SmartGuyApparel | National Black Business Month Interview Series

August is National Black Business Month. To celebrate TheBlack.Blog will be releasing a month-long interview series featuring black businesses across the country. New interviews will premiere every Monday at 5pm CST. Plus, series bonus interviews premiere on Fridays.

For Interview 3 of National Black Business Month: Interview Series presented by TheBlack.Blog, we spoke with Marquis Reese. Marquis is a Western Michigan University alum with a degree in Sports Management and the co-founder of SmartGuyApparel. SmartGuyApparel is an apparel business that uses clothing to promote knowledge, power and love.

In this interview we will discuss SmartGuyApparel, Marquis’ role as a co-founder, and his overall entrepreneurship journey. 


TheBlack.Blog:

Hello and welcome to the National Black Business Month: Interview Series presented by TheBlack.Blog. Today, we are talking with Marquis Reese, the co-founder of SmartGuyApparel. Start with telling us a little bit about yourself for those who may not know you. 

SmartGuyApparel:

I’m Marquis Reese. I was born and raised in the outskirts of Chicago, the south suburbs. I’m 24 years old and I currently live in Atlanta, Georgia. My entrepreneurship journey started early while I was in college. I knew once I was in college that I wanted to start a brand. From there, I became the person I am now.

TheBlack.Blog:

Let’s talk about your journey in college. Was there a pivotal moment that jump started everything? 

SmartGuyApparel:

I knew I wanted to start something early. It was my sophomore year in college where I was like, “Okay, I want to start a brand.” I started with the name. That’s where ‘SmartGuy’ came about. ‘SmartGuy’ didn’t launch until my senior year of college, during the pandemic in 2020. So it took a long time for me to get there, but it was something that started early when I was in college. 

TheBlack.Blog:

Tell us about the name. It’s a cool one. How did you come up with it? Is there an origin story?

SmartGuyApparel:

The origin story starts with the first name. It’s a funny story and I will never forget it. The name at first was going to be something like ‘Grind and Maintain.’ I remember starting to make some mock ups. I  called my stepdad and he was like, “That name is horrible.” He shot it down quickly. I remember going to sleep that night, and while I was dreaming the only thing I know was inside my dream somebody was like, “You are a smart guy, you are a smart guy.” They kept saying it. They said it three times. When I woke up, I was like ‘SmartGuy.’ Boom! That was the name me and my co-founder stuck with it. We decided on the name ‘SmartGuyApparel’ and went from there. 

TheBlack.Blog:

Wow, that’s a great story. So you mentioned your co-founder, give some insight into the partnership. What is each co-founder’s role in SmartGuyApparel?

SmartGuyApparel:

It’s really all about collaboration. We come together to plan new drops and to create artwork. It’s teamwork.

TheBlack.Blog:

With knowing more about the name origin story and the founders, let’s get into SmartGuyApparel. What is SmartGuyApparel for those who don’t know? Talk about the products and/or services SmartGuyApparel offers.

SmartGuyApparel:

SmartGuyApparel is a brand that designs and sells apparel. Through our apparel, it’s important for us to promote knowledge, power, and love. We want to not only express ourselves, but also educate people on different topics.  SmartGuyApparel is not gender specific. I know  ‘SmartGuy’ is in it causing people to think “it’s just for guys,” but it’s not. We tend to make a lot of  gender neutral apparel for both adults and children. Our latest drop was centered around Mental Health and in the future we’re going to focus on black culture, empowerment, equality, and women rights.

TheBlack.Blog:

You spoke about it briefly, tell us the backstory on the mental health collection.

SmartGuyApparel:

So it was for Mental Health Awareness Month. We did a collaboration with another brand, a guy I met in college. The drop was centered around self destruction disorder. Self destruction disorder is a mental health condition that tends to cause people to hurt themselves, both physically and emotionally, in different ways. With this collection, we wanted to bring awareness to the disorder and educate people on how it starts, ways to prevent it, and how to help those affected by it. This was probably one of our favorite drops because it wasn’t just about the art.  It was about reaching an audience of people and trying to educate them in a good way, and this collaboration did just that. 

TheBlack.Blog:

How did you learn about self destruction disorder?

SmartGuyApparel:

There’s a lot of people who battle it, even myself. Once I got more background on it, I realized this is something people need to know about.

TheBlack.Blog:

Let’s shift to the future. You spoke a little about topics SmartGuyApparel wants to bring awareness to in the future. Thinking on a grand level. Where do you see SmartGuyApparel in the future? 5 years?

SmartGuyApparel:

In five years, I want SmartGuyApparel to be really big. I want warehouse factories. I want to reach thousands of people. I want to be able to impact and touch more people with each drop. So, overall in five years, I expect great sales, warehouses, factories, big ownership and stuff like that.

TheBlack.Blog:

With the big dreams and goals you have, how do you balance it all? How do you navigate daily life, while also pursuing your dreams and goals? 

SmartGuyApparel:

It’s tough sometimes. Especially some days when I’m just tired. I’m a 24 year old adult, working full time, going to the gym, maintaining my body, being social, going out, and expanding the brand.  I’m not going to say it’s not tough working full time, getting off and still trying to find time to take and ship orders out. It’s definitely tough. It’s not easy, but when you have a purpose, a “why”, that drives you to find time to do the things you need to.

TheBlack.Blog:

With that being said, what is one thing you wish someone would have told you before starting your journey?

SmartGuyApparel:

Honestly, I wish somebody would’ve told me it wasn’t going to be easy or just given me a little synopsis of how it really was going to go before I stepped into it. I just wish somebody would’ve told me starting off, you are going to run into this problem, this problem, this problem, and also tell me the different ways that I can help prevent it in the long run. 

TheBlack.Blog:

You made a good point. So with knowing all that you know what’s one piece of advice you want to give an entrepreneur to help start their journey?

SmartGuyApparel: 

My advice would be to build a lot of knowledge before you start any business, really anything in general. Educate yourself  before you start. Talk to different people.  Build a lot of connections. Network with like minded people who can potentially help you or give you insight into how to get past obstacles down the line. 

TheBlack.Blog:

Great advice. So, we’re almost at the end of the interview but first we have some breaking news for you. All 5 businesses in the Interview Series have been automatically nominated for the Black Business Scholarship presented by TheBlack.Blog. In case you’re not familiar with the scholarship, here’s a brief summary. TheBlack.Blog presents a quarterly scholarship to businesses who we feel are making an impact. Scholars are selected via a nomination system allowing people to nominate businesses who they feel are impactful. 

So congratulations, SmartGuyApparel is officially in the running for the scholarship. With that being said, if SmartGuyApparel were to be awarded the scholarship, how would it be used to impact the business? 

SmartGuyApparel:

The scholarship would allow us to be more flexible, instead of being tentative with drops. It would help with product expenses allowing us to make more products and get them out quicker. Another big thing we would use it for is marketing.  So the scholarship would definitely help for sure.

TheBlack.Blog:

Well SmartGuyApparel, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and participating in the National Black Business Month: Interview Series presented by TheBlack.Blog.

SmartGuyApparel:

Thank you.

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Celebrate National Black Business Month with us!

New interviews premiere every Monday at 5pm CST. Series bonus interviews premiere on Fridays.

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