Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Then Story: High school sophomore/sales associate
Now Story: High school senior/Founder of CHESS-CLUB clothing
Curb Moment: Realizing instead of working for someone else’s brand he could create his own
A pivotal moment at a summer job working for a men’s clothing store taught 17 year old Gabe Nelson that it’s never too early to follow your instincts to make a change.
What was your inspiration for starting your own business?
My inspiration for starting my own business was my dad. My dad started his own business after working for someone for several years. He started it because he realized working under someone was not what he was meant to do and because he needed to provide for us, his family.
What Is CHESS-CLUB? Why did you choose that particular name?
CHESS-CLUB is an empowering, urban, luxury brand based on Martha’s Vineyard, it aims to spread positivity and creativity through its characterization of the rook, its logo. The rook symbolizes elegance, honesty, and practicality. It symbolizes elegance because of its resemblance to an ancient castle. It symbolizes honesty because of the straightforwardness of its moves. It symbolizes practicality because even though it is easy to move and understand, it is one of the most crucial and important pieces on the chess board.
What were you doing before you started your business?
Before I started CHESS-CLUB, I was working at a retail store called Jack Wills. I was a sophomore in high school at the time and I worked night shifts from 5pm – 11:00pm.
Did you have what we call a curb moment: a moment that inspired the need for change?
My curb moment occurred towards the end of my sophomore summer. While I was working at Jack Wills that night, I realized, “why work for someone else’s brand when I can work for my own brand.” That night, I began the sketches that eventually resulted in CHESS-CLUB.
What have been your biggest challenges or struggles so far?
Our two main challenges have been funding and exposure. It’s been incredibly difficult to get funding to have product made. We’ve tried pre-orders, special promotional offers, and more. We’re currently trying out Kickstarter. We have a campaign running right now to get our first batch of product in. Exposure has been another challenge. Exposure hasn’t been as difficult as funding because social media is free. It still very difficult to get your brand out there because everyone wants to be the next Bape or Supreme. This causes a problem because you’re competing with so many other urban brands to get the limelight.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been able to manage a clothing brand while still being in highschool. There have been many nights where I’ve had to stay up late to finish up a design or finish editing a photo.
What do you see happening with your business in the next year or two?
In the next year or two I see CHESS-CLUB having its own office space and having a warehouse. I’m currently working out of my room and I think it would be very beneficial to have a more professional work space.
If you had to give advice to someone at the “curb” what would you tell them?
If I were to give advice, I’d say don’t be afraid to fail. I think people hold themselves back because they tell themselves they can’t when they really can. If I was able to get this far with no budget, no professional help, and still in high school, then you are completely capable of creating your own business and succeeding.