Phind out Phriday: God Bless America and God Save the Duke, Seun Oludodun of Duke&Winston

In the fall of 2009 I was pretty excited about attending Philadelphia’s fashion week final fashion show.  I won’t comment on the show, but I will comment on the vendors. One in particular was Duke&Winston, a t-shirt line that I never heard of. The competitor in me was skeptical, but the creative in him easily won me over. The designs were solid and the owner was personable. A couple of years later running errands in the city I see a big ol’ white van driving up Walnut street with “Duke&Winston” in big black letters artistically angled on the side.  I made a mental note to google the brand and see what I could do to get an interview.
And sure enough after errands were run, Duke&Winston   googled, an email was sent and then it was like two weeks before Seun  Oludodun, owner of Duke&Winston, emailed me and shared  that my initial email went to his spam folder. Within two days I was in his new showroom space in Northern Liberties, talking with him and the Duke about Duke&Winston. This is what I phound out.
Phreedum: So tell me a little bit about how you got started?
D&W:  So I went to a talk in here in Philly given by the guy who owns Johnny Cupcakes, a t- shirt brand based in Boston. As I listened to him I thought to myself “What if I did that?”  I’m a web designer by trade, went to Temple for Computer Science ad Business Administration , but I was confident I could create a graphic t- shirt line for my demographic here in Philly. So, I piloted some of the designs and sold  them at the Piazza in Northern Liberties  in the summer of 2009, quit my job as a web designer pretty soon after, sold my car, and I’ve just been going at it ever since.
Phreedum: Sounds like you took some of the skills you had and maximized them, added a healthy dose of confidence and determination and went for it. Cool.
D&W: Thanks.
Phreedum: Tell me, who would you say you are in 5 words?
D&W: I am pretty focused.
Phreedum: Clearly.  You didn’t even use 5 words.
We laugh.
Phreedum: Alright, what has been your biggest success so far with Duke&Winston?
D&W: I think creating designs that people connect with on some level. I’ve done a lot of trunk shows and I get to interact with people individually, so I get to have those conversations about why they are purchasing a particular design.
Phreedum: What’s been your biggest lesson learned so far?
D&W: When your resources are tight, don’t move too far ahead of yourself. Use what you have to get what you need. You don’t need a million bucks to start a company; you do however need to know how to work with what you have.
Phreedum: How does the work you do change the lives of others?
 D&W: I think it just shows people that they can do whatever they want to do in terms of being an entrepreneur and they can do it right here in Philly. I’m not just a Philadelphian creating a line for Philly. I’m a part of a network of Philadelphians creating a brand for Philly. By that I mean, all that I need to turn my concepts into tangible pieces people can wear is within a 2mile radius of where I live. 
Phreedum: Who has been the most influential person in allowing you to phreely pursue this passion? 
D&W: My dad. When I first started both of my parents were a little worried. But, as I’ve moved forward my dad has been really encouraging. He sends ideas he thinks I could use for designs, news articles, etc. He keeps me motivated and I need that sometimes.
Phreedum: How would Duke describe you in one word?
He laughs at the thought of his dog diming him out.
D&W: Duke would say I’m tough. Well that I am one who is about tough love.
Phreedum: Every entrepreneur is always doing a million and one things. But I like to think that at some point amidst all the doing is some relaxing. So, how do you relax and de-stress?
D&W: I don’t. I need to. But, when I’m stressed I revel in it and use it to just keep going.  During the summer while at the shore I got busted by the cops while I was selling shirts outside because I didn’t have a permit.  So I made a deal with the restaurant that I was selling in front of that I would design shirts for them and we could split the sales and I could still sell my own designs if they let me continue to sell in front of their restaurant. It worked out and I didn’t get a citation or anything from the cops.
Phreedum: Wow. Way to turn a stressful situation into a way to sell your product. So wait, no socializing? No just chilling with people or meeting people for the heck of it?
D&W: Nope.
Phreedum: Not even birthday celebrations?
D&W: Nope.
Phreedum: What about walking the dog?
D&W: I do walk the dog, but it’s nothing long or leisurely. 
Phreedum: Wow, you are pretty focused. What would you consider you greatest resource?
D&W: My upbringing. They way I grew up, I didn’t need a lot. My family didn’t raise us to place too much value on material goods.  Starting Duke&Winston I didn’t have a lot. I had to downsize, hustle, and not care what other people thought.  My upbringing helped me to see what’s important and to be tough. Oh, and my dog is a great resource. He’s basically the brand marketing manager.
Phreedum: Tell me about the sacrifices you have made since starting Duke&Winston?
D&W: I think the normalcy of what this time in most people’s lives looks like. Most people in their 20’s and 30’s have jobs, houses, cars, health insurance. There is some stability they have. I don’t have those things, at least not right now. If this falls through, then what?  So I mean I work hard at this because this not working out is not an option and I think in a lot of ways that helps me to be cool and see the sacrifices as just necessary parts of the process.
To find out more about Seun Olubodun and Duke&Winston, please visit or follow him @godsavetheduke 

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