Entrepreneurship contest: Distinctive fashion, environmental conscience prove winning combo for Rutgers senior

A Rutgers University student is headed to the national finals after winning the state round of a business competition called the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Kwaku Agyemang co-owns BrownMill Co., a Piscataway-based fashion company that aims to reduce the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills. With the senior’s win at the local level, he received $1,500 and the right to go on to the national round of the competition, to be held Jan. 10-11 in Denver — with the chance to advance to the global finals in Macau.

Michael Schofel, left, presents the winning check to Kwaku Agyemang of BrownMill Co.

“These college students are amazing,” Michael Schofel, a managing partner with Livingston-based real estate development and property management firm Eastman Cos. who is the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s New Jersey GSEA chair, said in a prepared statement. “While studying for their various degrees, they are creating the future of New Jersey and opportunities for the U.S. We are so proud to have Kwaku Agyemang represent New Jersey at the national finals.”

Agyemang, 21, is a finance major at the Rutgers Business School with a concentration in entrepreneurship. The Ghanaian-American is a native of Newark who now lives in Piscataway.

“BrownMill is a lifestyle brand touted as a mix between bespoke tailoring and streetwear, with a focus on the community,” he told ROI-NJ. “The company gets its textile waste through donations, imports and thrift stores. A piece of salvaged material is incorporated into every design to create entirely new garments. We produce a range of clothing and accessories, including hats, tops, outerwear and pants. We also offer on-site alteration services at our headquarters in Piscataway.

“We hope to create a more sustainable future for our global community.”

BrownMill was created by Justis Pitt-Goodson, who founded the business at age 14 in 2009, creating ties and other products from his mother’s old dress material. Pitt-Goodson, now creative director, was joined by Taha Shimou, head graphic designer, in 2011, and Agyemang joined to oversee finance and sales in 2013.

“BrownMill Co. is currently in our ‘growth’ stage,” Agyemang said. “We have a strong customer base here in New Jersey and steady business flow right now, but there is a lot of room for improvement. We are currently looking at ways to expand our company and resources. The plan is to scale up production by hiring tailors and buying better machinery. After doing this, we wish to run PR campaigns and increase our local community engagement.”main

The competition is open to undergraduate students or new graduate students under age 30 who have active businesses, with revenue or investment — as opposed to merely having a plan or startup idea.

Todd Baldwin of WellPower was the runner-up in the competition.

“Winning this award was truly a blessing to the company and me,” Agyemang said. “The EO organization has empowered us to better ourselves through their constant mentorship and guidance. Working with EO mentors such as (serial entrepreneur) Steve Ferman gave me a new outlook on running a successful small business. At the competition, we were able to have Q&A sessions with extremely accomplished individuals, which provided me with invaluable insight into a vast majority of topics.

“As a growing company, the constructive feedback we received from the organization has been of great help. We have implemented many of their recommendations to our business processes. Being part of this competition has driven us to be better and set higher goals for ourselves.”

EO, based in Houston, has membership of more than 13,000 entrepreneurs in 57 countries around the world.

“We also thank the extraordinary efforts of the many New Jersey businesses and entrepreneurs from the state’s chapter of EO who helped make this happen, thanks to lending their expertise in finance, marketing, branding and serial entrepreneurship,” Schofel said.

Princeton University junior Todd Baldwin finished as the runner-up for his work with WellPower, a sustainable solution to off-grid clean water access.

“Both winners — first place and second place — are accomplished individuals that show that entrepreneurial can-do spirit already,” Schofel told ROI-NJ. “They both had interesting, exciting businesses.”

For Agyemang, the future involves both his business and the financial world at large.

“After graduation, I plan to continue to work and grow BrownMill Co. with the hope of expanding the company,” he said. “The goal is to bring the vision of environmentally conscious garments to the forefront of modern fashion.

“This summer, I will be entering my third internship with Goldman Sachs. Interning at a distinguished firm such as Goldman has bene a great experience for me these last couple of years. Soon, I hope to create a venture capital firm that focuses on minority entrepreneurs from underprivileged communities.”