Orlander Johnson, a Shreveport, Louisiana native, found opportunity and a new beginning through entrepreneurship. His retail store, Urban Stylez, is a welcoming and inviting place that fosters community providing more than fashion clothing and accessories.
Have you always been an entrepreneur?
I have always had the spirit of an entrepreneur. I have had jobs that kept me in the workforce, but was never satisfied working 9 to 5 for pay. It showed no freedom to think for yourself. All my jobs seemed scripted, a dead end.
My determination and hustle just wouldn’t let me sit behind a desk and make someone else money whilst I only get the crumbs.
How did you chose your business?
I don’t believe I chose retail, I believe it chose me. At one point in time, my life was filled with negative influences and bad choices. It led me to prison, TWICE! I didn’t take jail seriously or realize the damage I was bringing on myself and my family.
While away in prison, I lost the mother of my kids to cancer. I knew then that my life had to change, my choices needed to be different and I needed to reinvent myself and become a better person.
I joined the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), it was while participating in this program when I was first exposed to real business owners and millionaires. They volunteered, taught us life skills, business plans, and overall etiquette for the professional world.
What is the meaning behind your business name?
Urban Stylez was birthed October 2015 after my first business, I chose the name because I am known in the Urban Community, and I feel like I represent a lot of people with stories similar to mine.
So when you shop at Urban Stylez, you are truly tapping in to what my community likes and believes in. Not only do you get the clothes but you get the culture from the shopping experience.
What is your relationship with LiftFund?
LiftFund has been a close ally since 2014 or 2015; a close friend referred me to organization. I heard of Accion, now LiftFund, while in prison as a potential source of help and advice. I just never reached out in the beginning. I guess out of fear of rejection.
My interaction with the staff of LiftFund was totally opposite of what I thought. The LiftFund staff helped me by giving me advice on what to correct in my credit, my business banking and payroll. Which in turn, qualified me for some assistance that I needed so much.
How has COVID-19 affected your business? How have you adjusted?
Covid-19 has impacted my business tremendously. I’ve had to close my doors to the general public. 90% of the income comes from the walk-in traffic. We have launched online campaigns to try an offset the loss of income, it does not add up like in store traffic.
We became essential by distributing Personal Protective Equipment in the community around my store in the 75227 zip code. We wanted to provide whatever we could to help slow the spread of Covid-19 in one of the hardest hit areas in Dallas county. Masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer are sold at our location.
What would help small businesses get through this situation?
In this trying time for everyone, it is important that we ban together. I feel that if we all use our platforms to promote suffering businesses in the community it would at least keep us on the minds of the public and consumers. Shop small when the economy is opened up. We will appreciate the support.