Beat Radio Interview with Angie Ange
Our founder Gerard Murray recently linked up with Angie Ange, host of Beat Radio in Washington D.C. Murray and the Howard alumna discussed the business of Tradition, highlighting what it means to be a black business owner and how Murray went from a street vendor to the man behind the Tradition HBCU collegiate lifestyle brand.
As longtime friends, Angie recalls speaking with Murray about the brand during its infancy stages up until Tradition was displayed for sale in the Howard bookstore. That was when the school itself ran the store. Over time, management shifted to a larger corporation that had booted brands like Tradition from its store. In her reminiscing, Angie asks, "What's your perspective on […] when big corporations take over HBCU bookstores and black-owned vendors seem to kind of disappear? Do you see that at other schools, too?" Murray affirms this but is quick to highlight the positive in it all. "By Barnes & Noble coming in, I think it made us have to tighten up," he says, "It made us step back and just tighten up everything." This setback only strengthened Tradition, making it more structured than ever before. His planning and business strategy got the brand back into HBCU bookstores, which was a huge accomplishment. Acknowledging larger brands, Murray sees only new challenges on the horizon: "The ones in front of us, they gotta [sic] see us coming."
That's because Murray is no stranger to building successful, iconic brands. As the founder of the notorious School of Hard Knocks brand in the 1990s, he hustled his way up from a street vendor to a seasoned industry veteran. Approaching a concept like Tradition, he even admits that he had to learn more about licensing before getting started. Now, Tradition is gaining similar notoriety with each passing year. Celebrities like Lance Gross, Puff Daddy, Taraji P. Henson, Cam Newton, and Kevin Heart have all flaunted the Tradition brand. Murray chalks it up to quality, saying "We design stuff that reflects that closet that you have at home." Everything offered "teeter[s] on the modern trend, but yet keep[s] a little vintage." This way, the brand looks and feels almost ageless. "We have that 18-year-old freshman coming in rocking our stuff and we have that real proud 50-year-old alumni," Murray says, underlining the brand's inclusivity.
This hasn't been without downfalls and setbacks, though. "We've been in the peaks and the valleys. There have been high and lows," says Murray, reflecting on the brand overall. Through hard work and dedication, Tradition has been built entirely from grassroots efforts. The brand has carved its own place in the community, and as Murray says, "at the end of the day, it's people knowing the story." That's what makes the difference between a large monolith apparel brand and a small, black-owned business like Tradition.
Angie then asks Murray for his personal advice for a young entrepreneur. She postures, "What's a key point [or] piece of advice that you could give to help them as they continue on their journey?" Circling back to motifs of his own path, he asks those wishing to follow suit to "do the homework," meaning to learn as much about the industry as possible. He then offers a bridge metaphor to further another point he makes, which is to respect the industry: "They say don't burn bridges. Don't burn that bridge behind you, because when you look back, you [will] find out that if you burn bridges, sometimes you have to step back 10 steps. You know what's gonna happen when you step back and there's nothing there to stand on." Remaining professional and working with integrity are keys to success.
Angie and Murray come to a close in their talk at Beat Radio, ending on a note about the #MyHBCUGiveback initiative. To learn more about this financial mission in part with the Atlanta HBCU Alumni Alliance, click here.