For Reggie Chennault, it was drive and HBCU love that kept him going.
Chennault, a Philadelphia native and a graduate of Georgia State University, is a senior vendor at FAMU providing game day gear since 1995.
The owner of Real Cool Sportswear, Chennault resides in Atlanta and makes frequent trips to Tallahassee for home games during the football season.
The journey of Real Cool Sportswear was a long and hard one, but he always made a way. Chennault started the apparel business in 1994 when a friend invited him to the “Super Show,” which was a trade show where he brought different NFL caps and college T-shirts to resell at different places in his community.
While having a hard time finding a second job and needing to increase his income, Real Cool Sportswear was made as his inventory continued to increase.
“I ended up with so much inventory I had to buy a cargo van and I had no more room in my apartment to put stuff,” Chennault said.
Not having an overhead caused Chennault to continue putting money back into the business therefore building the inventory to be able to share his brand with different outlets.
In 1995, Chennault started making his way around to HBCUs, selling his merchandise. During this time events like Freaknik and the Olympics brought a tremendous amount of money to the business.
“And that’s when the problems started,” Chennault said.
In 1996, Chennault opened a store at Greenbrier Mall in Atlanta, and what started off as just a temporary fix for his massive inventory became a permanent solution. The momentum kept going and Chennault eventually acquired four store fronts.
After opening the fourth store it was hard for him to stay on top of his employees. When two of the stores fell short, employees started to steal, so he closed them and sold one to his business partner and kept one.
Robert Barton, Chennault’s former business partner, mainly helped him get into having a place at Greenbrier Mall until the duo decided to part ways and maintain their own store fronts.
“Me and Reggie are still partners and friends, we were doing well before we fell into financial problems. There is no animosity toward each other,” said Barton.
Chennault was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy on the one store front he had left because of the deep financial hole he had created.
But through it all only one thing was working and that was vending at HBCUs. This aspect of his business became the main focus and it is where he now collaborates with different artists to construct logo ideas.
Chennault began doing print jobs for customers and friends to continue and produce his work so they can spread the news.
As Chennault continues to move forward he plans to make his brand stronger with HBCUs and offer more products in 2020 to be the vendor he used to be when he started this journey in ’95.
“The quality of the shirts were good with strong fabric and long-lasting graphic material,” said Shamara Zephir, who recently purchased from Real Cool Sportswear.
When asked how he views competition with other up and coming HBCU apparel companies, Chennault said, “Other vendors have used my business ideas and have become successful, so I know I got what it takes to be a leader in HBCU sportswear.”
You can find Chennault and Real Cool Sportswear at most FAMU home games and during regular season games for NCAT. And feel free to check out his Instagram @realcoolsportswear.