To make it work, Vineland teenager Antwain Rivera is launching a clothing line

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VINELAND — When COVID shut down schools, Antwain Rivera’s mother said he had nothing to do at home.

So, the Vineland High School student threw one.

Rivera launched her “Strive or Starve” clothing brand, earning $2,000 in profit in its first year and gaining practical entrepreneurial knowledge along the way.

“During quarantine in 2020, when we were all locked inside, my mom actually gave me the idea,” Rivera said during a recent interview where he wore a rhinestone-embellished hoodie. of its last line.

His mother, Richonda Mendez of Paulsboro, was Rivera’s first investor, funding a few T-shirts and an Amazon order for a heat press and Cricut, a computer-guided cutting device.

“We didn’t know how to use it – I didn’t know, he didn’t know,” Mendez said. “We had to have all of YouTube.”

“At first it all started with me and my brother,” Rivera said, but her younger brother left the clothing business to work. “I took full responsibility for it.”

Support from family members stoked the fledgling business and fueled Rivera’s drive to succeed.

Find your future

Rivera entered Vineland Public Schools in seventh grade when his family moved from Salem. After graduating from Wallace Intermediate School, he transitioned to VHS where he was a tri-sport athlete. His name has appeared on track, baseball, and football rosters.

During his junior and senior years, Rivera focused exclusively on football, where he played safety and wide receiver.

“My dream, at first, was football,” he said, but his career shifted from grass to business.

He is not the only one who wants to embark on his own adventure.

According to a 2021 study by Junior Achievement USA of teens ages 12-17, about 60% of teens are more interested in starting their own business than pursuing a traditional job.

“Now I have a clothing brand, that’s what I’m chasing,” Rivera said.

Vineland High School senior Antwain Rivera, right, shows off his latest Strive or Starve hoodie design with his friend Daeshaun Winchester on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

Rivera signed up for an online course hosted by self-proclaimed hustler and entrepreneur Dontez Akram. The eight-hour “Zero to Hero” course covered e-commerce advertising, production and distribution.

“It was a steal,” Rivera said of the $25 course.

Rivera was also one of 30 aspiring business owners selected last year for an all-expenses-paid trip to a young entrepreneur program in Miami hosted by Philadelphia’s Anthony Goodwin, known as the practice owner on Instagram.

River took what he learned and applied his own creativity. At the end of 2020, he was the head of Strive or Starve LLC, running his website and fulfillment of online orders.

“I could see people buying in California and Texas,” he said.

It’s time to fight

“I love being involved in my business,” Rivera said, but his more complex designs required the help of a graphic designer.

To cut costs, he also outsourced his production.

“It was a battle to find the right manufacturer,” Rivera said, cautious to avoid scammers. He works with a vendor in Pakistan to produce his hoodies. It also sells shirts, pants, hats and shorts.

Antwain Rivera's latest Strive or Starve hoodie.

His latest collection of hoodies, featuring a hair-friendly satin lining, retails for $50. Rockstar Edition t-shirts are $20 and joggers are $30.

Rivera, 18, has converted the family basement into her distribution center.

“I feel like an entrepreneur now because that’s where I want to spend all my time,” he says, hoping to eventually move into a store.

Rivera is enrolled in the Marketing 2 course with Kari Stockbridge, who chairs the VHS Professional and Technical Education Department.

Stockbridge recently heard about her student’s self-motivated extracurricular project.

“He’s done a lot of this on his own during COVID,” she said, noting their interaction was limited during their Marketing 1 virtual class. “I didn’t know that until I got him this year in person and we started talking.”

“I was so impressed with everything he was telling me,” she said.

“(Antwain) is going to be very successful. He always does his job early, pretty much perfect, he gets it,” Stockbridge said. “I feel like the students look up to him.”

Rivera is an accomplished athlete, an A student and has a retail job in addition to running his own business, Stockbridge said.

“Going back to COVID, it was a horrible experience for the kids,” Stockbridge said. But for Rivera, she says, it was an opportunity to apply her own initiative.

“He took that time to research outsourcing, find a graphic designer, find someone to print his stuff, he researched his website,” she said. “I feel like he took lemons and made lemonade.”

Asked about the personal implications of his company name, Strive or Starve, Rivera smiled and said he wasn’t hungry.

The business is profitable but not enough to finance the university.

After graduating from Gittone Stadium, Rivera went on to Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where he was awarded a football scholarship. He plans to major in marketing and business to build his brand.

Rivera’s ultimate goal is to be a role model.

“I really want to be a motivator and have my siblings look up to me,” he said. “I want them to be like me or better than me.”

Follow your dreams, he insisted.

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you can’t give up,” he said. “You have to keep pushing yourself, nothing happens overnight.”

Vineland High School senior Antwain Rivera, left, shows off his latest Strive or Starve hoodie design with his friend Daeshaun Winchester on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

Rivera joked about already leaving a legacy at VHS by inspiring football coach Dan Russo to break away from the conservative look of team hoodies.

This year’s workout gear had a bolder look.

“They were a nice step up from what he usually does,” Rivera said. “They were something different for him, he usually stays basic but he stepped out of his comfort zone.”

Rivera hopes he inspired the coach to get bold.

“Absolutely, 100%,” Russo said.

Rivera also hopes to encourage other students to be bold in their own lives.

“If you don’t seek what you want, you won’t be satisfied with what you get,” he said. “I want everyone to pursue what they want in life and do it to the fullest.”

Deborah M. Marko covers breaking news, public safety and education for The Daily Journal, Courier-Post and Burlington County Times. Do you have a story idea? Call 856-563-5256 or email dmarko@gannettnj.com. Follow on Twitter: @dmarko_dj Instagram: deb.marko.dj Help support local journalism with a subscription.

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