Student-run apparel company goes beyond t-shirts - Ball State Daily News | By. Kanyinsola Ajayi
Nate Robert-Eze always considered himself to be an entrepreneur. At 14, he repaired his old shoes and sold them to classmates. By 16, he was cutting people's hair.
“I’ve always been the type to get money somehow. It sounds weird, but there is always something that people need,” he said.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the sophomore urban planning major is running his own business at 19. It certainly isn’t to his family.
“My parents always said they knew something like this was bound to open,“ he said.
By "this,” he means his clothing apparel company, 2eze, a business with a mission to be a movement — not just a brand. 2eze focuses on three main things, he said: faith, simplicity and humility.
The business started when Robert-Eze created some designs for his family to wear last year. He shared the designs with friends, who said they would buy them.
Then he met Joshua Sims, a fellow urban planning major at Ball State, who liked the idea. A month later, they started selling t-shirts.
“Me and him are both the type to get stuff done,” Robert-Eze said.
Both students spend at least four hours every day working on their business. Most of their time is spent in Bracken Library. They’re always doing something, like conducting market research or designing a logo.
Robert-Eze is overwhelmed some days, but he said it’s worth it.
“I get my joys from the process; seeing small-term goals being accomplished,” he said. “It could be something as little [as] someone reposting a graphic I made for 2eze. That would make me very happy.”
There are five core members of 2eze who, in addition to Robert-Eze and Sims, are Ball State sophomores Malik Davis, Ken Cohen and Bryce Dotson.
Davis, Cohen and Dotson handle the financial, philanthropy and faith-based aspects of the business, respectively.
All their goals came together when Robert-Eze and his team started raising money for Olon Dotson, an associate professor of architecture, and his family.
Robert-Eze met Olon through a mentor before coming to Ball State.
He got to know him more through the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMAS). Olon is one of the two black professors in the College of Architecture and Planning, and while Robert-Eze is not one of his students, they still became close friends.
Robert-Eze went on a trip to New Orleans with Olon's class in Spring 2015. He became close friends with the professor's son.
This fall, the class took the trip again. Near the end of the trip, Olon's son was arrested. He is currently back in Indiana after his family posted bail.
“I remember when [Olon] told me — I just couldn’t believe it,” Robert-Eze said. “This kid is the nicest person you would ever meet. I could never see that happening to him.”
2eze decided to help Olon and his family pay for expenses like attorneys by giving them 15 percent of the profits from their $5 shirts.
Olon said he was very grateful.
“I see it as a form of activism,” he said.
Robert-Eze said that everything he does is a product of his heart.
“I feel like I am doing the right thing and have the right people behind me,” he said.