BY SHANEDRA J. SMITH | STAFF WRITER
BLKPRENEURSHIP THE MAG | 11/01/2022
The real dream team
In 2013, Victor Sandifer and Demont Oliver had a vision. Friends for almost 16 years at the time, they were both working with older college students at a college in Claifornia. The two Oakland natives had seen a problem with the students, who were learning how to apply the knowledge they’ve learned at school to real life’s situations: they only saw money as a solution, and not the development of their self-esteem and character. To them, money was priority while learning and knowledge were low on their necessities in their lives. “We worked in higher education, I worked with young college students trying to figure out majors in college and how they could translate those skills they had learned working in the union to what’s next,” Sandifer began. “A lot of people,” Oliver continued, “were just in majors to be in majors, and it necessarily wasn’t something that was going to help them.” Oliver and Sandifer noticed the students did not have the drive to learn to grow their skills. To Oliver and Sandifer, something needed to change.
The two men saw this as unacceptable—the youth were believing the lie that they as black people had no place in the world and that they had nothing to contribute to society. They saw that words as damaging as those can lead to self-esteem issues. “So that’s why learning about history is very important to me, ” Sandifer shared. “I wanted to figure out a way to educate on our history that was outside the traditional school system that we have, because I think our school system is very flawed.” The double genius that came from these two men who seem to have synced visions toward the same goal of saving the minds of a new generation sparked the creation of what Sandifer refers to as a “product and experience company”: Run the World Clothing. With Oliver operating administration and business plans while Sandifer mainly operates creative directions, the duo put much time, effort and hard work into intriguing people about black history, the importance of knowing your own history, and that black people have a part in this world.
A “product an experience company”
2022’s Black Liberation Dream Team tee, designed by Victor Sandifer, features names known and some not-so-known, like Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Killer Mike, Assata Shakur, and Mary McLeod Bethune. Taken from their website, the vintage-inspired tee features “12 Run The World icons from various time periods, who we felt could use their diverse skills and talents to take on the daunting task of uplifting, empowering and liberating Black folks.” Above the shirt’s description, there is a quote from an African proverb; “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” while the hashtag, “#FurtherTogether” sits under the shirt’s description.
“The dream team was something that I created,” Sandifer said. “I was inspired by my love for basketball. I played basketball growing up and the original dream team was in 1992. You had the best of the best all around the world, assembled in one team. And so they had these shirts made of caricature characters commemorating the team and their championship if they won.”
And with that, Sandifer had a question: what if he could create his own dream team?
“If I had a team–a dream team for the liberation of black folks–who would it be? Who would be on that team, living or dead from any generation, to liberate black people?” As the team started playing with the concepts of creating an actual black liberation dream team, they became very intentional about who they wanted to select to design on the shirt and at the same time provide a bit of variety.
Madam CJ Walker was known as the “first black millionaire in America” and made homemade hair products for black women. Rihanna, whom is almost a household name, is according to her website “busy adding more credits to her burgeoning resume: executive producer, fashion designer, actress, astute business entrepreneur and philanthropist.” Fannie Lou Hamer was an American voting and women’s rights activists and leader in the civil rights movement. Toni Morrison was a Nobel Literature Prize winner famous for her novels such as The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon, all about concepts in black culture. “We wanted to put people on the shirt that people knew, but also people that weren’t really known, so that they might want to learn more about this person,” Sandifer added.
When it comes to their designs and projects, these two men make sure lots of effort goes into their designs and their message. As Oliver still works in education full time, he makes sure he manages his time thoroughly. “It’s about just finding time and creating a schedule and sticking to it,” Oliver shared. “For the most part, I think it’s the time in the day that works. I plan out my years very heavily to see what’s up ahead.” “For me,” A researcher who loves to read and ask questions, Sandifer begins his planning and researching with ideas to go hand in hand to tell incredible stories of the black icons that came before us as well as those existing now. For Sandifer, it’s not just clotges, but a movement.
Other items throughout the shop feature thought provoking statements such as freedom equals no fear, the 70s influenced B.L.A.C.K. is beautiful and Let your light shine. “B.L.A.C.K. stands for black liberation and cultural knowledge“, Oliver commented. The clothing’s colors are bright and vibrant, adding pops of color an style. At the time of this article, most of the artistically skilled pieces have been sold out. “I am just glad people are starting to receive it,” Sandifer commented on the pieces.
Throughout their friendship and business endeavors as entrepreneurs, the two learned many things about themselves, what it takes to own a business, and what it takes to properly maintain and operate a business. “I think probably one of the biggest obstacles that would always be in a small business or start up business is funding,” Oliver said. “Just having money to create products to sell products to create products… the whole cycle. Sometimes clothes don’t sell as fast, so then money doesn’t come back as fast. We have to find alternative ways to make money to be able to make the next wave of product.”
For Sandifer, funding was also a big obstacle for him, but a personal obstacle he had to encounter was becoming more outgoing on social media. “It may not look like it now, but a few years ago, I was super shy and timid on social media. But after the pandemic, I said, ‘you know what? the way the world is working, I have to do what I got to do in order to get this company where I want it to go. So being shy and not wanting to be uncomfortable isn’t an option anymore. And at that point, I forced myself to do all that stuff uncomfortably until I got more comfortable.” Sandifer offered some words of encouragement to anyone struggling to start something because of anxiety: “If you have some anxiety about something and you have this certain fear around certain things, you do it afraid. You’ll get through after a while, and then you’ll be comfortable. But you have to be uncomfortable to get to different heights.”
Not only do Sandifer and Oliver dedicate themselves to growth for the sake of their careers and their business, but they also want to use their platform to help grow other entrepreneurs around them. They have started the She Is Market to better support other women who are entrepreneurs as well. “For me,” Sandifer began, “I wanted to show my allyship to women by creating and using my resources to be able to help share a platform,” Sandifer shared. Every March, the men try to do something specific for womsn to show honor to them. However, this year they established the She Is Market to showcase women entrepreneurs. “From the deejay down to the bartender; we even work with a young lady who does our set designs, so everything is woman-centered,” Demont shared.
A question one may think when they hear the name ‘run the world’ may be what in the world does that mean? One might think of Beyonce’s hit single Run the World (Girls) about the empowerment of women. But for Oliver and Sandifer, it means something different. “Run the world for me is just the idea of giving back with your passion. So anybody, whatever it is that you have to do, if you use that passion and use that love to give back to other folks and give back to community, then you run the world. So for me, I’m all about education, empowering and inspiring new knowledge. And so I use my product and the events that we host as a vehicle and vessel to be able to better serve my community.” For Oliver, his answer was in sync with his best friend, saying “it’s about empowerment—empowering communities to think for oneself and to lean on one another.”
“Run the world is about black history, black culture and black radical thought,” Sandifer said. “We create these products not only exclusively for black people, but for anyone who considers himself an ally can rock these products because we believe, in particularly in America, that black history is the most important history that was once told.”
“I come from a heart of service,” Oliver shared about what he wants people to know about his business. “One of my favorite quotes I live by is ‘service to others is the rent you pay to live here on earth.’ I think service comes in many different ways.” To Oliver, service is teaching young people how to be adults and how to manage their own lives while giving back to their communities.
As for future plans, the two have goals of their own that still line up with the mission of their company perfectly well: Oliver would like to become a director of a youth development center to impact even more young minds toward change, as well as continuing to manage Run the World with his best friend. “That’s something that’s been a pivotal part in my life,” he shared. “And just with that alone, you’re able to touch a lot of kids in the community and help steer them in the right direction to use their creativity to change the world.”
Speaking of his long friendship with Oliver, Sandifer commented “We’ve been friends for about 23 years now, that’s a big part of our lives together. That is quite significant. So we’re in it for the long haul now. It’s awesome that we’re making a living together while doing something. I’m excited to see where this goes.”
“Mark my words,” Sandifer said finally on his company. “in the next five or ten years, Run the World is going to be a household brand, and we’re going to do a lot of stuff in the community and be very impactful. So look out.”
Victor Sandifer and Demont Oliver can be found on instagram @runtheworldvic and @runtheworldmont, as well as at their website, runtheworldclothing.com
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