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Teen T-Shirt Entrepreneur Wins $10,000

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Teen T-Shirt Entrepreneur Wins $10,000

Business

Teen T-Shirt Entrepreneur Wins $10,000

Teen T-Shirt Entrepreneur Wins $10,000

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113629357/113698197" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Kalief Rollins and Anthony Rollins i

Kalief Rollins (left), who markets T-shirts designed by his brother, Anthony (right), recently won a $10,000 grand prize at the 2009 National Youth Entrepreneurship Competition. John Guardo/NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Guardo/NPR
Kalief Rollins and Anthony Rollins

Kalief Rollins (left), who markets T-shirts designed by his brother, Anthony (right), recently won a $10,000 grand prize at the 2009 National Youth Entrepreneurship Competition.

John Guardo/NPR
A T-shirt that reads "Caution: Educated African-American Male." i

One of the Rollins brothers' T-shirts. John Guardo/NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Guardo/NPR
A T-shirt that reads "Caution: Educated African-American Male."

One of the Rollins brothers' T-shirts.

John Guardo/NPR
A T-shirt reading "We Still Killin Each Other?" i

Another of the brothers' styles. John Guardo/NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Guardo/NPR
A T-shirt reading "We Still Killin Each Other?"

Another of the brothers' styles.

John Guardo/NPR

The T-shirt reads "Caution: Educated African American Male." Kalief Rollins thinks it will be his next best-seller.

The 17-year-old from Carson, Calif., near Los Angeles, took home a $10,000 grand prize from the National Youth Entrepreneurship Competition this week for his business selling custom T-shirts with inspirational designs. Rollins competed against 27 finalists and 24,000 initial high school entrants for the award, given by the nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

Rollins says Phree Kountry Clothing's first big seller depicted President Obama. The shirts, designed by his brother Anthony, 22, "have leadership themes and positive messages," Rollins tells NPR's Scott Simon. So far, Rollins has sold about 300 T-shirts out of his garage and is offering catalogs through phreekountry@yahoo.com.

In the next year, he says, "we plan to get our shirts into events like fairs, swap meets and farmers markets. ... We want to get our shirts into different stores that they can be sold at as well. We want to get someone famous to endorse it."

When asked which celebrity he'd pick, Rollins answers: "P. Diddy."

With the $10,000, Rollins says he plans to make some business upgrades, including stepping up from a heat press to a silk-screen machine to improve the shirts' quality.

But Rollins says he and his brother also plan to celebrate: "We'll take a few, maybe $20 or $30 out of there and me and my brother will go celebrate at Roscoe's Chicken 'n' Waffles."

Phree Kountry Clothing is a family affair. In addition to his brother, Rollins' mother helps out.

"I hired my mom as my CFO," Rollins says. "She worked as an accountant, so she's good in that field of work. I pay a little money to her for the electricity I use for my equipment, but other than that, you know, she just wants to see me do well, so she says I could just do it and she's just proud of me."

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