Millennial FastTracks His Own Brand
Tony Davis is the CEO/owner of Secret Scientist Clothing, a luxury streetwear brand established in 2010 and based out of Mobile, AL. A graduate of the University of South Alabama (USA) with a degree in Marketing, he initially played baseball at Springhill College for two years before transferring to USA. He fell in love with the Marketing department and the School of Business at USA.
How it all Started
“In 2009, I had a boutique called Fly Times, where I sold other brands–Streetwear was still underground, brands that we carried couldn’t even be sold in the mall. So, I decided to create and sell my own brand because I had a storefront and the avenue to sell my own product. The name Secret Scientist didn’t come from anywhere special; it was nothing I thought about, nothing that I sat down and wrote about; I had an ex-ex-girlfriend who was a Pre-med major, and I called her a secret scientist in conversation, and that’s where the name it came from.”
“So, I had Fly Times for three years, and then Secret Scientist became the leading brand. After three years, I closed my store, moved forward with Secret Scientist, and Fly Times is no more. It only made sense for me to sell my own brands instead of making other people rich selling other brands, which is not what I wanted to do.” Secret Scientist Clothing is an urban streetwear brand providing a range of products from t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, and footwear to accessories and more. We recognize and embrace individuality while making fashion fun, accessible, and always trendy. My favorite quote is, “Bet on yourself.” We say that all the time. We say that on our hoodies, t-shirts, and crews. … “A lot of our pieces have cherries on them. We do a casino theme with the bet on yourself. We do small pieces on the sleeves and maybe a poker chip and stuff like that. “Bet on yourself” resonates with our brand.”
Tony remembers having never applied for any jobs after graduating college. “…when I graduated college, I was unprepared, and I was like oh wait, I didn’t apply for any jobs, and I had to do something – and I was like you know what let’s open up our own business” he loved streetwear and there was nowhere to shop at the time in Mobile. So, I was like, let’s just do something different, having seen the gap in the market, he jumped in and created his own business; he says, “So at 23 years old right out of college, I started my own business – my first job was my own business.” He felt destined to become an entrepreneur, especially after his parents gifted him some money as his graduation gift. “… till this day, I feel they were complete lunatics taking a chance on me, allowing a 23-year-old with no guidance to start a business.” He put all the money into his new business and has never looked back. He recalls that it was a considerable risk, but looking back 11 years later, he says, “it worked out.”
Disciplines and Successes
Three qualities define Tony Davis, and he always tries to live by them; First, “‘honesty’ – the rule in my business is don’t lie to me, we can fix a lot of problems but can’t fix a lie. I can’t defend something that I don’t know the whole truth about – tell the whole truth. I don’t lie to people, and I’m honest with our staff. It’s black or white with me; I’m not going to lead people on.” Second, “‘motivated’ – I try to find a way through challenges by staying motivated.” Third, “‘down-to-earth’ I’m just a down-to-earth person doing a job that I love, and I have my brand. Some people let success go to their head – and people start complaining about how they treat people – my staff and me – we treat everybody good. So, I’d say I have strong values, and I live by them. Treat your customers well.”
Mr. Davis, an avid reader, says; “I’m always trying to learn – by reading a lot and finding out what works well in other organizations that could probably work well for me, and then I create my own curriculum, my own handbook, my own platform, and I continue to push forward. Also, you can’t manage everybody the same; people respond differently. So, I’ve learned to be flexible and balanced in my relationships as a boss, leader, husband, father, and friend – I try to have empathy for others.”
Strong Black Businesses in the Community
Tony says, “At our company, 75% of our staff is black; we have a culture where we encourage everyone to go for anything they want to be or do. As an entrepreneur, I want everyone around me to be enterprising and follow their dream. I live by example, showing that within the Black community, you can be successful in business, be a family man, be regular, do certain things, and still be down to earth. Many young people lose themselves in internet fantasy; they don’t know who they want to be – they want to be everybody but themselves. You don’t have to fit into a specific type of internet look. Good examples and strong role models will go a long way in helping our community thrive.”
Handling Challenges and Curved Balls in Business
As someone who had to face his fair share of challenges, Tony says, “I’ve been through a lot, so when I face challenges, I pray, and I use my past experiences to keep me moving forward. I look back and think about many things I shouldn’t have gotten out of and probably even should have been dead, and I’m not. So, in my mind, I’m like if God could get me out of that situation, he’ll definitely pull me through this one.” Secondly, having the proper support structure, my wife is much more stable than I am; she doesn’t get too emotional. She’s exceptionally level-headed, and so I’ve got a good partner in my corner.”
On Youth Interested in Going into Business
Tony says any young person wanting to go into business should “be patient. It takes time. They see the finished product online, but nobody shows you the steps to get to it – focus on what you got going on, no need to make comparisons to other people. Be you and do things on your scale; there is no need to be upset or worried when comparing your product/brand with others. Start small and grow from there. There are levels to everything.”
Hopes for the future
In the next couple of years, Tony Davis’s thinking about his exit strategy; either a buy-out or franchising. Also, looking at opening up a restaurant, he’s confident that he can swing it, having seen a lot.
His company also has to face supply chain issues, having to pay more to have supplies flown in by air against shipping which takes longer; “used to be 30 days it’s 60 days right now.” They overcome this by strategically forecasting way ahead of when supplies are needed. On the labor side, “in the last six months, it’s been high turnover.”
When people think about Secret Scientist – the brand Tony wants them to remember; “we aren’t selling a brand; we were trying to build people.” “I tell my staff, my corporate team all the time; you can sell clothes, but when someone leaves our company, I want them to be a more responsible adult and realize I can do this. And understand that there’s a lot to life out there, so take your time and be patient. Secondly, people go through a lot, so we like to use every chance we get to build them up – be patient. Mental health is a serious issue right now – we try to be positive all the time, focusing on positivity all day. We allow our staff to take the day off if they have issues affecting their health.”
Secret Scientist Clothing runs nine stores with 60 plus staff members, and they have a 4500 sq. feet warehouse.
Thinking about Connecting with Secret Scientist Clothing brand. They are online at;