Cynthia E. Griffin | 6/17/2009, 5 p.m.
Los Angeles, CA -- While his contemporaries are out scrambling for a job this summer, Kalief Rollins, will be savoring his first place finish in the Merrill Lynch/NFTE Los Angeles Business Competition. But that will last only a minute because after that glow subsides a bit, the young entrepreneur will hit the streets again selling the products his company manufactures.
Rollins, a 17-year-old Carson resident and senior at Downey High School, recently took the top prize in the local Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) business plan competition and will now go on to match wits with 20 other teens from around the country in the nationals in New York this September.
While he's waiting on that event, the co-owner of Phree Kountry Clothing with spend this summer marketing and selling the T-shirts designed by his 22-year-old brother Anthony Rollins, Jr.
The idea to actually start a business came from his uncle Jabril Murphy, Rollins said.
"My uncle told us out of nowhere that we should come up with a clothing business since my brother liked drawing. But we never did anything about it because we didn't have the equipment," Rollins said.
But the suggestion to create a clothing company really did not come out of thin air, it came from something his uncle observed in his nephews.
"All my life, everyone has told me I'm a businessman and an entrepreneur. I was always doing something to get money. I would sell stuff at school--candy, bracelets. My family is used to me always selling, and we were talking about that."
Enrolling in a NFTE class at his high school gave Rollins the skills and knowledge he needed to take the next step. That was launching his company in early spring. Since that time, he has sold about 100 T-shirts to people around his school.
Phree Kountry Clothing consists of eight T-shirt designs and the most popular item is the Obama one, said the young entrepreneur.
"We made the T-shirts to show positive messages of urban culture; (and to promote) leadership themes to try to encourage and remind youth where they come from, and what the people before them went through."
Rollins said, the Obama shirt, their best seller, is black and white and depicts the words "Bush Rocks" with the image of a pile of old and faded looking rocks, crumbling. People are climbing over the rocks toward the sun and up toward Obama and the light.
The first place finish in Los Angeles earned Rollins a $1,500 prize, and now the senior has set his sites on New York and the top prize of $10,000. Meanwhile, this summer is about business and possibly opening a booth at a swap meet.
Down the road, he hopes to open a store with an expanded line.
To get more information about Phree Kountry Clothing, contact KaliefR22@yahoo.com.