Romereo Brown graduated from Tyler Junior College only four years ago, but the budding entrepreneur is already giving back by creating a scholarship to help future TJC students.
Brown earned an associate degree in general studies from TJC in 2017, and then returned to earn his associate degree in business in 2019. After graduation, he worked at the Target Distribution Center, but he always had an eye on making his own mark.
In 2020, he started his own clothing line, Weird & Different, a brand born out of his desire to be seen for who he is.
“I started my company because I was teased and bullied throughout high school,” he said. “Actually, I was teased and bullied my whole life. I was born deaf in my right ear, plus I had a speech impediment, so people called me ‘Mushmouth,’ like the character from the Fat Albert cartoon.”
Brown outgrew the bullies, and the school fights that ensued, when he decided to embrace his individuality.
“As I got older, my speech got better,” he said. “So, I created this company and came up with the logo of eating ice cream, because ice cream makes you happy. It makes you feel better.”
He started out by selling shirts out of his car.
“At first, people were laughing at me,” he said, “but then, business started catching on.”
A cousin in Colorado called him about an opportunity to be part of a pop-up clothing sale.
“My dad also lived there, so I took vacation time from Target, went to the pop-up and made $900 in two hours,” he said. “It was the first time I made money selling to someone who wasn’t family, friends or coworkers. These were people I had never met. That’s how I knew my company was going to make it.”
Within a couple of weeks, Brown quit his job at Target and focused full time on his brand.
Since then, Weird & Different has morphed into a thriving business. He went from selling shirts out of his car to a mall kiosk and then a small storefront. His new, permanent store set to open soon at Broadway Square Mall, and plans are in the works for a store in Austin sometime next year.
His catalog has also expanded to include hats, hoodies, pants and shorts, all with his trademark of brightly colored, whimsical graphics.
With all of this success and more growth on the horizon, Brown has created the Weird & Different Scholarship at TJC, where his dreams began to take shape.
“I know how hard it is to be in college,” he said. “I was a broke college student, and I know what it’s like to eat ramen noodles all the time. There were times when I couldn’t pay my light bill and had to borrow money from my mom.”
The $1,000 scholarship will be provided annually to a TJC student majoring in business, fashion design, retail or marketing.
“I wanted to do a scholarship that connected with people from TJC and let them know that I’m part of the community,” Brown said. “Making money with my business is great, but if we’re not giving back and paying it forward, we’re not doing what God told us to do. God told me it was time to give back to my community, and giving back to the place where I went to school is a full-circle moment.”
Brown said scholarship applicants will be required to write a 500-word essay about why they should embrace their oddness.
“It’s about why you should love yourself, basically,” he said. “We want to encourage people to love who they are and why it’s OK to be themselves. For young adults, college is the best time to figure out who you are. TJC allowed me to be myself, and I met peers who were doing the same thing I was doing. I had a chance to fully express myself.”
He added, “I felt it was only fair to have them write the essay, which isn’t a big ask at all. We want the scholarship to go to people who need it, who really want it and are willing to put in the time to pursue it. I have to tell my story for people to buy my clothing, so tell me your story about why this scholarship is important to you.”
Brown also sees the scholarship as a way of meeting future student interns.
“If there’s someone looking to go into fashion and maybe they have great potential, I could guide them and be a mentor to them,” he said. “It could become a way to help point people in the right direction — and TJC is definitely going to do that as well, like it did for me.”
For more information on the Weird & Different Scholarship at TJC, email Megan Cumbee Burns, TJC scholarships senior manager, at email@example.com.