ODU Grad threads the needle
By: Jervone Bowens
Is there a formula to success and if so, how does one find it? This is the question that must be asked prior to speaking with Detroit native, Old Dominion graduate and up and coming CEO of A.V.A.T.A. Clothing, Donald Motley. In 2005, he, along with friends Cam Piper and Antoine Blount, began to collaborate in the lab of discovery to find their own tailored formula.
It all began with Donald expressing his thoughts inspired by life and his relational encounters and Cam Piper following with an illustration that conveyed the thoughts that Donald expressed. Antoine Blount joined the pair by contributing entrepreneurial ideas. Together they embarked upon a journey to establish a brand.
A.V.A.T.A. is an acronym that stands for “Authentic Variety Authentic True Art.” Their target market includes children and young adults but they have T-shirts to fit all sizes. They specialize in skateboarding and urban attire and they also have A.V.A.T.A. Angels for the ladies.
Their greatest core competency is outstanding customer service. They can boast regarding this attribute because currently their only sources of advertisement are Facebook, Twitter and the simple word of mouth support. “People have to like you,” said Motley. A.V.A.T.A.’s goal is to engage its customers by offering custom made designs and allowing shoppers to customize their orders.
The merchandise is displayed in an album and patrons comment on the items that they would like to purchase. While doing so they also specify their desired color scheme. A.V.A.T.A. prides itself on maintaining good customer report. Rather than bombarding customers with costly ads, which is often impossible for a new business with limited finances, A.V.A.T.A. relies heavily on silent selling. According to the CEO those affiliated with A.V.A.T.A. wears the clothing daily; however they rarely discuss their clothing line unless someone inquires about it. He believes that too much direct marketing has the potential to get boring after a while.
Motley said, “I’m not a typical fashion person, I just believe in being fly.” This is a concept A.V.A.T.A embodies along with being “fly but still down to earth,” a quote taken directly from an AVATA T-shirt. Motley defines himself as a reverse thinker. They have been striving for originality since the beginning. Motley described the evolution of the gaudy logo; it began with just an A and the embellishments were incorporated along the creative trail.
While having a flashback, Motley spoke of his humble beginnings in Detroit and highlights his mentor Steven Culpepper. Culpepper, a wrestling coach at Deep Creek High school, really nurtured Motley’s talents and encouraged him to obtain a college degree. He also spoke about the moments of scarcity that led him to brainstorming and drafting a brief business plan. He even admitted how nervous the A-Team was when coordinating the first show they were featured in that took place in the ODU Webb Center.
Using his smart phone, Motley strolled down a list of phrases he referred to as the A.V.A.T.A Quotalog; these ideas will more than likely be integrated with the designs for the upcoming season. Motley sees A.V.A.T.A. expanding internationally in the future; although he is aware that achieving this goal will require great tenacity, he assuredly is up for the task. While many investors are in pursuit, Motley considers wearing A.V.A.T.A as the best investment anyone can make in an effort to support their vision. A.V.A.T.A. plans on revamping one of their original T-shirts with a message in honor of breast cancer awareness. All proceeds from the sale of this T-shirt will go towards breast cancer research.
He said starting another organization would be in his plans. He currently coaches young athletes so he is sure that it will be something to empower the youth. His said to, “believe in yourself; you only can be who you are and the best at it, and to know where your blessings come from.” How might the A.V.A.T.A. plot thicken you may ask? We’ll just have to keep an eye on our local Monarch stars to see where they land in the sky.