Meet Former NY Giant & Boston College Heisman Finalist Andre Williams. He shares with our audience the passion of building his fashion brand and desire. Williams opens up about his ups and downs both on and off the field, and his advice for people chasing their passion.
Sam: Would you share with us a little about yourself?
Andre Williams: My name is Andre Williams, I am 27 years old. Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, of Jamaican descent. I have an older brother and sister and one younger brother. I grew up in NJ up until high school. I spent freshman and sophomore years in Georgia and finished high school in Pennsylvania. I have always been interested in sports and fitness but also chemistry and fashion. I express those passions in multiple forms. I built a fragrance lab in my townhouse to experiment with natural cosmetics and smell goods (soap, candles, etc.) I also started a shoe and denim line that I officially launched this year.
Sam: You’ve had an impressive athletic career since high school. Would you describe for our audience the work ethic & time commitment to achieve your dreams?
Andre Williams: Boston was an amazing city full of young people and opportunities and I have no idea what it's really like, despite living there for almost 4 years because I was focused on leaving for the NFL with a degree. I graduated half a semester early in 2013 with a 3.1 GPA and a degree in Applied Psychology/Human Development. In 2014, I was drafted to the New York Giants. School was less about studying for me and more about paying attention. I didn't actually read all the books; it would have been impossible to keep up with ball. Instead, I cashed out on my strengths which was writing papers. I made A's on all except 1. I took all the core classes freshman year, and achieved a high GPA that would average out the bumps in the years to come. Last, I made sure I found out exactly what information would be on the test, and I focused on memorizing that info for the tests. I also made sure I was friendly with the teacher in case I needed to postpone turning something in which happened fairly often.
Football came more naturally, but it had more downs than ups. But when it was my time, I hit big. The main thing there was just sticking with it. There was a time when I was very seriously considering transferring out of school and I prayed about it and had a couple moments where God told me two things. He said, “if you are who you say you are, you can do it here” and he also told me that I wouldn't be happy spending an extra year in school, no matter where I went. So I stayed, and it worked out even though it didn't look like it would.
Sam: Shortly after being drafted in the 4th round by the New York Giants & starting a family, how difficult was the move from college to the NFL?
Andre Williams: As it turns out, the move from the college game to the professional game wasn’t that difficult. What was difficult was balancing an unhealthy family life with a highly competitive and demanding pro sports career. The first two years of my career were plagued by a toxic marriage and the last two plagued by a financially and emotionally draining divorce. The game of football is something I was naturally built for, but my personal issues inhibited my growth as a player. At the end of the day, my family is whole again. I am remarried to my wish upon a star-dream wife, I have a great relationship with my two sons, and they have a great relationship with each other despite having different mothers.
Sam: Following your professional football career, you became an entrepreneur, particularly with Denim products. Where did this idea come from?
Andre Williams: I was always into denim, but I couldn’t find a good fit for an athletic build. After ripping my pants twice in skinny jeans I gave up wearing them. I had the opportunity to become familiar with the apparel space when I did a white label shoe project with a startup company in New York. It's a complicated story, but I impressed someone with those shoes and my ambition. I eventually gained access to an exclusive agency that gave me free reign to create for the right price. I decided that I could wear anyone's shoe, but couldn't wear anyone's jeans and decided to make my own "athletic fit". I created Japanese Selvedge denim jeans in an athletic cut.
Sam: Who is your target market?
Andre Williams: By my estimates, there are about 500 million athletically built individuals in the world. We all have the same issue when looking for jeans; our thighs don't fit. This is my target market. However, I constructed the denim in such a way as they will fit anyone with a normal waist size because the fabric is of the highest quality, unsanforized, and 100% cotton.
Sam: Were there any challenges or surprises with this venture?
Andre Williams: The main challenge is marketing the product. Even though this is a niche that isn't being explored, breaking into the market as a new brand is tough. I also offer product at a premium price. The fabric is top-quality, milled fresh on vintage shuttle looms in Japan. No one else has access to my fabrics or my washes. Even still, the quality and fit isn't enough to convince some buyers or customers that the jeans are worth $300. I strongly disagree. This denim is not fast fashion and it will endure for well over a decade in your closet, looking and fitting better every time you put them on. The consumer needs to be re-educated on denim because both men and women have become accustomed to jeggings.
Sam: What advice do you have for younger people pursuing their passions or wanting to build a business?
Andre Williams: 1. Think outside of the box. Don't follow everyone else's formula. 2. Boredom is the space your mind needs to create great ideas. Take time to clear your mind and get bored. 3. You can't fight the world by yourself. Build a team and work together. That might be the hardest part of building a company. Finding the right people to work together with. People build companies and people destroy them. Find the right people.
Sam: You’ve achieved a lot of success both personally & professionally for someone in their twenties. What do you plan on doing next with your career?
Andre Williams: At the moment I am going to continue to expand in the apparel space, building and growing brands. I have a sportswear line that I am developing slowly. I am also keyed up to continue my professional sports career in the XFL which will launch in 2020. I think there is an opportunity there to launch the sportswear line while operating on that platform.
Sam: Where can people go to learn more and follow your journey?
Andre Williams: www.daekshinco.com is my main website at the moment. It has several brands that I own or have my hands in in one way or another. My goal is to build it out to an online mall for premium brands.
Disclaimer: (All photos provided courtesy of Andre Williams. Potential minor edits for length, flow, grammatical/formatting.)