Amir Harris is a junior at ASU who's working hard to start his career before he even graduates.
Harris, a technological entrepreneurship and management student, is the chief executive officer of the developing brand HGU Apparel.
When Harris was 16 years old, he was walking the halls of Independence High School in Glendale when he had an epiphany.
“I saw like five guys walk by wearing the exact same shirt, jeans, shoes and you know, varying color schemes, but like, same hat, too," he said. "And these guys weren’t all friends ... They were all from different walks of life, and you couldn’t tell that from their exterior."
In that moment, Harris knew that he wanted to apply his entrepreneurial spirit to a more aesthetically creative field: clothing design. Thus, HGU Apparel was born.
Even though the HGU concept was born while Harris was still in high school, living in ASU's Startup Village on the Polytechnic Campus has benefited the brand. Harris is living among a select group of Sun Devils that are in the process of developing technology, consumer products or in his case, clothing.
"The Startup Village is full of engineers," said Harris. "When they hear 'entrepreneur,' they think apps."
As a child and young teenager, Harris wanted to be an engineer. However, in his time at Independence High School he eventually realized that engineering was “a bit too cold” for his naturally exuberant personality.
Living in the Startup Village has given Harris the resources to build his business and go to college simultaneously.
"In the Startup Village it's not only about what you can get, but about what you can give. Every villager is a resource to one another, with different specialties," said Harris. "(We have) opportunities for micro-funding, (the) budget for a tech-shop and a knowledgable community."
Whether or not HGU is the typical millennial concept of a startup, Harris has found ways to make his business work. With a team of approximately 25 hard-working individuals, some from ASU, and others not, Harris has thrown advertisement parties, created a Youtube channel and had several photoshoots to promote the HGU brand.
HGU is rooted in the belief that people, especially young people, should be able to represent their true, internal selves through an external medium.
After a quick glance at his personal social media, it is clear that Harris consistently represents HGU in a way that makes casual, comfortable clothing appear elevated. As the brand’s creator, his personal mannerisms match the company’s concept.
Between oversized smiles and animated eyebrows, Harris is articulate when he speaks, but also completely unrehearsed.
HGU Apparel produces casual streetwear for both men and women. They sell t-shirts, tank tops, crewneck sweatshirts and more. HGU technically stands for "Honorable Guilty Uth," and much of their clothing consists of a graphic featuring the words "honorable" or "guilty."
Harris describes himself as a "nice Steve Jobs" at work. In his opinion, that means that he's always looking for new ideas and expects his team to be equally as innovative. At the same time, his team is a family, and he makes a point to make each person feel valued.
“When I first met him, he was just this college kid who had a dream but had no idea what he was doing with that dream … a lost kid with a cause. Now, he is a driven man, always trying to find a new way to be successful,” said Alexander Mireles, HGU photographer and Harris’ close friend.
In his personal life however, Harris said, “I am everybody’s big brother. … I want to be that figure that I never had (for other people).”
Although he is only 21 years old, Harris is confident and self-assured. At first glance, he’s just another student wearing jeans, a hat and t-shirt, but he knows exactly why he and HGU are successful.
Harris considers Keith Warner, owner of Affordable Signs 'N More, to be his mentor. The two met by chance when Harris was working as a cook at a swap-meet. Warner had been making t-shirts at the meet, and Harris' curiosity led him over to the table.
Now, Harris calls Warner on a weekly basis to discuss branding techniques, t-shirts and business.
"He certainly does have a lot of drive and initiative, a lot more than most kids his age,” Warner said. “Sometimes his ideas are a little grandiose, but everybody’s gotta have a dream.”
Reach the opinion editor at Kendra.Penningroth@asu.edu or follow @KPenningroth on Twitter.