Harlem-born Henry Williams, 29, moved to Kingsport, Tennessee when he was two years old.
Graduated from Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina with a business management degree in 2008, Henry started Royce Gold, an independent clothing company, in January of this year.
“A lot of my friends were doing something other than their regular nine to five job. I just wanted to find my niche,” he said. “I thought about it, and I’m really into fashion so I decided to start a clothing line.”
“I’m a nomad,” he said. “When I was 12, I moved back to New York City. My mom being a single parent most of her life thought I needed my father in my life so we moved back to be with him.”
Henry lived in the Bronx for four years and said it was a big culture shock from Tennessee as a teenager. He adjusted and eventually made friends from playing basketball.
At 22, Henry had the opportunity to play basketball overseas.
“I had an agent, went to a camp and played pretty well. I was playing against recent graduates and pros in other countries, but I felt like my agent wasn’t working hard enough for me so we had a falling out. One day, I got a call from some odd number. I missed the call and since it was overseas I couldn’t call back. You know, things happen.”
Two years later, Henry joined the Army and served in active duty for two and a half years before spending another two and a half years in the Army Reserve.
“Once I was done with active duty, I got the opportunity to fly UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) overseas in Afghanistan,” he said. “I worked as a civilian contractor for the Navy. It was cool but pretty crazy.”
Henry said some people he worked with heard the bombs going off in Afghanistan and didn’t last a day.
ROYCE GOLD CLOTHING
“My first love was shoes, and growing up my mom would ask me if I wanted toys or shoes. My answer was always shoes,” he said. “Making shoes is a lot more expensive then making clothes so if I could make shoes I definitely would.”
Henry said as a kid he loved wearing the crazy, bright colors and things that most people wouldn’t think of putting on.
“I told my friends about starting a clothing line, and I don’t think they believed me at first,” Henry said. “Once they saw me take the necessary steps to make it happen, they’ve been a driving force with me helping along the way.”
Henry said when he finds himself slacking, his friends are there to keep him in check and motivate him.
“The hardest thing is that I’m the only one putting money into it,” he said. “It’s difficult when you have to manage your bills but also put money into the clothing line, that’s why I started working two jobs.”
A supervisor at UPS and an employee for TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Henry has one job specifically for the bills and the other for pursuing the clothing line.
“For TriWest, I work with the VA hospitals, and I schedule appointments for veterans who live the normal driving distance. The only VA hospital is in Nashville so you have veterans who live a few hours away. I try to schedule appointments outside the VA network to get them the care they need,” he said.
Henry’s only off time is during the weekend and even then he is planning things, working on designs and strategizing for the future.
Just before he moved to Nashville, he met a woman named Pam English in Philadelphia who showed him the ropes of starting a clothing line and the things he needed to do.
“She has since moved to Nashville now and we keep in contact. She does branding professionally and has her own clothing line called I Am A Musician and it’s strictly for musicians. She’s been a huge help in getting me started.”
The logo for Royce Gold is a triangle with a crown inside. Henry said each segment of the triangle represents the past, present and future and the crown represents royalty in the sense of knowing your wealth and your well-being.
“The name Royce is British English and it means royalty,” he said. “I threw the gold on the end just because I thought it sounded dope. It’s symbolizes your journey and the things we all go through to realize our royalty and achieve our American Dream or however else you want to interpret it.”
Henry acquired his business license in May of 2015, a few months before he launched the website.
“Seven months went by before I released anything,” he said. “I feel like if you rush something then you’re going to sink. I feel like now I know a bit more of what I’m doing.”
Henry said he’s a one-man-band clothing line but he’s looking to gain more support and would love to build a team to grow better in the future.
Henry does all the designs himself and has two longs sleeves and four T-shirts for men and a crop top and sweatshirt crop tops for women on his website.
“I market everything on Instagram and Facebook, so when I have complete strangers order things from California and comment on the good quality of the material, that’s when I knew I was doing something in the right direction,” he said.
“Kingsport is pretty small,” he said. “The people who want to get out either move to another state or move to Nashville. I chose Nashville, and I love it.”
Henry was seeing someone from Nashville and decided to make the move in 2012.
“Nashville has a lot more to offer than people think,” he said. “When people think of Nashville they think ‘Music City’ and country music but there are a lot of talented people outside of country in Hip-Hop.”
He said one of the best things about the city is that there are a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs, like himself, and for people wanting to start something for themselves and for others.
“I don’t care about being rich. If that happened then that’s cool but I just want to make a living off of what I love to do. That’s my aspect of what the American Dream is.”
Henry said he’d love to be able to work from anywhere and make his own schedule. He has an 8 year daughter that lives in Washington D.C. and said it’s difficult to find the time to take off work to see her and juggle two jobs.
“There’s been times when I’ve driven 10 hours just to spend a day and half or two days with her and drive back to Nashville,” he said.
COMMUNITY and CONCERNS
Henry defined community as people who are different but have the same goals.
“Community means being able to encourage people who may or may not have come from a similar background as you. A lot of times people don’t have someone telling them they can be whoever they want to be if they put their minds to it,” he said.
He said community also means learning from people, following your dreams and being able to enjoy life with the people around you.
Henry said he’s naturally an expressive person. He said it’s important to not be afraid to be yourself or afraid to be different.
“I care about relationships too,” he said. “Finding a good woman is not the most important thing on my plate, but at the same time, no one wants to be alone. I’ve had a hard time meeting someone and telling them the clothing line is a main priority. Sometimes they understand and sometimes they don’t. It’s tough.”
Just within the last three years of living in Nashville, Henry has seen his community grow and change.
“I love the scene of East Nashville,” he said. “It’s different from downtown in a way that it has it own culture. Everyone else wants to say they’re hipsters, but I feel like it’s people who have their own sense of style and they’re not afraid to express themselves.”
Henry said he used to live in East Nashville and as much as he likes the area, he remembers when it used to be a place where no one dared to go. Now with gentrification displacing a lot of the minority population, he said he hates to see people losing their homes and money becoming a driving issue.
“If you can be broke and happy, then that’s great,” he said. “My mother worked her butt off and that’s why I’m working as hard as I am because that’s what I really know – working your butt off to get what it is you want.”
He said a lot of his friends thought they were taking the easy way in selling drugs and a lot of them ended up ruining their lives.
Henry said people need to be on the look out for Royce Gold.
“Royce Gold isn’t going anywhere. Support and join the campaign. I feel like anything that has to do with art doesn’t have a message behind it then they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I want to inspire people to follow their heart. The work you put forth is what you’ll get in return. That’s just physics. Speak whatever you want to be into existence and it’ll happen.”
For more information about Royce Gold or to order a shirt visit the website!
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Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.
It starts with community. It starts where you are.