Southern Gents create change through style
Southern Gents is a menswear online shop started in the fall of 2013 by three UH alumni and one UH-D alumnus, but their story is one that began before the four friends made their collegiate dreams come true.
“Tunde and I have been friends since high school; we played sports together. We met Stephen later on in college through a mutual friend,” said Fola Lawson, who graduated from Bauer’s Professional Program in Accountancy in 2009.
Olu Lawson, Tunde Lawal, Stephen Mosby and Fola Lawson wanted to expand the menswear culture in Houston, and Southern Gents began as a blog that focused on attire, grooming and creating a professional appearance.
This September, the shop began carrying University-trademarked items, an endeavor the group is really excited about.
“We thought it would be a great way to boost school spirit and show that it isn’t just Nike T-shirts,” said Fola Lawson.
Besides school spirit, Southern Gents aims to promote a sense of community and proud citizenship.
“I think today there is a lighter sense of community. Men (historically) have more access to pioneering culture and movements,” said Fola Lawson.
“We are trying to make being an upstanding citizen something cool. Not so much as an ‘old man’ thing, and something that the youth look up to and not just what they see on TV.”
As with any journey, there have been some roadblocks on the road to success.
“We did not know the marketing aspect of starting a business,” said Mosby, who graduated from UHD in 2004 with an accounting degree. “Marketing is way more challenging that we thought it would be.”
Another struggle is getting consumers to understand what the Southern Gents’ brand and mission are.
“We have had a lot of people ask us what is Southern Gents and how can they join,” said Fola Lawson.
The group also hosts professional happy hours and goes to local high schools to speak to students. They are confident that what they learned in the classroom has prepared them for success.
“Just being able to understand the numbers as far as how it relates to the business and learning how to multitask as well,” Mosby said.
At Bauer, Fola Lawson said he learned that presentation matters just the same as keeping track of numbers.
“One of the lessons I learned at Bauer is that self-representation matters a lot. You have to dress the part if you want to be taken seriously,” he said. “Secondly, in my corporate experience I have learned that it is about understanding the client. Southern Gents is officially a business, and we need to understand our client base in different demographics. Customer satisfaction is everything.”
At the end of the day, Southern Gents is more than retail it aims to be a movement in itself.
“It means just being a stand-up prideful citizen and giving back to the community. It takes several individuals to build a successful community,” Fola Lawson said. “We are trying to cultivate an atmosphere of like-minded individuals to come together and continue to make change for the future and we have chosen to do it through style.”
Students can visit their website at s-gents.com