Rolling out sat down with the man behind Detroit VS Everybody, CEO Tommey Walker, inside his second store in Detroit’s Eastern Market. A recent honoree at the Michigan Chronicle‘s 2015 40 Under 40 event; the creative mind behind Detroit VS Everybody opens up about the brand and why “VS Everybody” is now trademarked.
Please describe your leadership style.
I like to do it like the Navy. The team that has developed happened organically. I like to give people responsibilities and let them be creative in solving problems. That is the way I operate. I treat my team the way I want to be treated. Everyone has their role and what they are good and it works.
What is your mission statement?
Change. Building. I am always working and that is where I have fun. I am a graphic designer by trade, so I always dealt with bringing thoughts to reality.
What three skill sets are critical for the future executives that you hire for your company?
It depends on the position. If it is a cashier, then they would need to be a people person, able to work with the public and customers. If you are doing manufacturing, I want to see focus. If the position is promotions, I want to see a “go get it” attitude” but it varies all depending on the particular role in the company.
How does having an advanced degree benefit you and your customers?
I actually did not graduate from college.
How do you utilize technology to benefit your brand and company?
I harness Twitter, Instagram, sales promotions, etc. But that is not the meat of our connection with the public. We do a lot of radio advertising, commercials, and billboards. Our best avenue of marketing is people wearing the brand. I would say everyone that wears the brand, brings in at least 10 new customers. Wearing in the world, they are a walking billboard for the brand.
Finish the sentences:
Team work is important because …
You can only go as far as your team. That is the only way things can get done. You cannot do it alone. The saying, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go farther go with a team. I do not think you have a choice than with a team.
The best way to recruit great talent is …
God brings it to us. That is the way it has been for us. It is hard to find good help, so honestly it is a cliche but they say 3 out of 5 people you find someone who is supposed to be with you. Business like this has a high turnover.
Describe your networking style.
We run our race. We are looking if something comes into our world but if we want to work with people we reach out or they will reach out. It is more on a case by case basis for collaborations, if it makes. We have our own idea where we are going but we are open.
If you were giving a graduation speech to high students, what would you say and why?
I would probably say what they want to hear but the parents wouldn’t want me to say it. With me being a road scholar and checking that out, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. I did two years at Wayne State University and two years at the Art Institute in Novi [Michigan] but I was never really in school. My mother is an educator so I was in school because I didn’t want to tell her I was already doing my entrepreneur thing.
I would tell them to follow their dreams but I would give them the truth and what worked for me. I paid attention to what I enjoyed. While under my parents roof, I did everything they wanted me to do and luckily I had parents who kept me involved so I was able to be hands on with a lot of things. From there, I found what I was good at, what interests me and picking up on different trades. I was able to find people that I admired and looked up to. I was curious. When I found out about package design, I found a guy who owned a record shop and told me if I worked for the record shop, he would teach me everything that he knew and he did.
I think kids needs vision. Especially with the media, the only thing that is represented are entertainers, rappers so that is all they see. And if you knew that you had other options, then you would exercise them. I am 29, I am still trying to figure it out for myself.
Name your two favorite vacation destinations to relax and recharge and why?
Home. I am an introvert, I like my home a lot. That is where my things are and my dog. And my sister and niece are in Atlanta so I like to go there and visit.
What are you reading and what are your two favorite books?
First the bible and I would say the Alchemist are my two favorite books.
Name three business leaders who inspire you.
Steve Jobs. Ralph Lauren. A guy named Orlando Williams who owns a tattoo shop in Southfield [Michigan], he is one of my mentors.
Favorite sports teams and hobbies?
All Detroit teams. My hobbies are drawing and creating.
What motivated you to trademark “VS Everybody”?
Honestly for protection. My intentions were to expand, like what we are doing now, in schools and cities and beyond. We went from Detroit to Everybody, to protect myself.