High Powered Customs Apparel on a roll in clothing, printing business

·5 min read

A Black-owned roller skating arena set to open this summer in Spryfield is getting a lot of buzz, and all of the company’s swag will be created by another locally owned Black business, High Powered Customs Apparel.

Stefan Williams, who owns and runs High Powered Customs Apparel, said he never met Shane Upshaw, the owner of Upshaw’s Roller Dome, until recently when Upshaw approached him about doing business.

“It’s very important to support black businesses to help the money circulate thru the community,” said Williams in an interview with the Examiner. “A lot of black businesses don't last due to lack of support from the Black community.”

Williams said Upshaw wanted to use an upcoming roller-skating event as an opportunity to promote the opening of the roller dome. He contacted Williams to order apparel for Upshaw’s Roller Dome to sell at that event, and eventually for the business itself.

“Big thanks to Stefan Williams on the quick and awesome job on our swag. If you're wondering yes we will be producing apparel,” Upshaw wrote in a post in the Upshaw's Roller Dome Facebook group with pictures of one of the hoodies.

Williams said the majority of his clients and customers are either Black people, other Black-owned businesses, or Black community organizations and groups.

After working a series of jobs, at 31, Williams went back to school at NSCC in 2012 to study business. While he was there, he designed a logo ‘I Am HP’ — HP is in reference to theBlack community of Upper Hammonds Plains where he grew up.

With no money to print the logo on t-shirts, Williams started promoting the shirts through social media and taking pre-orders.

He put the profit he made from those sales back into the business. Williams was able to leave his other job to pursue High Powered Customs full time.

Williams said the acronym for High Powered Customs is deliberately intended to mirror the nickname he and his peers created when they were kids growing up in their ‘Hammonds Plains Community’ – ‘HPC’.

“That was just, as young people, what we called it, HPC, Hammonds Plains Community type thing,” Williams said.

“A bunch of people even have HPC tattoos and stuff. My thing was how can I flip it? So, I came up with High Powered Customs just trying to keep the acronym.”

Williams said the fact that most of his clients are Black is likely attributable to widespread connections he’s made throughout Black communities.

“I’m known in the Black communities, just because I lived all around the cities. And I have a good reputation around the city. People know me. And after I do my work, people like the work, so it’s a word of mouth.”

“The majority of the business is Black businesses. And not just Black businesses but Black people as well. Even those people who are starting their own clothing line or starting their own business.”

His first major client was Habitat for Humanity. Williams has also created jerseys for basketball tournaments, Black Lives Matter Golf apparel, clothing for Studio 26 Dance Company, as well as apparel for an event for Black entrepreneurship through the Tribe Network.

He said he’s designed his own clothing that many people may have seen but not been aware of who made it.

“There’s a lot of Black Lives Matter shirts out there, I mean a lot … that I’ve printed. Another one, ‘Scotian Since 1783’, that’s another shirt that I had developed a few years ago and released during Black History Month," Williams said.

Williams was also contacted to design a logo and print shirts for the African Nova Scotian Freedom School. One of the teachers at the school is Wendie Wilson, who also designed and created the African Nova Scotian Flag.

Wilson told the Examiner how she and Williams connected through his work with the Freedom School and partnered to create shirts for the African Nova Scotian flag.

“I saw him out there trying to do his thing, and the quality of work, so I reached out to him and asked if he would be interested, as a small Black business, to sell the African Nova Scotian Flag gear so that he would be able to profit from that, but he also agreed to give 25% back to Africentric Education Initiatives in Nova Scotia,” Wilson said.

“I think it’s of the utmost importance that we support Black businesses and keep Black dollars in community. I think it’s one of the key tenants to building sovereignty and self-sustainability, and it only benefits me when my community does well."

“I just think all around its just really important that I think, when anyone in our community ⁠— the Black community, the African Nova Scotian community ⁠— does well then that just benefits everyone. That benefits all of us.”

Williams said he talks with his teenaged kids about what it takes to run a business and earn a living.

“I’m not sure what they take from it but I talk to them a lot about it,” he said. “I’m super transparent with my kids when it comes to even how much of a profit I’m making. Like, ‘I bought this for this amount of money, this is how much I’m selling it for, so I was able to make this amount.’”

“I’m trying to let them know that they don’t even have to go and work for someone, and try to teach them there are other ways to make money.”

Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Halifax Examiner

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