Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Messmer Grads Start Clothing Business

Four high school friends reunite to open a clothing store on N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.

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JaVaughn Porter (from left), Jamaal Hayes, Carlton LeRoy and Javonte Davis pose with friend Tai Words in their new store. The four men became friends while attending Messmer High School. Photo from Gifted Clothing/NNS.

JaVaughn Porter (from left), Jamaal Hayes, Carlton LeRoy and Javonte Davis pose with friend Tai Words in their new store. The four men became friends while attending Messmer High School. Photo from Gifted Clothing/NNS.

Javonte Davis, Carlton LeRoy, Jamaal Hayes and JaVaughn Porter knew from the first day they met at Messmer High School that they would be friends.

And they also know they didn’t want to work traditional jobs after college.

After getting experience in their own fields, the friends decided to team up and start a business of their own.

“We don’t want to work for somebody else. We want freedom of expression. We want to be able to do what we like to do,” Davis said. “We all like clothes, I like to draw, we can put those two together and make a real business and a clothing line.”

In March 2017, the four friends launched their brand, Gifted Clothing. They recently opened their first store at 2714 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.

Davis, 25, started creating designs while studying at the University of Dubuque, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

LeRoy, 26, enlisted in the military after graduating from Messmer but then returned to finish his education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in human resource management. He will graduate this semester with an MBA from UWM.

Hayes, 26, he earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and minored in business and communication at Holy Family College.

Porter, 25, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance and received a certificate in entrepreneurship from UWM.

After graduating from Messmer, the four went their separate ways. But LeRoy made sure they all stay connected.

“LeRoy was the main one who kept in contact with everybody because he was in the military,” Davis recalled. “He made sure and would merge the calls. We would meet up at his house when he came back.”

Working as a team

Porter uses his knowledge in finance; Hayes contributes his communication skills and outreach to the community; LeRoy handles business logistics and management; and Davis serves as the artist and creates the designs.

Gifted Clothing has merchandise for women and men, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps and beanies. There are various designs like the bear logo, the fake love logo and the bear reflection logo.

“The bear logo symbolizes courage,” Davis explained. “Our motto is everyone has a God-given talent. Some people don’t have the courage or even the resources to help them express that talent.”

The road to becoming entrepreneurs has been challenging, but the four have found that working together offers its own special reward.

“To have something to still be part of my degree and I’m still working towards, it speaks volumes for me,” Porter said. “Doing this right here makes me very happy and to do it with people I grew up with and I call family makes me even more. It’s like a flower blossom or a dream coming true.”

Gifted Clothing is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

One thought on “Messmer Grads Start Clothing Business”

  1. Mark Kennelly says:

    Nice story!

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