Student Starts Company to Promote Positivity


Emmit Flynn, pictured above, started the Awful brand with a high school friend. (Katherine Leonard for The Fordham Ram)

By Katherine Leonard

Positivity is at the core of one Fordham student’s passion project. Emmit Flynn, FCRH ’21, joined high school friend Charles Zayed, a sophomore at the Kelley School of Business of Indiana University, to create a clothing brand focused on spreading positivity and encouraging an optimistic outlook.

Their brand, Awful Cloth, launched online this past month. The project was born in December of 2017, when Zayed came up with the idea to start a business in his dorm. He had previously sold quesadillas to his peers in his dorm building, but wanted to take his passion for business to the next level.

Zayed contacted Flynn in January 2018 after unsuccessfully attempting to design the clothing. He hoped to bring in a creative flair by recruiting Flynn. Zayed knew of Flynn’s artistic ability because of his art account on Instagram. Upon receiving the phone call from his friend, Flynn said he agreed without hesitation.

“I was super excited because I always want to be doing something creative,” Flynn said. “It’s really a passion thing, and I was happy to be given the opportunity to work with such a bright and funny guy.”

Once they solidified their partnership, Zayed and Flynn used their own personal savings to launch their business.

“I saved up a ton of money delivering food on my bike last year,” Flynn said. “I did have hesitation about investing my own money, but I also knew I was saving money in preparation for this.”

Their products are made in the United States using a third-party manufacturer.

Awful Cloth currently offers 17 products: 13 T-shirts at a price point of $19.99 and four sweatshirts at $34.99.

Zayed and Flynn attended Hinsdale Central High School together in Chicago, and they both graduated in 2017. Throughout the past year, their relationship transformed from friends into business partners. In order to maintain their long-distance partnership while working on the brand, Zayed and Flynn communicate through phone calls, video chats and text messages.

“It was definitely hard to start a business together while we were in college because we had limited time,” Flynn said. “But we try to work together at least once a day.”

Besides time being a challenge, Flynn said he considers promoting his business as a student to be difficult.

“I don’t want to be annoying when I talk to my friends about it, but I also want to promote the brand and get it going.”

Flynn said he considers this balance to be tricky to navigate because he knows that most of Awful Cloth’s customers are high school to college age, making a campus the ideal ground for product promotion. However, Flynn recognizes that marketing to college students is easy when you are on campus; he takes advantage of the different outlets on Fordham for promotion, but also wants to expand the brand’s target beyond college students.

Flynn also said he sees the challenges of starting a business as a positive influence. He views the business as motivation to be more efficient so that he can devote more time to his brand.

Flynn is currently studying political science at Fordham, although he is considering switching his major to entrepreneurship in light of the recent success. Despite the fact that Flynn mostly handles the creative side of Awful Cloth, he is passionate about his business, which has motivated his desire to potentially make the switch.

All of the designs are hand drawn by Flynn, who said he has always been interested in drawing and art. He channeled his original artistic style when coming up with designs for Awful Cloth, and the design is influenced by the brand’s desire to promote positivity.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Why do you call your brand awful?’” Flynn laughed. “My response to that is that something could have a negative connotation, but it really depends on the way you look at it.”

For Flynn and Zayed, Awful Cloth embodies their life view. Flynn said their mission is to spread this positive outlook through their products. Their message is being received well so far, with 100 orders on just the first day of the brand launch. Since then, Awful Cloth has had over 1,000 orders all over the country, with even a few internationally, according to Flynn.

The duo is hoping to expand and take on a broader cause. Zayed and Flynn want to continue focusing on the brand’s main goal of seeing life in a positive perspective, while growing the brand even more.

“I believe perspective is everything; it’s the way you look at life,” Flynn said. “And the message we are hoping to spread goes way beyond clothes.”