Founders Journal: Heritage Hill Story

Founders Journal: Heritage Hill Story

I still remember the early days, sitting in my basement, surrounded by sketches, fabric swatches, and the dream of creating Heritage Hill. My aim was clear: to carve out a niche for HBCU, Divine 9, and Black empowerment apparel. A platform where interconnected communities could come together represented through unique merchandise.

The first design, "I'm Bout Making My Ancestors Proud," wasn't just a shirt to me. It was a promise, a commitment.

The overwhelming response to that first piece told me I was on to something significant. Palpable joy when we were approached by Central State for their homecoming merchandise. It was my first brush with the realization that the campus bookstores were not delivering the quality these esteemed institutions deserved.

Our achievements weren't without their fair share of hurdles. The CLC licensing was a double-edged sword. On one side, it unlocked doors to many HBCUs. On the other, it meant intricate management and a steady outflow in royalties. A small business juggling these demands was no easy feat. But in four years with nearly $3 million in revenue and moving from a basement to 8,000 sq ft. 

Yet, business, like life, is unpredictable. As our expenses grew, so did the complexity of managing the company's cash flow. We lacked the infrastructure to handle these sudden changes. It was during one of these challenging phases that I discovered Coop Cincy. Their model of cooperative economics resonated with me. I believed, and still do, in the cooperative spirit, in shared growth, and in community-driven business. Coop Cincy's Business Legacy Fund gave us the tools to transition and thrive.

But adversity didn't stop knocking. An unfortunate order mishap with a big retailer was a financial blow. Then came the Facebook iOS 14 updates, crippling our advertising, a lifeline for any e-commerce venture. We were in uncharted territory, facing challenges that I hadn't anticipated. It was gut-wrenching to restructure, to downsize, to let go of dreams, even if temporarily.

As I sit here today, reminiscing, my focus has shifted. It's not just about selling clothes anymore. It's about the bigger picture. It's about creating a legacy, a platform that empowers black-owned vendors in the collegiate space. This journey has taught me the immense power of community. For a nationwide vision of HBCU, Divine 9, and Black empowerment apparel to truly come to life, it requires collective effort, collective dreams, and collective resilience.

I don't have all the answers. But with the community's unwavering support and the spirit of our ancestors guiding us, I believe Heritage Hill will not only find its way but pave the path for others to follow. We are more than a brand. We are a testament to the power of dreams, determination, and community.

Brandon Z. Hoff


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