“Hey, Kori, I’m parking my car now.”
Me: “OK, cool, I just parked. See you in a minute.”
I hopped out of the car and headed towards the restaurant to meet Joniero Bryant, a tall, caramel-skinned young brotha with one of the friendliest smiles I’ve ever seen. Now before y’all nosy folk start busting out the eye emojis on me, this wasn’t a date.
Joniero was actually meeting me to share the story behind his inspirational clothing line, Knockout Clothing Apparel. When we met Tuesday evening, he was wearing this dope hoodie — like it literally had “Dope” written in bold, custom-designed lettering across the front — with the Knockout brand name and logo. It was one of Joniero’s latest designs that he created on his vinyl plotter machine, an investment that nearly cost him the roof over his head.
I remember when I first bought my machine, I sacrificed like half my rent. Like I even got an eviction notice for it. Just because I knew I wanted that machine and I’m like, ‘I gotta do this while I can.’ And I didn’t have a job at the time, so it was really a risk… That’s why I could never see me putting this Knockout thing down just because of all the sacrifices I’ve made.
Raised in a single-parent household on the east side of Detroit, Joniero says he learned hard work and determination at an early age.
I was brought up watching my mother and two (older) sisters work extremely hard. So early on, I saw how important hard work was, and that influenced a couple of my valued business concepts which include self-determination, proprietorship and relentless work ethic.
Although his father was locked up when Joniero was just eight years old, Joniero’s steadfast faith and determination to succeed kept him grounded.
I thank God for (my father) being incarcerated. Not thanking Him that he went to jail, but thanking Him because God still had a plan for my life, regardless of that. And even the fact that, you know, your father can get out and y’all can still maintain that love, that’s real. So I thank God for that whole process.
I can tell you really love God and that’s so awesome. How long have you been in a relationship with Christ?
Um, I really started taking it seriously when I was 18… You’ll go through some stuff in life and you don’t know why it’s happening or you don’t really understand the full picture of it ’til later… My friend Brandon, who is pretty much like my brother, he was brought up in a household where his mom and dad were real grounded in Christ… And just to see that solid foundation that they had, that attracted me. So I started to hang around and to really just grab onto any knowledge that his father would drop because mine wasn’t there. And I started going to their church because his father was a pastor. So after I started to make that transition, some of my friends started looking at me a certain way because I wouldn’t do the same stuff I (used to) do. But I’m growing; I’m not here to stay the same. If you ain’t seeing no growth or change in a positive light, then you have to be real and honestly put a question mark behind your actions and motives. But you know, I was going through all of these changes and I started saying, “Man this thing is really different.” At first it made me nervous and I kind of retracted a little bit, but then after that I didn’t fight it no more. After a certain point I was like, this is what I need to be doing, and it really just got me to do Knockout because God really had a purpose and plan for my life.
Man, what a powerful testimony! God will definitely put you in certain positions and situations to open your eyes so you can see what He’s trying to reveal to you. I went through that a few years ago when I was sick, so I can totally relate to what you’re saying. But getting to your clothing line, what is the meaning behind Knockout?
Knockout Clothing Apparel is a brand that represents victory and success in the true sense of the word, and relays a message that any goal or endeavor is achievable as long as your passion outweighs the obstacles and difficulties you will face. I was inspired to start an inspirational clothing line because I’ve seen how life and situations can control people’s lives. For example, working a job one hates, selling drugs or plotting schemes because our real ambitions take too much time, or life’s hardships left you feeling defeated. These are what I like to call “speed bumps” or “hurdles” because they are realities that you can overcome. That’s the intelligence I want to inspire others with, and Knockout is the pipeline I will deliver that inspiration through.
That is so dope because so many people really need that encouragement. Now tell me the concept and inspiration behind your “Build Billions” design.
“Build Billions” was stimulated by the ideology of building a brand and correlates directly with building wealth. The design uses the word “billions” to represent a level of wealth that has been accessed by so few who clearly have refused to settle for mediocrity. So “Build Billions” represents success on a global level which is the goal at the end of the day.
And you design all the shirts yourself?
Yes, I create all the designs for Knockout, currently working on a few new “Dope” designs and make all the products myself using my own machinery. So in a sense, I’ve positioned myself to be the manufacturer, and with the recently opened online store, I’ve also become the distributor for the brand, successfully cutting out the middle man, shortening the distribution chain and maximizing profits for Knockout.
Smart move. Have you collaborated or considered collaborating with other clothing brands?
I have not collaborated with any clothing lines as of yet. However, in the future I would like to work with anyone who is passionate and serious about their craft. I believe when two or more individuals with those qualities enter a room together and efficiently work you can learn a lot from one another. So that’s an experience I’m looking forward to.
What is your overall vision for Knockout? Where do you see it going in the next five to 10 years?
The overall vision for Knockout is to become a globally recognized brand that empowers and motivates people to creatively pursue their goals while allowing people to realize there are no limitations or difficulties too large to overcome. In the next five to 10 years? Knockout will be a globally recognized brand with a couple of physical locations but the online store will be the primary retail advocate.
Do you believe KO Apparel is your purpose/calling?
Yes and no. I recently realized that Knockout Clothing Apparel will be a funnel for fulfilling one of my purposes in life, which is empowering others and spreading positivity through the truth in our abilities as human beings. Truths like you are a creator and have power; you possess the ability to succeed regardless of where you started or past/current circumstances. The truth that says nothing is more powerful than a made up mind. My overall purpose is to deposit into other people’s lives.
Any words of advice/inspiration for all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Firstly, discover and develop your passion and vison for your life. Secondly, formulate a plan how you can use your passion to generate income and ownership because you have to support yourself. Thirdly, stick to the script, which is your plan, and make a decision that regardless of how I’m feeling or what happens this is what I’m going to do, I’m not going to get frustrated and stop because it got difficult and tough.Win, lose or draw, this is what I’m going to do. Lastly, stand on your decision and never give up.
It was certainly an honor and pleasure to interview Joniero, and an even greater honor to be able to publish our interview on this day, his 23rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Joniero! May God continue to use you to inspire and enlighten others through your purpose. I’ll definitely be copping a couple of those shirts!