Last spring, at the start of the first lockdown, three Lower Sixth Formers with a love of art and design put pen to paper, or rather in their case ‘Sharpies to leather’, to create a bespoke pair of Nike Air Force 1 trainers. Thus, a new business YBK (Your Best Kicks) was formed, and this pair of trainers became the first of many to receive the handiwork of Alex Edun, Henry Cudjoe and Maxwell Martin.
With the support of Mr Waterhouse, Head of Economics and Business Studies, the boys decided to develop their custom design business further as part of a new Fifth Form project to bridge the gap between GCSEs and Sixth Form courses.
While their designs were proving popular amongst their peers, through the project, the boys learned more about the business side of their initiative. They worked hard to develop their brand; they designed a company logo, researched and developed their unique selling point, created a website and set about generating interest in their product.
The boys not only worked hard to develop new designs for their trainers but also learned how to run a business and experienced first-hand the challenges associated with this.
Mr Waterhouse said, “The sheer creativity and effort that went into the finished product was amazing, but what was equally impressive was the boys’ business fundamentals.”
Now, one year on, Alex Edun and Henry Cudjoe have galvanised over 2,000 followers on Instagram and are the owners of a profit-making business. The boys sought the help of local entrepreneur and Old Bedfordian Harry Beard, who helped them see the importance of networking and introduced them to other people in the industry who could help them.
One of these introductions was Luke Treharne (Welsh Rugby International) and the boys set about designing a pair of boots for him. Henry then connected with Dan Bibby (England 7s player) who also sent a pair of boots to be customised.
Henry said, “We are looking to merge individuality with art and are customising with the rugby industry. We don’t know very many people who do this.”
The boys have also set up an account on the new voice-based social media platform Clubhouse, where they give a weekly talk in a room dedicated to artists. Here they can network with other like-minded people as well as big names in fashion who have taken an interest in their work.
Alex said, “We have been able to connect with lots of other artists and we are slowly building a community.”
Additionally, with support from the school, they have spoken to lawyers, and are collaborating with students at Bedford Girls’ School about expanding their customs into other items, such as bags and clothing. They also hope to hold a raffle or auction to raise money for charity – watch this space!