly about how he balances school with entrepreneurship, the challenges he faces being a young business owner, and how his brand keeps his friends off the streets.
BizPhilly: What inspired you to launch SPERGO?
Brown: There’s so much violence in my community. Kids are being killed; kids are killing kids. I created SPERGO to give myself and my friends another option. SPERGO keeps me busy and off the streets. This year, I was able to hire four of my friends and my brother at the Odunde Festival, and it felt so good to give them an opportunity to make money while doing something positive.
What’s the vision behind SPERGO and what can consumers expect from the brand?
SPERGO is high quality designer clothing. We use the best fabrics, and when you go to our online store, you will see quality products for women, men, and children. My brand is expanding everyday. We will have a luxury fall and winter section. Stay tuned.
How did you even begin to build the business?
I reinvested all of my earnings 100 percent. I don’t take money out of my business because it is still growing. Once I sold out my first week, I put all of my earnings towards my next purchase to get even more products. I kept doing that. I started SPERGO with $178, which was part of my birthday money. I asked my mom if I could start a clothing line, and she said, “Yes, we will research it.” But I took the initiative to reach out to some local people for help. A guy named Nehemiah Davis sent me about five hours of courses that he created on how to start a T-shirt business in 30 days. I watched them all and took notes. I took that information to my mom, and she was excited. We bought blank t-shirts and got them printed. As soon as we got them, I went to local shops to sell them.
SPERGO has sold over 5,000 products nationally and internationally since starting just 18 months ago. I have also had months that I have grossed over $10,000. Many of my sales come from my online store or vending events. I have had several wholesale deals with more than 500 products per order. SPERGO has had great success so far, but you haven’t seen anything yet!
Where did you learn your business savvy?
I have mentors all over the world, some that I have met in person and some that I haven’t. Some people that I look up to are Diddy, Jay-Z, Damon John, Ed Mylett, Grant Cardone, and Steve Jobs. They’ve had major success, and I study them and what they have done to be successful. I use what I’ve learned in my own life. I also listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks. I make sure that I learn something new every day.
Do you think you’re belittled because of your age? And do you get discouraged because you’re so young?
My age has many advantages and disadvantages. Some people don’t take me seriously. They kind of look over me when it comes to business deals or opportunities that they give to older people, but I let my work speak for me in those cases. I’m only 13 and work very hard. I handle every part of my business, and when people see me, they double back. They want to work with me, and they respect me.
I don’t really get discouraged because I feel that “no” means next opportunity. I believe that if I continue working hard the next opportunity is on the way. In the beginning stages, I would go out to barbershops and ask people if they’d like to support. They’d say, “No I’m good.” In the beginning, a lot of my friends laughed at me, but I always empowered myself. I would always tell myself that I am powerful, I am strong, I am amazing. They always laughed at me for that, but now they all want to do it, too. A lot of people counted me out, but I make sure I always get a seat at the table.
How do you balance school with running your business?
My mom is a teacher, so education is definitely a priority in my household. I am also homeschooled so that gives me flexibility in my schedule, giving me time for SPERGO and my studies. I make time for both and still hang out with my friends. Some days I spend a full day on school work because I want to make sure I have time for SPERGO. There’s a saying, “Do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do.” I live by that.
It seems like everyone in Philly has their own clothing brand. Other than being younger than all of those entrepreneurs, what makes your brand unique?
SPERGO has so many different characteristics that make it stand out. We are an inspirational brand that represents strength and courage. SPERGO encourages people to be fearless and follow their dreams. When you wear SPERGO, I want you to feel like you can do anything. That’s why I put the “GO” on the end of the word SPERGO.
How important is it that you inspire young people through your brand?
Inspiring kids just like me is exactly why I started SPERGO, so its very important for me. I think the kids are seeing the work I’m doing and are being inspired to start new businesses. That’s a blessing.
What kind of response have you been getting from the general public?
SPERGO is definitely being recognized all over the world. I just shipped clothing to the Netherlands and France. A couple of weeks ago DaBaby had on SPERGO for three days straight. That was one of my most proud moments to see DaBaby — a number one platinum artist — wearing our Leo sweatsuit, our flex jacket, our durag, and our unisex crewneck.
Do you think that your clothing brand will be around for a long time?
Absolutely. I’m in this for the long haul. SPERGO is going to be a household name. You’ll see SPERGO in Neiman Marcus, Saks, Macy’s, and many more big stores. This will be a part of my legacy that inspires people forever.