International YouTube stars back Rocky teen tycoon's brand
DURING the middle of class, 15-year-old Cooper Weldon feels his phone vibrating in his pocket.
It's production day and even before glancing at his phone, he knows it's the printing site seeking approval on the first run of his Tees By Cooper shirts.
The Year 10 Heights College student anxiously waits for a lunch break to call the site back.
He touches base and gives the go ahead, ensuring he gets products to customers on time.
Local clothing line, Tees By Cooper, is the brain child of the Rockhampton teen which came to fruition in late 2016.
The young entrepreneur was in graphics class when the business idea struck him.
He wanted to start a clothing brand, but not just any clothing brand. He wanted to ensure it would be an ethically run business, free from slave labour.
His brand has attracted high profile Youtube stars, Jess and Gabe Conte, who have a following of 2.1 million people, and top Aussie music duo Busby Marou.
Now just a year from launching his brand, Cooper has gained an international client base, with a second brand well under way.
"It was 2016 towards the end of the year when I had a bit of an idea that I wanted to start a clothing brand,” Cooper said.
"I spoke to some people about it and because I wasn't too sure about doing it but they said I should just go with it and see how it unfolds.”
In the December school holidays of 2016, Cooper started working on his business with the first lot of clothing launching in early 2017.
"I went from there, I began releasing a few different designs and then six months into having the business, the clothing line went international,” he said.
"I started selling to China, Japan and the United States.”
Cooper first harnessed the opportunity to go international through YouTube stars and good family friends, the Bowers.
"Their daughter is a YouTuber over in America and agreed to wear my clothing in a promotional Instagram story and that attracted a lot of attention internationally,” he said.
Bringing in big sales from international clients, Cooper continued on the path of social media promotion.
"I found that it has been very successful in driving sales and creating pathways into releasing new products,” he said.
Wanting to grow his brand from strictly tee-shirts to other accessories such as sunglasses, he talked to another ethically produced clothing company in Brisbane who advised him to keep the brand open ended.
"I did start by calling the brand Tees By Cooper, but I wanted to increase and expand on that, so I have somewhat re-branded it to call it TBC,” Cooper said.
"It's not limited to just tee-shirts now, however I do want to put a heavy emphasis on the tee-shirts themselves and have the sun glasses as an extra.”
The 15-year-old said throughout the whole process, producing the clothes ethically has been an important factor for him.
His passion for ensuring the making of the clothing was free of slave labour began after watching a movie which addressed such issues in the industry.
"It really touched me, just being confronted with all the scenarios of people getting pulled into working in those conditions because they have no choice and no income,” he said.
"They don't have their way out of the industry because of the need for money.
"So I wanted to make a brand that wasn't just a tee-shirt you buy, but a tee-shirt that comes with a meaning behind it.”
Sourcing a wholesale company that was already certified to be free from these sorts of labours was one of the first moves Cooper made in business.
With his business well established, Cooper said it was hard to find a happy balance between school and work.
"I guess at the start I thought it would be a small clothing brand for my friends and for me to have ethical clothing to wear, but then it just took off,” he said.
"In school I find it hard during the day to focus sometimes, especially if I'm getting printing done.
"The printer is pretty reliant on talking to me to discuss if I'm happy with the first run of the tee shirts and whether we will go ahead with the bulk lot.”
Cooper said it was hard to be in contact with them while at school and to try and make decisions.
"I have handled that now as I do have iMessage on my laptop so I can still be contacted for business stuff,” he said.
"It isn't a great option, but I try to do that in my lunch times.”
In the near future the business owner said he would love to see the brand hit retailers.
"My goal for the next five years is to get it into retailers and let people know about it, to have it available in stores and not just online,” he said.
"I think my first plan to do that will be to go through boutiques around Rockhampton then grow it to other boutiques around Australia.
"I want to get into the bigger retailers once I get know a bit more and they are happy to stick with my brand.”
Cooper also owns 40 per cent of Sunshine Coast based company, Disciple Co.
"The vision for that brand is to make it more of a high end clothing line that is accessible to one of a kind designs,” he said.
"We also want to go into motivational speaking in schools and talking to people about how they view these tees, with this particular brand.”
While he is only in Year 10, Cooper said he already had plans for when he left school.
"Mum and dad want me to have something else to fall back on but at the moment all I am really focusing on is my businesses,” he said.
"I want to see it take off and be my full-time career and business once I leave school.”
WHERE TO FIND THEM
- Head over to the Facebook Page TBC to check out more products
- Visit TeesByCooper on Instagram
- Or head to www.teesbycooper.com