Patterson High School class of 2015 graduates, Kevin Shephard and Chase Mullen have gone all-in on their clothing business, YANG, and so far the results have been fruitful. The clothing brand is featured in 32 Foot Lockers across the state, with debuts in Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia dropping this Spring.
“The reason I originally started YANG was to pull myself out of a dark place,” said Shephard, referring to moving to the more rural Patterson from Oakland in 2011. “I lacked a lot of motivation and I used YANG as a mantra to not only pick myself up, but to inspire others and now it’s a platform to inspire, motivate and shed a light on others who are working hard as well.”
YANG, which is an acronym for Young And Naturally Grinding, caught the attention of Mullen during his freshman year at Patterson High School.
“I bought (Kevin’s) first release that ever came out,” said Mullen. “(Since then) I purchased everything that was coming out and even paid extra for it.”
With Kevin being the full-time creative designer of the brand, Chase Mullen was offered a management position after treating the brand like his own.
“I was constantly supporting and posting (YANG) like it was my own,” said Chase. “(Eventually) I was brought in to handle the business management side helping with whatever I could.”
From scheduling photoshoots to talking to manufacturers, the addition of the full-time business management position helped lead the duo to their retail debut at Foot Locker’s flagship store on Hollywood Boulevard. The red carpet-esque event drew crowds and paparazzi as the duo was projected onto electronic screens and billboards surrounding the retail block.
“Coming from Patterson to being able to have an event on Hollywood Boulevard was surreal. We were actually on the Walk of Fame having an event for us and that was something I’ll never forget.”
Raised by a family of entrepreneurs, Kevin Shephard has always been hungry for success.
“My grandmother was a business owner, my mother is a business owner, and that’s why I work so hard. I want to keep the legacy going. I want to hand something down to my kids, to Chases’ kids.”
Sketching designs on his iPad, Shephard draws inspiration from his childhood, which is seen in one of YANG’s most recent designs, a woman with her hair styled in 1990’s fashion.
“I wanted to pay homage to (my mom) who I grew up seeing do hair like that in her salon,” said Shephard. “... I love everything from the 90s. From the music, the fashion and that overall unapologetic attitude.”
Chase Mullen also has entrepreneurial roots, with his family having owned several businesses in Patterson including the Sears off Highway 33.
“I would be at their businesses all day,” said Mullen. “They never paid for a babysitter and I didn’t have any older brothers or sisters to watch me, so I was with them.”
Having both grown up in business-oriented families, Kevin and Chase both knew how to make money when they needed it. As a teenager, Mullen would work landscaping jobs whenever he needed cash. Meanwhile, Shephard was selling shoes, denim, and even cold drinks.
“(While in high school) I had a business selling fruit slushies and delivering them door to door. That was one of my summer companies and I made like 12 grand in two months.”
The duo has recently paid a visit to their old stomping grounds at Patterson High School to speak with students in the Career Choices class.
“We’ve been trying for a chance to speak to the students,” said Mullen. “So one day Kevin and I decided to walk into the office to tell them our story and we actually had a little bit of luck because one of the people in the office knew our brand and she passed along our info to the Career Choices teachers and they were kind enough to let us come speak to their classes.”
It was important for the duo to relate to the students and share their story in hopes to inspire them to do what they love. They even held exercises in class where students made-up a brand on-the-spot and came up with mock marketing campaigns just to show students how simple it is to get an idea going.
“(We believe) that inspiring is the highest human act that you can do,” said Mullen. “That’s what we want to do to others. That’s what got us to where we’re at and we want to inspire these students and push them to do whatever their goals are in life.”
The sky’s the limit for YANG, which hopes to become a global brand and is currently exploring new avenues that include a high-end line for Nordstrom and a possible shoe line with New Balance.
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