Ahkeel Townsend and Emmaus Yonas’ friendship “clicked” immediately as roommates, now they are entrepreneurs on the cusp of infiltrating the world of fashion through their clothing brand BLEACH.
The concept of BLEACH originated in 2016 in the 15-year-old brain of Townsend and would later solidify into a substantiated business upon meeting Yonas, the co-owner and artistic arm of the brand, in 2019.
“I thought BLEACH was just like an edgy name to go with it,” Townsend said. “The idea behind it was just to create a brand that had an abrasive element but still a pop of color, liveliness and purity to it.”
BLEACH features a line of logo t-shirts, hoodies, crop tops and matching sets.
Behind eye-catching bleached garments, the unique logo is hard to miss, as it cleverly illustrates the word “bleach” in sign language.
The design was inspired by Yonas’s uncle who was born deaf.
“This is the second logo design, but it is the main logo,” Yonas said. “I just thought the sign language was pretty cool and my uncle is deaf on my mom’s side, so all of us kind of know it to be able to speak to him.”
Townsend and Yonas shared that it took a full year to officiate the identity of BLEACH after deciding to join forces. They divulged that they used the pandemic as a season of “trying different combinations” and “bouncing ideas off of each other.”
Their social media presence and ecommerce site bleachccmiami.com, officially launched in February of 2022.
“It was very tedious,” Townsend said about the process. “Going through finding multiple suppliers, networking with a whole different set of people than what we’re used to. It’s just a day to day balance between trying to figure out new designs, how to bring in new customers and also how to increase profit while maintaining consistency and quality.”
Yonas and Townsend resolved to print their own clothes as a way of increasing profit and maintaining creative freedom.
“We basically make every shirt that comes out our doors, ” Townsend said. “The first round we had over 120 shirts and we almost sold out all of them.”
As a health science major with triple minors in chemistry, sociology and public health and an architecture major with a minor in art, Townsend and Yonas career paths strikingly differ from fashion. But the duo said that their inclination to entrepreneurship and passion for artistic expression is what continues to inspire BLEACH.
“It’s really not not all about the money, especially for us,” Yonas said. We do try to focus on maximizing profits and getting the most out of it but we just fell in love with the brand when we started making it. Even if nobody else buys it, I’ll still wear it.”
Townsend specifically has entrepreneurship in his blood as his father owns a Caribbean restaurant and his mother is an accounting manager, who often contributes her financial insight to BLEACH.
“The actual running of a business and entrepreneurship spirit, I definitely get it from both of them [parents] together, ” said Townsend who is from New Jersey “My mom is like a financial guru.
According to Yonas and Townsend, the future of BLEACH is bright and “not even the sky’s the limit.” They hope to enter new spaces and achieve new goals such as opening a storefront and attaching a print shop.
“We have ample designs and a good following right now and we can only grow from here, ” Townsend said. “There are even things that we’re talking about, not necessarily directly relating to BLEACH, but employing the skills that we learned from having the brand.”
With success also bears challenges, Yonas speaks about being a full time student and simultaneously running a business.
“So there’s a lot to balance. But it’s just about being persistent and combining our strengths, Yonas said. It’s more of the business side with his [Townsend] background and I’m more graphic design. So this is one of the strengths that comes with bleach.”
Yonas and Townsend said they appreciate the support shown by their UM community. They even invited students to model for BLEACH marketing campaigns and photoshoots.
“The models look at it as a mutually beneficial situation because lots of them want to be influencers and models overall,” Townsend said. “One of the best parts is just seeing people wear it, seeing people support, seeing people buy it, ” Yonas said. “Because that’s your work and that’s something that you created, so it just feels good to see it all come to fruition.”
As an ode to UM, BLEACH has a shirt with the classic green and orange colorway.
Yonas and Townsend weigh in on owning a black-owned business.
“Being a black-owned business feels amazing,” Townsend said. “I have cousins and family members that also look up to me and the fact that I was able to get this done and stay dedicated to it.”
Yonas adds that accessibility can oftentimes pose a challenge for young black budding entrepreneurs.
“I feel like a lot of black youth don’t get the opportunities to start their own business because they don’t have as many resources as other communities,” Yonas said. “So it was nice that we could start this and keep it going.”
On Feb. 27, BLEACH will have its first on-campus pop up shop. The event is in collaboration with another student-run clothing brand 2REAL Apparel and will be located by the Lakeside canopy from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.