If you try to pronounce his last name, you’ll probably only end up embarrassing yourself. But former Los Medanos student Tony Agbomabiwon embraced his Nigerian heritage and titled his clothing company “iWon Apparel,” a reference to the last four letters in his name.
When he steps on campus, Agbomabiwon is met with smiles and pleasant greetings from professors as he walks by. People know him as a polite, inspiring and hard-working 28- year-old that made a name for himself at LMC as well as at various clothing stores around the Bay Area.
With strict, discipline-focused parents who emigrated from Nigeria, Agbomabiwon learned what it meant to work hard for what you want and make a name for yourself early on in his life. “Nothing in life is free. What you put in, you get out,” he said of his motivation.
Both of his parents owned their own companies. His mother ran a restaurant that sold Nigerian food on Haight Street in San Francisco and his father owned a barbershop and clothing line of his own in Pittsburg. Agbomabiwon’s drive to create something that he could hold ownership of is something he has had in him since elementary school.
“In high school I started seeing what some people worked for, what really sustained them. I came to the conclusion that I need to have my own enterprise, to have my own thing.”
While attending Cal State Los Angeles, Agbomabiwon would immerse himself in LA’s clothing industry. He would visit different stores and ask people for advice on how to start up his own line. While networking, he paid attention to details and figured out what stores were looking for.
“You’ve got to be open-minded with it, ask a lot of questions and get advice. If someone says no to what you have, ask them why it’s a no,” said Agbomabiwon.
In 2014, the natural-born entrepreneur had toyed with the idea of his own business for long enough and moved back to his hometown of Pittburg and created iWon Apparel.
“If I was going to come back home, I wanted something that got me going, I wanted something to show [what] I’d accomplished,” Agbomabiwon said.
The company has since taken on two employees, both of whom live in the same apartment complex as him across the street from LMC. They help him with design and give him feedback on new ideas for products. But he likes to keep those involved with the work to a minimum right now so as not to put too much stress on the new company.
As a former business management major, someone who works alongside him would never be able to tell that he hasn’t completed the degree. When he showed up to be interviewed for the paper in a crisp black suit, it was apparent he valued professionalism, but not at the expense of style –– attributes perfect for an apparel line business owner.
He also understands what it means to keep up in a business that is sure to change with every season.
“The trends change every day. It’s like joining a party, you can’t come into the party doing the running man and everyone’s doing the two-step,” said Agbomabiwon.
“You have to keep people interested. Some new clothing might come out and they’ll be done with you. They want to feel like you’re actually moving–– you have to keep up with their energy.”
And iWon Apparel is doing just that. Next week on September 18, iWon clothing will be modeled at a fashion show for various brands in Berkeley and Oakland. With themes of black, red and white and simplistic font designs of the brand on the front of tee shirts, the clothing line has received a lot of positive feedback. Stores such as Shiekh Shoes in the Sunvalley Mall in Concord sold iWon Apparel products for a short time.
Agbomabiwon says they are also in the process of being featured in San Francisco, Pleasanton and Antioch “lookbooks,” catalogs that allow clothing stores to choose what products to sell. The responses toward the new company have been very encouraging.
But the owner says he doesn’t like to wait around on stores that have not been as responsive, “I’m not wasting any time, if they aren’t feeling my stuff I won’t stay with them. My products hold a certain value, it’s not just a clothing line, it holds a deeper meaning for me.”
Agbomabiwon holds those he does business with to the same high standards he holds for himself.
“I feel that with my work, everything has to be to the T. I value time — if I’m the person with money and I’m paying for a service, that service better be what I paid for or else I am going onto the next person,” he said. “I never depend on one source. I’m always on top of what’s next, what’s new?”
His business principles and passion for success have affected his personal life too. Converting his dreams into reality changed his mindset. “I spend time with my kids; I have a 6 month old daughter and a 3 year old son. But if I’m hanging out with friends, I don’t really party anymore. Really this is what I’m focusing on right now.”
Looking forward, Agbomabiwon’s dream is to accumulate enough funds to open his own store in Los Angeles. But for now he is starting local. “I want to start off where I’m from, where I grew up.”
The self-identified businessman, entrepreneur and hard worker said his message to students is: “Once you have something, make sure you protect it. This business is vicious and you want to protect your own ideas. Just push forward, believe in yourself and what you put out.”