Nine-year-old Josiah Basso turned what could have been a big setback into a huge success.
About a year ago the fourth-grade St. Thomas d’Aquin student was an active and talented athlete, playing football, basketball and taekwondo five to six days a week. But during a basketball tournament in Michigan he injured his Achilles tendon.
Sidelined from the field and court until his injury could heal, Josiah decided to channel his energy to a new different direction.
Inspired by older cousin Jagger, though without much practical experience, Josiah started his own clothing line, to produce t-shirts, hats, sunglasses and bags with wild designs and vivid colours.
He named his clothing line Bukitz – a tip of the hat to his favourite sport, basketball – and enthusiastically dove head first into the project, gathering materials, information and clothes-making apparatus while simultaneously learning all he could about making shirts, hats and bags in his own makeshift basement studio.
It was trial and error at first, but eventually Josiah started finding his clothes-making groove.
“I thought it would be a good idea to start my own clothing brand,” Josiah said. “I started making t-shirts, later I made tie-dyed shirts and right before Christmas I got a sketch pad. I’m trying to figure out more stuff I can make all the time.”
“It’s been a process but he’s been learning the whole time,” said Bonnie Basso, Josiah’s mother. “At first we bought him this spray stuff and he made a whole bunch of shirts, then he did tie-dyed shirts … and he’s gone on to do bags, hats and sunglasses.
“He was showing a lot of interest in it but I decided to wait for about four months with him doing little projects before he went on to bigger things,” she continued. “As long as he’s persistent and keeping at it, I’ll support him. And he never stopped showing interest in it. He just kept going.”
So far, business has been booming, Bonnie said. With t-shirts ranging from $15 to $25 apiece, hats ranging from $5 to $10 and bags ranging from $10 to $15, Josiah has sold his own designs and also began customizing clothing for his growing client base.
Bukitz swag has become so in-demand that people in Europe are already sporting Josiah’s shirts, she added.
“He’ll create his own and then he’ll sell those, but one time he had a customer – a lady from Sweden – who wanted to bring home some souvenirs for her family, so she ordered ten shirts with Canada logos and pockets on it and he customized them with their names on it, with iron-on transfers,” she said. “(The reaction) has been pretty great.”
While making splashy and colourful clothes has been a great way to pass the time, and making money from his burgeoning clothing empire feels pretty good for the fourth grader, Josiah said one of the most important things about Bukitz is that it allows him to give back to the community.
When Josiah first hit the $500 sales mark, he decided on his own to donate $50 to St. Clair Child and Youth Services. He said he plans to donate 10 per cent of all his proceeds to the organization.
“I picked St. Clair Child and Youth because I’m familiar with them, they do some great things for so many people so I thought it would be a good thing to give to them,” he said.
Even at the age of nine, Josiah has thought long and hard about his company’s philanthropic side as well as the need to reinvest in new equipment, Bonnie said.
“When he hit that $500, he gave the $50 to St. Clair and then he put half of the rest into his bank account – he has plans to buy a house,” she said, smiling. “The other half went straight back into his business and that’s how he bought the new press.”
With an increasing number of orders coming in and new Facebook and Instagram pages set up to promote his brand new clothing line, the young entrepreneur is shooting for the stars.
In a few months, to help further his nascent business, Josiah will begin taking sewing lessons in Petrolia (“He wants to be able to do embroidering,” Bonnie said).
And, Josiah said, he is even developing some crafty marketing strategies to promote his clothes right here in Sarnia.
“I don’t have a model yet, so I’m wearing Bukitz to school,” he said, smiling. “I suppose I have to advertise them myself.”
For more information about Bukitz, visit their Facebook (Bukitz) or Instagram (Bukitzzz) pages.