The phrase #502ComeUp has spread across the city of Louisville, KY like wildfire over the past year. The phrase is basically an acknowledgement of the rapid growth that the city is experiencing as of late. In the mist of major interstate reconstruction – substantial job growth – and the influx of people relocating to the city – it is only fitting that local companies are beginning to expand their brands to national consumers.
West End Louisville natives – James Ray (29) & Keith Nash (28) – are clothing designers that own the brand “Beyond The Pen Clothing”. The company was established by the longtime friends in 2012 – and to pay homage to that monumental date – the number 12 is incorporated into many of their products.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Sports Administration from the University of Louisville – Ray began working in corporate America but also was a freelance graphic designer on the side. He would create fliers, business cards and other digital images for clients on a regular basis. Acting spontaneously on a random thought – Ray decided to use his creativity and talents to create a custom clothing line.
“Randomly one day I thought it would dope to take some of the designs that I create and put them on some shirts. I didn’t have a name for the brand so a friend of mine from California suggested that I call it “Beyond The Pen” because I would often hand draw designs – then put them on the computer and bring them to life.” – James Ray
Realizing that a task of this magnitude was too large for one person – Ray decided to enlist the help of his childhood friend Keith Nash. After lengthy discussions detailing their visions for the brand – a partnership was formed and “Beyond The Pen Clothing” officially became a clothing line.
“He sent me over a few designs and I identified the pieces that I would wear personally and also pointed out the pieces that I didn’t like. From that point he knew that I wouldn’t be a ‘Yes Man’. He knew that if I didn’t think the designs were ‘poppin’ then we couldn’t do it. We already had the friendship so our business chemistry fell right in line.” – Keith Nash
Establishing a quality clothing line wasn’t easy. The pair put in a lot of hours researching – developing – and eventually creating a signature look to represent their brand. They decided to start small and learn through trial and error – so creating custom T-shirts was their first introduction into the fashion industry.
The partners created a website and began marketing their products online as well as making hand-to-hand sales out of the trunks of their vehicles. To raise the awareness of their products – they often gave away T-shirts which resulted in loss of revenue for the newly formed company. Becoming established was difficult but the pair never lacked faith – determination – and drive. They persevered through the storm and eventually the sales began to climb.
Understanding the dynamics of business – Ray & Nash decided to rebrand their clothing line in 2013 to create products that embodied their concept of longevity. In addition to the T-Shirts – they added jogging pants – jackets – and other items to the product line. The idea was to match or exceed the quality that the top commercial brands were currently offering on the market.
“Around a year-and-a-half ago we rebranded totally and stepped up our marketing. I just completed my MBA from Belleramine so going through business school I learned a lot. I learned that marketing is everything – branding is everything. So we rebranded – took a more professional stance and from that point things started to take off more and more.” – James Ray
Utilizing their business skills – Ray & Nash reached out to friends that are now influential public figures as-a-means to establish networking outlets. They also used social media sites to reach out to other celebrities from Louisville – whom they have no personal relationship with – to extend their products to them as well.
“Back in the 6th grade I started playing ball with Rajon Rondo in the AAU circuit and then we played ball at Eastern together. So when you’re playing ball – especially in Louisville – and you’re out there meeting people and being around certain crowds – it helps with getting products to different people from different walks of life.
Also shout out to the homie Bryson Tiller. Just a few months ago I wrote him in his DM’s and Bryson responded and he liked the stuff – so he allowed us to get some gear to him and he shouted us out – which helped us out a lot.” – James Ray
“Beyond The Pen Clothing” also stepped up their marketing campaigns. Recently the company hosted a “Pop-Up” fashion showcase at Established Premium Goods located at 226 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd in Louisville. The luxurious showcase premiered the current and previous lines from “Beyond The Pen Clothing” and allowed consumers to meet Ray & Nash personally as well as purchase clothing items. The showcase was professionally catered and provided a DJ as live entertainment for shoppers.
The event was momentous – largely because the partners were able to host their first ever fashion showcase in their hometown inside the boutique of another Black-Owned Business. Established Premium Goods specializes in carrying clothing brands from several Louisville based companies as well as nationwide brands. They are known as the go-to-shop for local sneakerheads.
“Beyond The Pen Clothing” can be purchased from Established Premium Goods as well as directly from the Beyond The Pen website at www.iwearbtpc.com. The line offers jogging pants – jackets – T-shirts – sweatshirts – and more. Many pieces from the Fall collection offer the “Light-Up Night Fall Pack”.
“As far as the NightFall Pack – It’s designed with 3M reflective material so when the light hits it – it literally lights up. If you take a picture of any of the material with your flash on – you’ll see that it’s glowing. With Fall approaching – it’s getting darker earlier so it keeps you lit all through the night.” – James Ray
Over the past three years things have taken off very fast for “Beyond The Pen Clothing”. Despite the success – Ray & Nash focus on remaining grounded and expanding their brand. They are deeply proud of their Louisville roots and hope to inspire other aspiring entrepreneurs from the city to step out on faith and fulfill their dreams and goals. They are firm believers that working together yields more success than working alone.
“Just thinking back to where we started. We were hand-to-hand out of a trunk – now to being in a storefront and in works actually right now with two other stores – one in Indianapolis and the other in Columbus. So we’re just continually trying to grow.” – Keith Nash
Items form the “Beyond The Pen Clothing” catalog listed below.