A group of pupils at Palmerston North Boys’ High School were finding it a challenge to afford the brands they wanted without being allowed
after-school jobs. It was during an online shopping trip that George Smith and friends decided they’d make their own label – and Rapt Kid Apparel (RKA) was born.
“We were pretty rapt with the idea,” George says, hinting at the origin of the RKA’s name. “From there we just started designing our own things, making our own clothes and it all just came together.”
The year 13 students all met in the College House hostel as boarders, play for the school’s first XV rugby team and have been friends ever since. They are also now partners in an endeavour that’s gaining momentum.
The RKA range includes printed tees, hoodies, sweatshirts and caps, with dress-shirts and chinos recently added to the mix. The group pride themselves on sourcing New Zealand-made goods and having the apparel printed locally.
At the moment the boys sell through the school and the label’s Facebook page. They’re currently in discussions with outlet stores and surf and snow shops that are interested in stocking the range.
“We’ve made quite a few sales through school and we see those boys wearing them around, so hopefully it will catch on at other schools,” George says. “We’ve sold to a few boys at Rathkeale; they’re trying to get sales going down there.”
He says the school has been very supportive of the venture, with the commerce department guiding them along the way. “Our mentor Sean Kenzie has a vast knowledge of commerce and is definitely our secret weapon.
Our point of difference is that these are designs by us for people like us.
“When we had the designs done and printed up, we put them on Facebook and people seemed pretty interested in them. We’ve had really good support the whole way, and our business teacher approached us to ask if we wanted to enter the Young Enterprise Scheme and get ourselves some university credits. We took that on with open arms and here we are now.”
The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme is a year-long experiential business programme for years 12 and 13 pupils. Teams have the opportunity to put theory into practice by creating their own businesses, developing real products or services and making real profits or losses.
Assisted by a teacher, a regional coordinator and a business mentor, pupils experience all the challenges and triumphs associated with business ownership.
As part of RKA’s involvement in the scheme, coordinated locally through economic development agency Vision Manawatu with the Young Enterprise Trust, the boys had to front up to a
“Dragon’s Den” and pitch their idea to a panel of judges for a share of $1500 sponsorship money.
“We had to present to the judges who we were and what we were trying to do, and show them our products and stuff like that,” George says. “We had to show that we’re different from other groups – that we are different from all the other brands out there, and that we have a point of difference.”
The “Dragons” Lyn McCurdy, director of business agency Third Bearing, Manawatu Standard Editor Michael Cummings and UCOL Chief Financial Officer Darryl Purdy heard from each team for five minutes and each had $500 to award to the one that impressed them the most.
They awarded George’s presentation the Dragons’ share of $1000, with the remaining $500 going to a team from Wanganui Collegiate who had developed support services for people needing computer and technology advice.
“Our point of difference is that these are designs by us for people like us,” George says. “We’re trying to have more affordable prices than all the other branded gear out there and it’s something we want to stick to.
“To have people believe in our vision and buy into what we’re trying to achieve is a big motivator for us,” he says.
To have people believe in our vision and buy into what we’re trying to achieve is a big motivator for us.
And motivated they are. Turning up bright and early for their first professional photo-shoot with a full kit of gear, the boys enthusiasm took over both in front of, and behind, the camera. Keeping their loyal fans in the loop, a behind-the-scenes snapshot was uploaded to the brand’s Facebook page in no time.
The boys embrace their different walks of life, and while they’ll be venturing out into various fields such as forestry, teaching, aviation and business when they finish school, they’re committed to keeping RKA alive.
“We’re serious about this. Our goal is to establish the RKA brand as a leader in the New Zealand fashion market among some of the greats such as Federation, Huffer, RPM and Lower.”