Despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, some young Virgin Islanders have been able to establish their own businesses and make their visions a reality.
J’Nai Esannason is 19 years old, but will finish out 2020 with two businesses under his belt, a custom T-shirt printing business called Nai Prints and his own clothing brand – Hot Head: The Brand.
Esannason is a sophomore at Virginia State University in Ettrick, Virginia, where he is pursuing a degree in mass communications. He is also developing his modeling career. After graduating, he hopes to move to Atlanta to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
It was at the university that the idea for his brand took shape.
“When I was in Virginia, I was doing small bookings and the college had a brand that was popular amongst students. I participated in a few fashion shows but did not win. I told my mother about it and she asked me, ‘Why do you need to look for validation from these people, you should make your own show,’” Esannason said. “She said that there is a fire that burns inside of you and it doesn’t need to shine with others.”
That was the birth of Hot Head: The Brand. Beginning in February, Esannason engaged in his research and design process until he was ready to officially launch in October. Since then he has released a line of T-shirts and a social media marketing campaign with the hashtag #HotHeadClubMember.
Along the way, he has encountered multiple challenges.
“I think the most difficult part for me was the design. I had a design that I drew myself, and I had a whole different character from what I have now. I asked my mother and grandmother what they thought, and they said it needed more work. I have to give a major shout out to D’Andre Young, he’s a graphic designer who really helped out. I told him what I was looking for font wise and idea wise, and he came up with something great,” Esannason said.
Esannason also spoke of the financial and material challenges of running his brand, and how he leveraged past experience to his benefit.
“A lot of money has gone towards photo shoots and the printing of shirts. Thankfully I already had the equipment to print on hand since May, when I started Nai Prints. In the process of making one business, I made another on the side,” Esannason said.
Though the bulk of the planning, designing and production of the brand comes from Esannason, his success was not accomplished alone. He has a set of trusted friends and family members that have guided him along the way.
His head brand ambassador is 19-year-old Shania Farrington. Farrington is a hospitality and tourism major at the University of the Virgin Islands, and she hopes to someday be the general manager for a hotel either locally or on the mainland, and to later operate her own hotel.
As the head brand ambassador for Hot Head: The Brand, she is featured in much of its marketing and is able to directly support Esannason as he develops his brand.
“I met J’Nai in my freshman year of high school and I think we’ve grown our friendship since then because we have such similar traits. He approached me about the idea in February, and I told him I would support him 100 percent. We then talked about the designs and he offered to make me a brand ambassador,” Farrington said.
“As a brand ambassador, I want to help get the name out there so that even kids and babies will be wearing it. I hope that everybody will be wearing Hot Head and will be able to say oh yeah, that’s J’Nai’s brand,” she said.
Esannason gave many thanks to the maternal figures in his life. He first thanked his mother, Njnanya Boyd, for her consistent emotional and financial support. Boyd is an assistant principal at Charlotte Amalie High School.
“She really was the backbone of the whole operation. She would look at my designs and tell me whether they needed more work. Every time I felt like giving up, she told me to continue because I had true potential,” Esannason said.
Esannason also thanked Madelin Colon, branch manager at First Bank and mother of his head brand ambassador, Farrington, as well as his grandmother, Kit-Alia Freeman. Freeman is the owner of Havensight Medical Lab and offered Esannason advice in business management and entrepreneurship.
“She taught me how to manage Hot Head from a business standpoint and not just as my clothing brand. I have to thank her for her business intelligence,” Esannason said.
Esannason is constantly thinking toward the future and has major plans for the growth of Hot Head: The Brand.
“I want to go far with the brand, and I see so many things happening. I’m thinking of having a fashion show here in the V.I., a J’ouvert troupe and a Carnival troupe. I want to see it sold across America and internationally. I have a very optimistic view. I want to see it on posters, and I want to walk down the street and see people in it. That’s the vision I hope for,” Esannason said.
Esannason also thanked all his friends and family for making the brand’s launch and success possible.
People who want to support Esannason and Hot Head: The Brand can purchase a shirt or join the mailing list at the brand’s website.