In 2015, Tuskegee University graduate Pharoah Kirk announced the creation of the CHRISTIAN HENRY brand. Headquartered in New York, designer and founder Pharoah Kirk brings a dynamic approach in men’s suiting by pairing classic Italian and English tailoring techniques with modern silhouettes. Kirk scours the globe each season and finds innovative materials to experiment with, providing designs for the modern, successful man who loves to make a bold statement in every room he enters. Read more of his journey below.
1) Tell us how you got started in your field
Bigger named brands and businesses may have swept the country of every professional dressed across the country, but there has been a need of extra care and quality. After bootstrapping the business with $25,000 in personal capital, I set out to create an international luxury brand that would help to not only educate those about custom suiting but to meet the needs and wants of every man internationally. After noticing that there was a lack of Blacks within the fashion industry of custom clothiers, it has become a mission of mine to revamp the spectrum of how the world sees designers.
Raised under parents that were entrepreneurs of dry cleaners in Detroit, Michigan, this helped to shape my entrepreneurial spirit at an early age. The setting provided a foundation for me to not only learn but also for me to gain tutelage learning how to service customers. From an early age, I aspired to present the confidence and uplifting self-esteem to others that I knew clothing could provide.
2) Talk to us about the initial startup stages with your business
I’d be dishonest if I painted a picture of happiness and say that this was me at all times. The initial stages were a tad bit challenging at times. But there was perseverance. There was determination. I knew that I had a burning fire like no one else simply because I wanted to be successful. Like any other startup company with no investors, startup capital, or funding, it can be an overwhelming feeling at times to wonder where sales were going to come from or how revenue should be spent to continue growing the business. There has been a great process of internal business maturation, but also a self-reflection, prioritization and a firm understanding that not everything needed to be tackled at once.
3) What is the most rewarding part for you about what you do?
There is no greater joy to see the excitement and smile on a man’s face once he is trying on his new suit that he helped to create, design, and be apart of as far as the decision-making process. A client once told me that, “I had low self-esteem previously, but knowing that I have on clothes that actually fit my body properly, and it helps that random strangers give me compliments as I walk down the street. It’s so uplifting to my spirits.”
That compliment along with other similar compliments that I have received over the course of my business career has helped me to know that business is not just about how much you’re profiting, but it’s about how much you’re making an impact to the individuals that you service.
4) What has been the biggest lesson about overcoming obstacles and failure that you have learned throughout your business journey?
Overcoming obstacles and failure is monumental. It’ll either make or break you as a person. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that you cannot allow yourself to have negative emotions in the world of business. It can be detrimental or catastrophic to your business if you allow these emotions to be seen, heard, or assumed. I operate with a strong level of positivity. Positivity is infectious because it allows the world to witness vibes that genuinely make someone beautiful inside and out.
5) Tell is about upcoming projects you are working on
Currently, there are two focal projects that I am currently working on. 1. Because we have recently entered into the “red carpet” season (Oscar’s, Grammy’s, etc.), my team and I are working diligently on making sure that all of our clients look their best on the red carpet and after-parties with never seen styles and designs before. This means that we are partnering with celebrity stylists and professional agents to make sure all provided clothing is prioritized and perfect for every signature event. 2. We are creating educational curriculum for the symposiums of the NFL that will help to educate rookies on the importance of their attire. This is extremely important to the building of their brand but also to the adherence for their employers.
6) How did your experience at an HBCU prepare you for your current entrepreneurial endeavors?
While attending Tuskegee University, the institution and student life helped to prepare me for battles of management of personal funds, proper etiquette of business meetings, and punctuality of time management. A lot of HBCU graduates often share stories of their unique experiences, but after all stories are told, there is a sense of “togetherness” in the air. It’s a feeling that individuals whom have never attended an HBCU can feel. No matter what HBCU you attended, that bond is truly something unique.
7) Leave us with some words of advice you can offer to aspiring and current entrepreneurs?
There are three key elements for aspiring and current entrepreneurs that are critical to their success.
1. Organization – Without this, your business will fail. Look into utilizing all resources that can help you to stay on top of organization. There are various apps and software that will be your best friend during your journey.
2. Education – Look into your local cities for programs that are offered for aspiring and/or current entrepreneurs. These programs may be in the form of incubators, workshops, and seminars. These are a wealth of knowledge not only from the material that is given, but to the individuals that you will meet.
3. Networking – This is a key element. Putting yourself out there to meet individuals whom you may or may not know is extremely important as it helps to bring awareness and future services or sales to your business.