In the spring of 2016, juniors Kha Akerson and Hal Caicedo launched “GUUDreams.” What started off as an idea for possible music merchandise from a song Akerson had in the works somehow evolved into a brand centered on creativity and drive, targeted toward all the go-getters of the millennial generation.
“I subconsciously put the words ‘good dreams’ into a song I was writing at the time because it sounded nice at first,” Akerson began. “Then I remembered as a child, my grandmother would say good dreams instead of goodnight before bed, so that’s how the phrase came about. It was all extremely organic, just like the brand. It just happened.”
Last year, as Akerson began merchandising single pieces of apparel with that same motto on them, it took a mere variation of spelling for people to start to take notice. “Once I started wearing it around, people started to question it and they thought the spelling and meaning behind it was cool. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘Hold on, this could actually be something.’”
Akerson quickly knew this project called for more than one set of hands. Turning to his friend and now business partner Caicedo, the two put their heads together to create a brand which they view as “more than just clothing.”
“For us, the dream [for this brand] is to stay involved in the culture of youth and hip-hop,” Caicedo said. “It’s the culture of being open-minded to things and being creative despite people who may not see your vision right away,” Akerson added.
Both Akerson and Caicedo noted that they intend for their brand to eliminate the hatred in the world while still inspiring people, which is why they put impactful phrases on their garments. “[Our goal] is to remind our generation the probability of being successful is more attainable than we might think,” Akerson explained.
The two entrepreneurs attribute some of the most important qualities of their brand to growing up in New York. “The creative work behind our line is inspired by the fact that we’re from New York because there’s creativity literally everywhere,” Caicedo, a Brooklyn native, said.
Unlike other New York-born streetwear clothing lines, which Akerson characterized as being typically “rugged and mean,” the relaxed and casual persona surrounding GUUDreams seeks to put out positive messages first.
Overcoming adversity is another central idea linked to the GUUDreams brand. Caicedo and Akerson shared how being minorities in this country has added increased drive to their creative edge and work ethic.
As a minority and son of immigrants from Ecuador, Caicedo explained how his parents raised him to find a practical job in order to ensure financial stability. “In college, I realized that [being an accounting major], although practical, wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I switched over to marketing because I want to stay involved with the culture of music, art and fashion through marketing.”
Akerson’s parents, employed by the city, encouraged him to follow in their footsteps to reach success and establish a sense of security. Akerson, a public relations major, became determined to stand out from the crowd and discontinue the stereotypes and predispositions surrounding young, black males in America.
“We’re constantly underestimated in this society,” Akerson shared. “I don’t want to be predictable.”
Caicedo followed up, “We pride ourselves on being minorities.”
The collaborative nature of GUUDreams parallels the mission statement at its foundation as the duo stresses the importance of working with artists, models, photographers and other creatives with similar visions and ambitions in mind. Without an in-house artist, Akerson and Caicedo have harnessed the talents of amateur artists on Instagram to bring their designs to life. These artists span all across the nation to include Colorado, Florida and California.
Recent collaborations with local musicians have served to both promote the GUUDreams brand as well as give the artists a positive platform to stand on as they embrace the brand’s message.
Fortune released an article earlier in the year in which they found that millennials are starting more businesses than their parents of the boomer generation. For these two full-time students, and now full-time entrepreneurs, age is quite literally nothing but a number.
“Millennials are so optimistic about things and have so much free will. No matter what anyone says, they’re not going to be able to distract us from our goals or knock us down,” Akerson responded when asked his thoughts about people who might claim the two are too young to start a successful business. “There’s no age bracket to being successful in life.”
With more products in the works for the near future, the business partners didn’t want to give too much away about some of the new products to expect. However, they highlighted the significant role higher education has played in the business’ success thus far and made it clear that they’re only getting started.
“We want to maintain that sense of optimism that millennials have through our clothing,” Caicedo explained. “Our clothes are made with a lot of love and a good message. Especially if you’re a college student or a young person working hard, we understand and we’re making comfortable clothing for you.”