So I was on facebook and I read this article and it really hit home. Home as in this small town called Danvers right outside of Boston. Majority of you guys have zero clue where that is because i track where the people who read these blogs are from and most of them are all over this crazy country somehow. But Danvers is this small town about twenty minutes outside of Boston in Massachusetts. Amazing place. Actually, one of the best places ever. Then again if you asked me two years ago what the worst place in the world was, I'd probably say Danvers Massachusetts. But that's what happens. And you'll learn that, too, as time goes on.
This is a really long story of all my jumbled ideas about highschool, my stories of the past, and how i started this brand. it's a really long read. best if you read it on a computer listening to piano music, preferably "Pianissimo Brothers Music For Writing" playlist on spotify. But yeah. Here's my life.
Once you grow up somewhere and you reach a certain point, you're just like "i've had enough of this place" and you'll start the "I need to get out of here" phase. It happens to everyone, trust me.
It happened to me. Big time. But that's what made me who I am. But there was so much more to highschool. And it was the best time of my life. I could talk about it for ever and ever. There was so much to it. Highschool made me who I am, from the ground up. Highschool taught me the importance of appreciating everyone around me and it taught me to be independent. I learned how to start a company. I learned what it was like to be on sports teams. I learned what it was like to challenge myself academically, and how to get away with doing absolutely nothing at all. I learned that I'm not that good at standardized tests, but I certainly could write. I learned that you didn't need to be the star of a team to enjoy every minute of being on it. I learned that not everyone is the same, and that's cool. I learned that the theater kids are not theater kids, they're cool kids who happen to be in the theater program. I learned (the hard way) that you can't have big parties at your house because the cops will come......and your parents will be mad at you. I learned the importance of having best friends who had not a SINGLE common interest with you, and how cool it was to show people what you're into, even though they might have no clue. I learned to respect my teachers, but also to learn from them on a personal level. I learned that some nights, you really do need to study, because I knew that it was cool to get good grades. I learned that partying was fun, but you had to be careful. I learned early on what it meant to have older friends and further more what it meant to learn from your older friends. But then again I think that's why I write these. Because sometimes young kids don't have older friends. They don't have someone they can learn from that has been through all of this, or someone they can relate to. They might not have someone telling them it's cool to be in theater, or it's fun to be on the swim team. Or maybe they do, they just like reading these. Maybe you and I have nothing in common but you're reading this because you like who I am. I don't know. But I write stuff like this for whoever can learn from them. In any way possible. If you take one thing from this story, and it makes you just slightly a better person, then i'm happy. If you make a new friend tomorrow in school that doesn't necessarily relate to you, or maybe isn't in your circle, then i'm making your life just a little little bit better. Because I went through all of this, and I learned a lot of things early on. But further more, because I thought of something that I really really relate to and love. Virgil Abloh once said that the best way to create and to "be the seventeen year old version of yourself". That's something that really hit home. Because seventeen year old me was the most important me of my life. I learned what it meant to be me, and what it meant to be a part of the world. Not the internet world, the real one. I learned how truly important it was to build relationships, to respect everyone in your environment, and to think for yourself. How? Through observing.
So when I write these, I listen to certain playlists. There's a few different ones, but there's a few that are really important. I can really only write about the past in a narrative to this one playlist. It's playing right now. It's this really beautiful piano playlist called Pissimo Brothers. It's twenty four songs long.
If you really want to see all of this unfold in photos, you can. Unlike most people, I have every photo from the past still on my instagram. You can go back in time and see everything from the very first post so you can go back and put photos to each part of this story. I would make a video talking about all of this, but I think it's really important to read. There's something so special about reading. You retain the information, but you learn in a different way. Everything I've read, I've connected with. You can hear my voice as you read this. You're probably saying wow how'd he know that. I read, too. But that's why I write. So you can hear me. Because some people don't have anyone to listen to.
I never really talked about this, and I never knew how to, but there's a reason I can write like this. There's a reason that as you read this, you can hear my voice, or what you think I might sound like. You follow me online, or you know me, or whatever it is. That's part of the reason I don't make videos, because then you'd craft my voice too much and it would kind of break down the percieved sound you have of me as you read across the screen. But when I was younger I used to write. Emphasis on the write.
It was the first day of my sophomore year of highschool. Actually. Let's go back a little bit to the middle of my freshman year. I had this teacher, Ms. G. She was brilliant. She went to MIT then became a highschool teacher. Long story short, I would hangout in her class after school and she would give me books to read. At this point, the internet was nothing to me. I hadn't made an Instagram until the end of my freshman year when I had this art class of all seniors. So all the content I was absorbing was through real life school, sometimes I'd watch TV or movies, and I loved to read. This one day Ms. G gave me a small green book from her bookshelf. It was called The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It was 147 pages.
"You'll like this. It's very you. I think you'll be able to relate to it, more than I could, atleast. Keep it." she told me.
She opened it up and signed her name on the first page.
She handed me the green book, now shut, and said "Go read it. Keep it with you. When you graduate, bring it back and I'll sign the last page. We'll talk about it then".
So at this point, I guess I need to tell you about freshman me. By the way, I do have a last name. I'm not just "ohkaychris". Well my name is Christian Brown. But I always went by Chris. So yeah, Chris Brown. So I was always little Chris Brown.
I went to a school with 1,000 kids, so like 250 per grade or so.
Freshman year I had this class, it was AP Art, and it was me and all seniors.
If I never got into this class, my life would have never landed to be the way it has.
There were thirteen of us. And one day i'll w....... i'll finish that thought later.
This class shaped me. We sat at square tables, four or five to a table. We worked on wild projects and paintings and stuff sometimes too advanced for me. But I sat at a table with this girl named KT (Katie) and this boy named John. Both of them were seniors.
John gave off this "ugh i hate school" vibe and KT was all about "get me the hell out of here".
But I was their little best friend. I looked forward to seeing them every single day. KT was an art girl who had different colored hair every week. John was the first person I ever met who knew how to dress. He was just so put together. Everyday he dressed for school. Not dressed up, but dressed. In my school everyone wore like sweatpants and under armour. John stood out. He was professional, and had direction in his life. John was the first person to tell me about "New York City". His plan was to move to New York and study art at Parsons. Katie wanted to travel the world. I wanted to learn how to be a freshman. They helped me with everything in life.
There was this special feeling about being younger. To me, there were two sides to highschool. Freshman/Sophomore and Junior/Senior. When you're on the young side, it's so important to make relationships with the other side, and once you get older it's so important to pass down traditions, lessons, and advice to the other one. John taught me something that i'll one day teach all of you, the basics and fundementals of photoshop. I'll never forget that day. "Learn photoshop. One day you'll do something really creative and you'll suck at it if you aren't a master". So I learned photoshop. And I can do anything imaginable in it to this day. And it's the reason OHKAY exists, because I designed it all on photoshop.
Katie taught me fundementals of respect. From nearly every aspect. She taught me why it's cool to get good grades, the importance of respecting your teachers, and most importantly why I should join groups at school.
There were a few more people involved, but those were my core older friends. I was fourteen/fifteen trying to learn what highschool was like, hoping it was out of the movies, they were eighteen trying to finish school and move to the real world.
John used to talk about New York. It was this ginormous thought in my head. It was imaginary to me. A big city with giant buildings and people who liked art. It was magical, well, the idea of it was, at least.
You know something. I realized this a month ago. I was sitting on the ground in the middle of Grand Central Station in New York City. Serafina and I. And we were talking about life. And I said something just casually, but afterwards it made us really really think. We got almost sad, too. But I thought about the fact that there truly is
nothing better than doing something for the first time.
Like walking into my first day of Highschool. Graduating. Walking out of my last day of highschool. Going to new york for the first time. taking my first flight alone for "business" when i was sixteen. making my first tee shirt. meeting serafina. my first day of college. Everything you do in life. There truly is never a more genuine time than when you do it for the first time.
But that's how life was. I was the younger kid. That's the importance of all that. I was the little kid with the older friends. And it's weird because the only time I get that feeling now adays is when I'm with famous people. Like when I spent the day with Vic Mensa, I got that feeling. That "wow, you're so much older and more experienced and it's really cool to sit down and have lunch with you" type feeling. Which sucks because that was the best feeling ever and that's what turned me into the person I became.
But that book changed my life.
I read it. I loved it. I related to it. It meant the world to me. I used to have favorite pages, and I would reference them and refer to them. The main character, Charlie. I felt like I knew him. I felt like he was my friend, even though he was a character made up in a book.
Katie sat me down one day and told me she wanted me to write a speech.
"A speech? For what" I remember asking.
"You're running for class president, that's what. And you're going to win. And you're going to be awesome at it".
"Class what!? Me!? I could never give a big speech" I said back.
Through her I met this girl named Allie. Now, in the case that I do someday tell my entire life story, Allie plays a decent role as someone who I always went to for professional advice. Allie is one of the coolest characters in the book of faces I've written in my head. Allie goes to Harvard on a full scholarship, and she'll be a multi millionaire one day. But Allie was the class president of the grade two above me. Through this, Allie and I became really close. She helped me write my paper, and one day I gave a speech infront of my entire class.
I won a day later. They announced it on the intercom. I was the class president for the sophomore year. My mom was away for work and I remember calling her and being like "Hey mom guess what. I'm class president" and she freaked out. "Why didn't you tell me you were running??". I never knew why I didnt make a deal out of it. I just kind of did it. She was really proud of me and I think at that point I was for the first time ever really proud of myself.
The end of freshman year rolled around and I spent all my time with my older friends. At that point, KT had introduced me to their entire friend group. They took me in as their little friend. All of them were from all different towns, different schools. They had a facebook group. They were a friend group. It was one of the only friends groups i was ever a real part of. 2 Prit 2 Quit they called it. And as the year went on, i started to realize it more and more. There would come a day, and it came fast, where I was at their graduation ceremony, and they got their diploma. Katie talked infront of everyone. She was Vice President of her class. I clapped and I cheered. I went alone and I walked home by myself that day. I guess it hit me then, that one day I would wake up and all of my friends would be gone. They'd all go their seperate ways off to college. They'd forget about Danvers and they'd start their real life. I went to their christmas parties, drank wine for the first time with them, snuck out of my house for the first time to hangout with them, and just learned to be myself through them. And the day came. And I said goodbye to them one by one. And they packed up their bags, and left for college. And they never really came back. Or when they did, it wasn't the same. That's something I learned too. Once you leave, you never come back the same. Sounds weird and cliché, but it's true. The day you leave your home town, you learn that there's more to life outside of your home town. And you learn that there's no reason to ever come back. And it's really sad. And still to this day, I would do anything in the world to go back in time. But something else this life has taught me, and I want you to know while you're young, is to appreciate every single moment, ever. I don't care if it's raining or if your friends are mad at you or anything. Understand how important it is to cherish your time as a kid. Because in this life, I can do anything. I can buy a plane ticket tomorrow to anywhere in the world. I can hangout with anyone I want. I can buy whatever I want. But what I can't do is go back in time, and I can never ever be a high schooler again. I can never wake up at 6:50am in Danvers Massachusetts, drive my Lexus (that i bought with my own money senior year) to school, walk the halls of Danvers High, be friends with eveyone and anyone, and be a highschooler. I'll never have that life ever again, even if I tried. It's just one of those things, those times of life. Once it's over, you can never replicate it. And that's why i want you to cherish every bit of it.
So the first day of my sophomore year came around. And I wanted to write.
I had a cool day. It was unique. It was a day full of firsts. The best type of day.
So I went home and I wrote about it. I just wrote a narrative. Like Charlie used to write in Perks Of Being A Wallflower.
I opened a word document, played the Pissimo Brothers track that I found that night, and I wrote about my life.
Every few days I would repeat.
A month went by. i didn't tell anyone. Except for my grandmother, i'd show her all the time. She was always so amazed by it. It was starting to get long. Every entry was single spaced twelve point font and like ten pages.
It got to the point where I was going out at night, absorbing everything that was happening, and having my friends bring me home early in the night so I could write about it.
I called it "Life Not So In A Nutshell".
My one friend Shea knew about it. My best friend Shea, i should say.
I did it over the course of the year. My sophomore year. The most important year for me.
Katie and John left and started their lives, and I found new friends. I was friends with the "cool kids" at school. I guess I wanted to be a cool kid, too. I was class president and a lot of people respected me I guess. But there was something so unique about being a cool kid at school.
There was a friend group or sporty kids who were seniors, and I was a sophomore. They took me in. They were my best friends. I didn't really hangout with anyone in my grade because I had my older friends. They were the ones on the front page of the newspaper for outstanding sports accomplishments and being academic warriors. I used to play sports, too. I played soccer and lacrosse. I was never the best on the team. I never cared to be. There were kids who devoted their lives to the sport, I was just on the team for the laughs. And it was a community. A team is a family, and I loved that. No matter what level, JV, Varsity, any of that, it makes a family.
I would write about my friends. My life. My experiences. My emotions. Way more in depth than I write in all these Blogs. The internet wasn't a thing for me back then, still. So I just wrote. I didnt share it with anyone, I just wrote.
I found my voice. Eventually I got to the point where I could type so fast that i would go home, play the piano playlist, put my head on my desk facing the ground, shut my eyes, and type fifteen pages about my relationships with my friends. But I never told them I was writing a book about them. I never realized I was even writing a book until one day Shea was like how long is that thing and I looked and I was at page 280.
A lot of crazy stuff happened my sophomore year. A really weird event occurred at my school. I made all these friends. I lost my old ones. I was in love with a girl. I was out of love with her. I was living like a highschool rockstar. I was living a life that was out of some highschool movie. And it was crazy. But I made it something out of a movie, because I narrated all of it.
And the weird thing is. I never read the book.
I've probably opened it five or six times since sophomore year ended.
There came a time where I made a few really cool friends and we were doing so much stuff that I lost the drive to go home and write. I would write every night. So if I went home and needed to sleep, I would have to write double the next night. I kept pushing it back and ended up not doing much of it when the year was ending.
But I finished it.
And i don't even know if it's good.
But you know how I write here? How you can hear me talking? How you feel like you know me? I learned to do that through Life Not So In A Nutshell.
It ended up being 318 pages. Single Space. 12 point font. A little over 1.2 Million characters. My entire life. Everything about that year.
But I got older and never looked at it ever again. I never opened it. I never referenced it. I guess I was upset that I never finished it like I wanted to. But it was amazing. It's a wild story probably full of me talking about myself. Definitely full of me talking about myself. And I never told anyone about it. Becuase no one was really listening besides myself at that point. I didn't write it to be like "oh man i wrote a book" but just to do it. To learn the narrative voice. And I always wanted to write another one, I just never got the time. One day I will. I just continuously get mad at myself because the largest thing I learned is that if i don't act on something right after I do it, I'll never do it. I was never able to write about a weekend night a week later. Once it left my recent memory, it drifted away. There's no better time to write about something than right after it happens. Same with photos, too. When I shoot photos, there's no better time to edit them and to write about them than right after the trip. That's why I got back into writing, and that's why I turned the OHKAY platform into kind of a place where I could share stuff with you guys. And not every blog some informational piece about business or anything. One day i'll get that all out there for you, because I really do know a lot, I won't underplay myself in that sense, but sometimes it's nice to just type and to talk about how I'm feeling or what we're up to, or to write about the past like in this, so that you guys, wherever you may be, can learn from all of this. Maybe you don't have that 18 year old best friend to guide you through highschool and tell you, like i said, that it's cool to get good grades. So maybe I can be that role. This site is more than us running a clothing brand. This is a full on brand. Beyond clothes. That is meant to empower teenagers and steer them in the right direction.
So i guess this is the point where I get to the point. Not that these need to have a point but if you've been listening this far, I want to get something across. Remember how I started it off by saying I wanted to write this because I read an article. Well, when i read it I thought about one major thing I learned in highschool. Now, over the course of my four years, I grew a lot and a lot of growing up is looking back on the past and learning what you did right, and continuing to do that, and understanding what you did wrong and fixing it so you don't do it over and over again.
For me, I guess part of me was a shit head at some point. It was in the sophomore year phase. The "having cool friends made me think I was on top of the world" phase. When all my friends were the top of the school and I was tagging along with them, everyone kind of slipped up as the year progressed, my older friends went into really early senior slides, and we got wreckless. Furthermore, like I said before, some real shit happened my sophomore year. Stuff I'll never speak on. It's in the book and if i ever do put that out there one day you can read about it, and if you know about Danvers Highschool in Fall of my sophomore year, you know what i'm talking about.
Something really dark happened. Not to me, but to the community. I didn't know what the word community meant until the event happened, to be honest. But some seriously fucked up stuff went down, and it made me take a step back and think about life from an entire new perspective.
So sophomore year was a really really tough time for Danvers Massachusetts. And it was a weird time to be in the place I was at. The event was something no one should ever have to live through, talk about, or experience. But it happened. And everyone was really closely involved. And it changed the life of Danvers forever. Someone who really had a bad year that year was my principal.
She was this really really nice lady. She was kind of loud at times, and in the beginning of highschool we didn't get along. I don't know why. She just kind of thought I was another trouble maker or something, because I was hanging out with the kids i was hanging out with. Even though she loved them, she thought they were bad for me. Maybe they were, but that's besides the point. We just didn't get along. As class president I would set up events and different things and she would just shut them down. Her and I just didn't get along. We would go back and forth fighting and she would just keep getting mad at me for no reason.
Time went on and she kicked me out of being class president. I didn't really understand why she was so grouchy. But through all of it, her and my mom would talk on the phone. It's funny because I always looked at her like I looked at my mom. When her and I fought, it was the same way my mom and I would fight (not that it would ever happen, but rarely when we 'd disagree).
I grew up with just my mom. That's a story for a different time, but since that was the case, I grew up in a very unique way. I learned to respect my mom as a full authority role. Whatever she said, went. And I didn't realize it until I got older, but my principal played the same role in my life as my mom. An authoritative female role, who's word was the final word.
So you get the point. Her and I didn't get along. But I never realized this until the end of highschool. Like yeah, I understood her and I weren't close even though she had lots of favorites, but I just knew life went on.
I was bestfriends with my older friends. They were the kids I was with every single day. They brought me to all the parties, got me into all the events, picked me up every night to smoke when I would sneak out of my house. It was some, in my eyes, rockstar shit. Out of the movies, as I would have described it back in the day. To me, life was at its' peak. I was writing about everything.
And that time of year came slowly, but it came and it went. Graduation time. I went to the ceremony, watched Allie talk about how she was excited to go to harvard and how Danvers taught her everything she knew. My friends walked across the stage, got their diplomas, smoked their ciggars, and told Danvers goodbye.
Summertime came and summertime went. The end of the summer was like the last. Each friend left a different day. Each one going to a different state, off to live a different life, with new and different friends, in a new enviornment with a new lifestyle. I never knew what any of them would be like in college. I just knew that they were my best friends in the entire world and they would do anything for me. And they did, too. They saved me from a lot of shit. But that's just old story stuff. The time came and I guess I realized that I was in the same position. I didn't really have friends in my grade because I was solely hanging out with the older kids. And the kids in my grade that I was best friends with, I was close with because we were all in the friend group with the older people. So junior year came and I was taking 3 AP classes. I thought, ok, I had a lot of fun, now it's time to like sit down and prepare for life after this, so when I get my diploma and walk across that stage, I know what i'm doing with my life. I would still read part of Perks from time to time but I never wrote anything. I lost touch with it. I lost touch with my narrative voice.
The year started. I had this statistics teacher. His name is Mr. A. I won't give his last name because he's kind of a weird guy when it comes to stuff like that. Maybe he'd like this maybe he wouldn't. He'll forever be someone I look up to. He was my junior year AP Statistics teacher and he taught me more in a week than my teachers in college have taught me in a semester. I'm serious. This guy knew a lot about life, and he lived a very happy one. Even when he was grumpy, he was interesting to analyze. This guy, at my school, knew how to play the system. He would wear whatever he wanted, say whatever he wanted, act how he wanted, go to whatever events he chose to, and missed the ones he didnt see the need in being at. Word was, he was making over 100k being a highschool teacher. I don't doubt it. He also works for the Red Sox, too. He was just someone I endlessly looked up to.
My AP stats class that year was full of the best of the best. It was mainly all seniors, a few juniors, myself included. Everyone worked so hard for that class. It was like a competition. We would compete for the best grades on the tests. Why was I studying? Because he made it cool to be smart. He taught me that it was more cool to be smart and respected than to be just cool and respected. Turns out, he had an ongoing fued with the principal as well. Part of me thinks he liked me because he related to me, more than just in that sense. Part of him saw himself in me, for what I think atleast, and we got along over that.
So now it's junior year. Before I get too far, i'm playing soccer, i'm on the swim team, and the lacrosse team at this point. I had never played soccer before sophomore year. Then again, I had barely ever swam before then, too. For lacrosse, my friends and I wanted to stay in shape for whatever reason, so as a joke we joined the swim team. We heard it was really fun. Then again, we barely knew how to swim. The coach was also the business teacher. It ended up being the best idea of our lives.
There's this program at my school called DECA. This story is going to be an entire blog in itself at some point because this introduces, well, everything.
But it's this program that was kind of known as this small cult at my school. It was run by this woman named Ms Symz. We just called her Symz. Symz is the reason you're reading this, symz is the reason you're on this website and symz is the reason I started everything I started. She was the swim coach and the business teacher at school. She was also the head of the DECA cult.
So for DECA there's a bunch of categories, right. It's a business competition. Within the categories, you can either pick to do a role play or a paper. If you do a role play, you just take a test online then you go to the competition kind of blind, get an assignment, prepare for a little while and throw your ideas at the judges. Or, you could write a paper, then go in and present your project to judges. There's three rounds. There's the "districts" rounds, then there's the "States", then there's "Internationals".
It was some long thought dream to go to Internationals. It was called ICDC. Only the best of the best went, but you got to take a week off from school and travel to some state to compete. The two staff that went on the trip were Ms. Symz and Mr. A.
I had just kind of heard of DECA through the grape vine. It wasn't that big when I was a sophomore, only a few of the older kids who took buisness classes were in it. I was actually a part of it sophomore year but I didn't understand what I was doing so I didn't compete.
So junior year is here, i'm playing three sports, and I'm like I really want to join this club but I want to take it serious. Symz and I meet one day after school before soccer practice and at the time, I was a photographer. Not that I'm no longer one, but like at this point my life was photography photography photography. I loved taking photos, it was everything I did. I had started picking up followers on my instagram and i kind of was making a name for myself. Complex picked up a photo of mine for an article of me hanging my feet off some building. Oh, yeah. We used to do that stuff. If you see kids now adays hanging their feet off buildings and taking a photo of their feet dangling. We were the ones who started that. Well, the instagram world did, but I was a part of it by that point. So I had cool photos.
She sits me down and she's like why don't you enter this category. It's called Entreprenuership: Owning and Growing A Company.
To do it, I had to write a 30 page paper on my business, then present it to the judges for 15 minutes.
A few weeks went by and a couple brainstorm session later and she's like "why don't you just make a company selling photo prints?".
Two weeks later I designed my first website, titled it OHKAY Photography, became a legal business, and started on my paper.
District competitions come. We got into a bus, it was a cold morning, and we went to a college nearby. I had to present my project to a judge, she was this mother-like lady. Real cool. I told her about how I had followers online, I was going to print my photos and sell them bla bla bla.
I won the competiton. Well, I won for my category. It works in a weird way. So in each category, the top four places move on. So there were 500 kids competing that day, but since there were only like six or seven kids competing against me with their own ideas, I only had to beat six people to move on. 60% of your score comes from your paper, you have a rubrick and you have to write about special things, put it in special order, it was complicated. 40% then comes from presentation. I got a 98. I won first place. It was cool but I guess I was confident.
Months go by and we're prepping for the state competition. Everyone was talking about how we wanted to win at states so we could go to ICDC. It was in Orlando, Florida.
It was a dream away. I would stay up every night until 2am fixing my paper and perfecting my business strategy. It was finally time to compete on the state level. It was a big deal. Everyone got on a bus and went into the city for the weekend, we picked roommates and we stayed in nice hotel rooms. Everyone in the entire DECA program did. So everyone stayed all in one hotel, the nicest one in Boston. We all wore suits to everything. It was just the best experience of my life. I could go into more depth but you get the point, lots of suits, lots of people competing, lots at stake.
Turns out there were only like 30 people in my category, so I only had to beat 26 to place top four to move onto ICDC.
Other people had 200+ people in their category. It was just that not many kids in Massachusetts had any business to write a 30 page paper on. I focused mine on the idea that I was building a brand out of this, then also selling photo prints to generate revenue.
I presented to the judges. Confident. I wore a Marc Jacobs suit that my grandfather bought me.
So the award ceremony happened, and there's like 5,000 kids in one room, everyone's version of Ms. Symz sitting with their school section, everyones waiting for their category to be randomly called, there's like 150 categories.
All you needed to do was place first second third or fourth to be going to Disney. Group after group kept winning third or fourth. They'd come back, extatic that they get to take a week off from school to go to Disney. Groups that didn't win would come back, tears down some of their faces.
So when they call your category, they then call the groups that were the top ten best up to the stage. oh, if you want, you can do a project in a group up to 3 people. So i could have had 2 others with me. But I worked better solo. And this was my idea, not anyone else's.
They call my category, and they call my name. My heart was beating so fast. I go to the stage, real far from the rest of my class. I can remember this part like it was moments ago. I'm like seventeen and truthfully I had never won anything in my entire lifetime. Nothing at all.
The previous category's winners are chosen and given trophies then they call the top ten up for my category. I look right infront of me and my mom and grandfather are front row taking photos of me. Felt like the Grammy's or something. My heart is beating typing this remembering all of that. They call fourth place, it wasn't my name. I'm like damnit I'm not going to ICDC. Third place, not me. I put my head down, kind of shaking it. Second place, this girl from a town nearby. She runs past me screaming in joy.
Then everything in my mind kind of blacks out. I remember this part but in flashes. They call first place and they announce my name. My head jumps up, I look at my mom, then I look into the sea of suits sitting infront of me. Everyone from my school that was there jumps up and cheers.
I get this giant trophy. I had won something. I had finally won first place, for the first time in my life.
I was going to Disney. I was the only person in the program that won first place. It was so real. My idea had worked.
We went back to school the next Monday and I felt like I was on top of the world.
My stats teacher grew this instant appreciation for me.
My principal called me in to congratulate me. She appologized for kicking me out of class president.
The rest of junior year went really well.
I was dating this really cool really pretty girl from a few towns over.
She went to this school called Masco.
Part of me used to wish I had gone to Masco. Her and I ended up dating for like a year and the majority of my weekends were spent with her at her house in this cool town called Boxford.
We were an awesome couple, we were super happy, we were into art and nature and stuff. We both loved to party and both really liked being together. It was fun.
Most of my friends were from Masco. The kids that went there were into photography and art and I just really enjoyed being with them. The "cool kids" at my school were all the jocks and the football kids who worked out all the time and I just had no common interests with them. I guess we were all friends but I never hungout with them. Maybe once or twice here and there but that stuff just didn't appeal to me. The girls in my grade all had older boyfriends so they were never hanging out in Danvers, I wasn't close with anyone really, so I was just a part of this masco culture since I was so around it with Ashleen. That's her name, by the way.
It was actually really cool. You know, like having a girlfriend. A real one.
I say real one because I haven't really had a real girlfriend since that.
We hungout every single day. We lived like fifteen minutes from eachother, I had to drive on the highway to get to her house. It was a fun drive. She had a really pretty house with two cool dogs and her little sister is really cool. It was genuine. My life was slow. It was reserved. I loved every bit of it. And i'm so thankful that I did all of that when i was a junior, because senior year life picked up, really fast, so it was amazing to experience that portion of life at the perfect time.
A few months went by in Junior year. This part is really fun.
It was time to go to ICDC.
We all worked endlessly to prepare our papers. In the time between states and ICDC, everyone kind of re-does their 30 page paper and makes it better. Now, it's the top four people in each category from each state and each country. There's like 35,000 people that attend. Everyone competes. And it's cut throat.
It's the best of the best. We could skip class whenever we wanted and just say "I need to go fix my paper" and Symz would sign off on it. The entire town knew all the people who were going to ICDC. It was like a big year because we had so many people going. There was like 28 of us.
So I got my paper ready. I worked really hard and I learned so much about branding, owning a business, and planning for the future.
The outline looked like this
so there was a ton of topics.
See what is one page 14? Expansion Opportunities.
Remember how I got a 98 at districts.
I got a 94 at states. 2nd place got a 90. Know where I lost 4 of the 6 points? Expansion opportunities.
So I sat down one night and I was like how can I expand this brand. This photo company. This OHKAY thing.
The logo was a triangle at the time with the word ohkay in lowercase under it printed on all the photo print.
I was driving home from school one day and I stopped at a light. Infront of me right in the downtown of Danvers was this new little building thing that opened up. It was called Ben Franklin Tees. Also a way longer story for another time. I remember looking at the sign, and before the light turned green I typed the phone number into my phone. I called it then hung up. I didn't want to talk on the phone.
I went home and went right to my closet. I looked through all my shirts.
I picked out four shirts. Each noticeably different. I drove back downtown. Parked my car. Got out. Locked it. Walked in. I kind of felt like I was a boss that day. I don't know why. I remember walking in just mad curious to find the answer.
I dropped the four tees on the table.
"Hey. I'm Chris. Question for you".
"How the hell did they make these four tee shirts?" I asked.
Everything beyond that point will be described when I talk about the brand and growing it from a business standpoint in a different blog, but just know that that question right there, is what made OHKAY.
Within the next week I learned the first steps in how to make clothes. This guy Joe taught me everthing I needed to know. He thought I was cool. He knew I knew what I was doing. He could just tell. So he really liked me from the start. Oh, and I offered to pay him for his help. That probably made him like me a bit more, too.
We made five shirts. I took three of them. He packaged them in nice clear wrap for me. If you've ever got a shirt off this site, I send them out still to this day, folded exactly like he taught me that day, in the exact same clear plastic bags that he uses. The same ones from the first day.
I had a brand new 30 page paper, a new expansion oportunities tab, and four tee shirts. Oh, and a suit and a bunch of clothes to party in.
the morning came and I woke up at 4am. My mom drove me to the airport. I met Symz, Mr. A, and all my friends. It was like an exclusive trip for the best of the best. We got on the plane and took off for Orlando, Florida.
We had the best group. We had such genuiene people, mostly my grade and the grade above us. I wish i could go back in time and just have documented every little amazing experience we had down in Florida.
It was like no other trip i've ever been on. and i've done some pretty wild things.
but two main things happened on this trip outside of like me competing. One was, well the competition, but the other was something that deserves its' own blog post, but i'll give it here.
I was in the lobby of the 5 star hotel. High School kids were on each and every floor. The pool was constantly full of high schoolers, hot tub too. It was like spring break, but everyone there was a winner in their own sense. So many kids there had never won anything before that trophy, either. Kids from all walks of life that worked hard for something, and won.
I'm at the pool one day and I meet this kid. We were talking about owning businesses. I told him I was a photographer and what my business was, and he told me he was in the same category which means we were competing against eachother. His name was Liam. I'll keep this part short. We exchange cards. He leaves. I never see him again in Orlando. That's Liam.
I go to present.
I give my 15 minute speech, I talk about everything, and I focus on expansion opportunities. I showed the shirts.
There was 5 minutes of designated time for questions and feedback.
The judge was a yonger woman. She knew what she was doing in life. She was very smart looking.
"Listen to me" she said as she pointed to my paper.
"The paper. It was good. Great work. Original idea"
I was like word thanks
"But look" she said as we made eye contact.
She pointed to the photo print
"THIS. This is cool. I like the photo." she said as she waved her pen around it like a want. She points her pen to the logo, the same one that was on one of the shirts.
"But this. This is an idea. This is an opportunity." she said. I'll never ever forget this part. She continues
"Competition aside. When you go home and you take that suit off, do whatever this is. This is a brand. This is cool. This is something I can see kids wearing. Not me wearing, but kids. You said you have people that like you. Give it to them. It'll grow from there." she said as she held a black shirt with the OG Ohkay Worldwide logo on it, the one that is like a font on the chest. Her phone went off signaling that my time was up. She handed the shirt to me but didn't let me grab it. She held it infront of me and said
"Trust me. Kids take photos, all the time. Kids don't make brands. Change that. Do this whole clothing thing. You're ambitious. Don't give up on it."
I stuttered a bit. Did she like my presentation? Was my tie on right? Was walking into Ben Franklin Tees the best thing I ever did? I didn't know in that moment. But she certainly did.
I took the shirt and walked away.
I didn't win the competition. No one from Danvers did. But it didn't matter. Because I had won the battle of figuring out what to do with this idea. I don't know her name. If I did, I'd call her right now and thank her. I'll never find her again. It's a big world. Maybe she'll buy a shirt one day.
But I took home the most important bit of information I could ever need. And it echoes in my head every day.
Kids take photos all the time. Kids don't make brands. Change that.
So I did.
Remember Liam from the pool that day in Orlando? He ended up texting me two days after I got home.
"What are you doing this weekend?" he asked me.
I was like wtf why you asking that
"Nothing, why?" I replied.
"Me and my company want to fly you out to Chicago to shoot photos for our new product" he said.
Long story short I went home that night and told it to my mom how it was.
I was making $1,000 for the weekend. I was being flown out. I was sleeping on their Yacht somewhere in Chicago. My mom called his mom. They booked my flight an hour later.
They owned one of the first big hover board selling companies. You know, that product that got huge last year then all of them started exploding.
This went on for a few months. I designed and ran their website. We did 100K in sales. Fun time. I made my money, we sold the company, called it a day. I gave Laim a tee shirt. He didn't care for it.
The end of my junior year was all about me making a brand.
It started off slow. I had like 4,000 followers online.
I made this website, OHKAY Worldwide was born.
This part gets real funny and I'll explain all of it in the other blog, but I ended up going home and realizing I needed a lot of money to then make a little amount of sweatshirts. I would then sell those, make more money, make more sweatshirts, while making a brand name.
I made different designs and brought them downtown to Joe. We'd hangout and he'd show me how we would make them and how I should market them. I used being a photographer to get photos done of cool local girls and the cool boys in Boston and i just put them online. Things were really slow. Like selling 2-3 things a week, maybe 5-6. I was making stuff out of my basement. But it all began there. And I always thought about the day with the judge.
Junior year came to an end, I took my AP exams then hung out a lot. It was great. I was really living life. I was happy with Ashleen and I had a lot of really good friends.
The summer came. I worked at Camp Rotary, a Sleepover Camp i grew up going to. I spent the summer reading books in my spare time and learning about brands, studying how brands worked and how brands started. I spent a lot of time looking at the history of Bape and Supreme while always sailing across the pond with my friends. It was the best summer of my life. At night I would leave camp and drive to Ashleen's house until like 2am then drive back, park at the end of camp and walk back to where I was living. We had our own little studio set up in the 2nd floor of this building called the Rec hall. We were making clothes out of there and doing orders. I had a vinyl machine and we were basically hustling and starting OHKAY off every night with new designs and stuff, my friends and I while the camp was full of sleeping kids.
Senior year came and I was taking 3 AP classes.
I guess this part of life was the best of them all. It was very chill. Like I didn't do much. I studied really hard and did extrordinarily good in school and I had some college advisor women I would meet with once a week. I didn't play soccer. The brand was starting to take off.
Ashleen and I broke up. I then met Hudson and Serafina. My life switched completely.
I met this guy who had me book a show so I booked Ian Connor and Playboy Carti. Brought them to Boston. Hungout with them. Became friends with them early on before everyone got big online. Won DECA again for districts, won again for states.
In february it was wild, we randomly went to Fashion Week I shot photos of Kanye then we went to London with this little kid named Johnny and had a great week and I came back to school as if nothing happened.
Each month the brand grew a little bit and a little bit, but not by much. it was just starting out. It was big enough that it was my full time job. I never needed a job because for me to sell 5 hoodies, I was making more than I would have been if I was working every day after school for a week. I never needed a job in my life because of OHKAY. Crazy, huh? But that's also because I stayed up late every night after homework till like 2-3am making stuff and shipping it out. I wasn't that good at the internet yet. I still wasn't writing. I was dating Tina. Long distance. Kind of dating. Idk. The year went by fast. I seperated myself from Danvers pretty drastically. Our sports teams weren't that good. I was on Swim with Ms. Symz.
We went to Nashville, Tennessee for ICDC senior year. A group who had this amazing project ended up winning first place at ICDC. It was amazing. We came home winners. The town went nuts. It was cool to see that the business kids at school were cooler than the football team. We were doing real life shit. It was like a movie scene. There was like fifteen of us. Eight different groups, I was the only one solo. We all had real life ventures making real life moves, all while in highschool.
I wish someone made a movie out of it. Like they did with Facebook. Not the Social Network, but we were the Media Age.
Someone write script for that one day.
The end of highschool came and it went.
My principal and I became friends. I guess I grew up. Why fight with someone who is there to help you. We hugged it out. She told me that she can't wait to see me be successful one day and I tod her how much she meant to me as a figure in my life. The vice principal, too. That's my dude. For Life. Not that they'll ever see this, but they really did leave such a big impact on me and my life. They made that school like no other. Every day was amazing, and fun, and eventful. And we graduated and got our diploma and I kissed Danvers High School goodbye.
At that point I was doing my thing. Everyone was cool with it. Even the lunch ladies would ask me how everything was every day. School was amazing.
I ended with a 3.9 GPA and a really big scholarship to a bunch of colleges. I chose to go live in a city and go to school in Chicago unlike a lot of kids in my grade who went to state schools to chug beer. But everyone's different. And life goes on.
But if you've gotten this far. Thanks. I really hope you liked all of this jumbled mess of ideas. And just know, it's so important to appreciate every single day, no matter what goes on, because once you leave, you'll never be able to go back.