Enactus launches sustainable student-run clothing brand
October 29, 2020
The Illinois chapter of Enactus, a global organization working to create a better world through entrepreneurship and innovation, is the fastest growing organization in the Gies College of Business at the University. The team partners with large corporations, local businesses, student organizations, nonprofits, public schools and entrepreneurs. These projects range from a paper journal business utilizing 100% post-consumer paper to projects creating petroleum-free algae-based bioplastic.
The Phoenix Project started as a capstone idea more than a year ago by a group of new Enactus members, said Alisha Alam, sophomore in LAS and one of the project managers for Phoenix.
Sydney Nguyen, sophomore in Business, is also a project manager for Phoenix. Alam and Ngyuen joined Enactus for their shared love of creativity and entrepreneurship. Alam said the project began taking shape when her group was given the task of improving quality education in the community.
After interacting with high school students, they noticed many had an interest or passion in fashion or graphic design but were restricted from pursuing it properly due to the lack of resources at the local schools.
Throughout Fall 2019 to current day, Phoenix has been recruiting students and setting up workshops, resulting in numerous products being designed and manufactured cycled up for sale.
During Fall 2020, Phoenix has prepared for an official brand launch, following developed research on marketing through social media and brand image advertising, trademarking Phoenix as a public label and functioning e-commerce.
The group pitches Phoenix as an awareness-based clothing brand that empowers and provides resources to local high school students. The brand, however, had its own, centered message, Alam said.
“I think a personal message I see with Phoenix is that we’re a brand that is centered completely around the students,” she said. “The students are the ones who shape this project and are the complete creative geniuses behind all they do, and seeing them taking that initiative to turn their passions into sustainable products is really great.”
Nguyen said Phoenix serves as a brand to promote a bigger interest in the arts, specifically fashion and design in communities that don’t have the resources to promote this interest within high schoolers.
“Phoenix is a platform for students to simply explore this interest and see their hard work through when having their pieces established under the Phoenix brand,” she said.
Nguyen said she thinks her marketing major has helped in terms of being knowledgeable about the business side of Phoenix and knowing how to find the target market, how to market toward them and how to retain customer engagement.
“Just with my passion for marketing in general, I’ve studied my fair share of fashion brands and other various sustainable brands,” she said. “I know some of the major aspects that go into a successful and well-composed brand image.”
Both Nguyen and Alam focus a lot on the details of the project and make sure it comes together smoothly. Alam said they contribute a lot together with their roles and are able to complement each other exceptionally.
“Bouncing new ideas back off each other and our shared excitement and passion for Phoenix is really exciting,” she said.
While Alam’s role primarily focuses more on community engagement and outreach and Nguyen’s focuses more on brand image development, their roles are cohesive under their executive manager, Muskaan Sawhney. Sawhney, junior in LAS, holds both project managers accountable to their own goals.
“While Alisha and Sydney manage the project day to day, I focus on the long-term goal alignment and aiding the project managers,” she said. “It has been fun to be on this project, as I was one of the three students who founded the project back in 2019, so it has been awesome to see the project grow to what it is today.”
This semester, Phoenix is running a virtual program expanding to Chicago next semester, where students will be receiving starter packages with fabric and materials as well as access to both live and pre-recorded curriculum for the projected brand launch this winter.
Sawhney said Phoenix has an inspiring message of showing what students are capable of if given the right skills, community and support for their artistic abilities.
“Creative departments often are the first to get underfunded in high schools, and many do not realize the creative outlet and feeling of empowerment that students get from exploring art mediums that are important to their development,” she said.