A teacher by trade, Sharmir Oglesby has always had a passion for helping students succeed. In the last year, Sharmir has channeled that same passion into the launching of his own business, Mr. “O”fficials. Mr. “O”fficials offers customized apparel for students, staff and families, with personalized incentive programs designed to help both the students and their schools succeed.
Sharmir is also a part of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.
We had an opportunity to chat with Sharmir about the inspiration behind his business, what surprised him most about the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program and his advice to fellow entrepreneurs who are just getting started with their ventures.
What inspired you to create Mr. “O”fficials?
The idea for Mr.Officials came from my background. I remember being bullied in school and even in my own community. I struggled with identity—knowing who I was. Imagine being in high school and you’re one of the tallest kids in school and you don’t play basketball, that’s an easy target right there.
When I became a teacher, I didn’t want that for my students. So, I started Mr. Officials as an outlet to connect with kids who are marginalized, who may be struggling with bullying or just need some help to find themselves.
What separates Mr. “O”fficials from your competition?
We have a very unique way of getting our clients since we’re already in the schools. I’m a substitute teacher right now, so I’m able to travel from school to school to promote my business.
The accessibility really sets us apart as well. You can walk right up to me and ask how much does this cost or how can I get this or how can I be a part of your program? None of our competitors can do that.
Our business is also birthed out of the education system. I spent time in in-school suspension classes for years. The kids were sent there for a behavior, but my job was to find out why they were really in there. So, we focus on building relationships with the students and the kids trust us.
What have been some of your biggest takeaways from the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program? Any surprises?
The Core City program has been a tremendous help for me because my background is in education, I didn’t know anything about running a business. I don’t have a business degree, and I didn’t know any of the terminology. The program allows you to connect with partners, with mentors and people around you. It’s a great atmosphere for a young entrepreneur, a beginner or even someone who is seasoned.
And the best part is, they help you with financials. I don’t know anything about financial statements. I didn’t know what income statements were; profit and loss, I didn’t know any of that. I didn’t want to have to go back to school to get a degree in business administration and I could learn what I needed to know at JumpStart.
The biggest surprise about the program is the way it helps you get access to funding. I didn’t know what banks to go to or how to even start. The Core City program helps you focus in on what you need to do before ever meeting with an investor.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?
My advice is: don’t take the shortcuts. There are no shortcuts. Start from the beginning, do some primary research, study your craft, find out what you need, Google everything, read into it and try to be the best. I don’t care if you’re a hairstylist, a barber, whoever, find out what makes you unique and run with what sets you apart. Don’t be afraid to be different.
What are your future plans for your business?
A short-term goal is having our own brick and mortar store. We don’t have a facility right now—I’m actually working out of my garage. In a couple years, I see us on every side of the city, I can see a Mr. Officials by every high school. We want to touch lives and speak to those who are being bullied, or help schools build attendance and incentive programs. And in the next five years, I can see myself managing a company where we are hiring students