As young teens in impoverished New Orleans homes, Marlon Watts and Nicholas Clark decided to help feed their families by becoming “street entrepreneurs,” selling things like candy and smartphone accessories to their classmates. After noticing how much their peers cared about fashion, Marlon and Nicholas started their own line of clothing (2010).
Nicholas: “We’d load up shirts in a car and go sell them all and come back. Our friends were doing other things, we tried our best to find another way, something that would one day be huge.”
While growing up, no one around these young men owned businesses or had even finished college. The youth in this culture were told that entering the workforce and getting as good of a job as possible were the only options available to them.
Marlon and Nicholas dreamt of something more. They dreamt of being their own bosses. They dreamt of rising above their station and showing those around them that there are many avenues to success.
In 2014, the WRLDINVSN brand became an LLC and went online. This was all while Marlon and Nicholas were in high school. At first, the business was simply to make money, but in their first year of college, they began to realize that this business could be their future.
Marlon: “As we got older, people started to take us more seriously; they started saying, ‘maybe these kids really have something.’”
Marlon: “There was one other brand that came before us and were doing what we wanted to do in New Orleans, and we looked up to them. Then they moved on, and suddenly we were the ones being looked up to. People in high school now look to us like we looked to this other brand. Like, ‘wow, they’re really doing it!’”
What Makes WRLDINVSN Different?
Marlon and Nicholas came from low-income urban environments in New Orleans. They’ve experienced the inner workings of their target market firsthand. They know what it’s like to feel stagnant and trapped, to be told you can only ever take one path in life.
Nicholas: “When you ask people what they want to do, they can tell you, but when you ask how they’ll get there, they have no idea. A lot of people around us in New Orleans just never took the steps to get where they actually wanted to go. They get caught up in the workforce and never rise past that. I wanted more.”
Because they understand the struggles of their target audience, WRLDINVSN is better suited to cater to the needs of these youth than big clothing brands.
Marlon: “These big brands are not from the youth’s culture, and they’re selling them products that they can’t even afford. And the youth just buy into it because they’re told that it’s cool.”
Marlon: “We’ve come from where you’ve come from. We’ve been where you’ve been. We’ve gone through what you’ve gone through. You put our clothes on because we know what you’ve been through, we understand you. These big brands bring in fashion from other places and tell the kids it’s cool, but the kids don’t know the story behind it. They buy it even though it’s way too expensive for them.”
Nicholas: “Everything I design, everything we sell has meaning to us. We don’t just sell something to sell something. It all has a meaning.”
Marlon and Nicholas are gaining a platform through WRLDINVSN to inspire youth back home to dream beyond their bubble. And their platform is steadily expanding.
Marlon: “We’re just trying to go out and show people that they can do whatever they want. We’re trying to give hope to the hopeless, to inspire kids back home to never be satisfied with where they are, to always be striving for more. God gives us all something we’re good at: go pursue that, instead of just doing what everyone around you has told you that you have to do.”
More of Our Story
The great setback
Nicholas: “We were making a lot of money, and then we missed one step. One New Year’s Eve this year, we had all of our stuff stolen: the laptop with our designs on it, our company's IPad, and all our cash.”
Marlon: “We had to sit back and think: should we keep doing this, or should we just stop?”
Nicholas: “But we realized that if we stop, everyone back in New Orleans that looks at our brand will think, ‘if they can’t do it, neither can I.’ So we had no other choice but to create a successful business. It’s about more than us now.”
If there’s any culture or community that knows about being knocked back to square one, it’s New Orleans. In a way, this setback for WRLDINVSN can actually help their message to resonate with their target youth.
Marlon: “Before Katrina, I could have everything I ever wanted. I’d wake up with presents on both sides of my bed. After the hurricane, my life changed dramatically. I was staying in a trailer for two or three years, and we still don’t have furniture in our house. Every time we go back home, going back to nothing inspires us to work even harder.”
After enduring their own mini-Katrina at the start of the year, the co-founders of WRLDINVSN can stand as an example to people back home, an example of how to continue after being brought back to ground zero.
An Adventurous, Entrepreneurial Spirit
Nicholas: “When we had a week off of school one time, we drove from Ruston to Dallas, from Dallas to Austin, from Austin to Houston, then to Lafayette and Baton Rouge, then all the way to Atlanta and back. We survived by selling clothes. We packed the car with clothes, drove to all these cities, and just sold to people. That’s how we learned we can really do it.”