PICTURED: Marvin Morgan
WHEN HE first shared his vision for Fresh Ego Kid with a room full of strangers having just signed a new professional football contract at Shrewsbury Town FC, Marvin Morgan says he was told in no uncertain terms he wouldn’t be able to pursue it.
The urban sports streetwear brand was a fledgling idea in the head of the Manchester-born player’s mind, the type of which would keep him busy even after he’d hung up his boots.
He told The Voice: “As soon as I signed my first contract, I had this thought: ‘What am I going to do after football?’. Playing professionally [in] the lower leagues isn’t like playing in the Premier League.
“[In] my first contract I was getting £900 a week, and in my head that is not a lot of money, but in everyday working life if you asked anyone if they would work in a job for £900 a week, it’s an unbelievable job.”
He added: “I remember being on a coach journey to Accrington Stanley and I said to everyone that I am going to start a clothing brand. Everyone laughed – that was about 11 years ago.
“I’d peeped the game. What was I going to do? I [was] in League Two. The money I was earning wasn’t going to be enough for me to chill when my career was done. So my thinking was [that] I have to start something now and then see how it goes.”
An amiable character, Morgan says he didn’t find it difficult to engage others on his journey from new brand on the block to one of the UK’s biggest head- wear manufacturers. However when he’d outlined his intentions to the gaffer at Shrewsbury, it would seem that having ambition away from the pitch was frowned upon.
He recalled: “I remember sitting at Shrewsbury on the first day that I signed for them we did a pre-season warm up jogging around. We were new players, and had 30 seconds to talk about [ourselves].
“When I said my name and I where I came from, and then told everyone I was about to start my clothing company because I had a passion for fashion, the coach stopped the whole session to ask me to repeat what I’d said about starting the business. I told him I didn’t have a family and I was only 27 and at this stage I wanted to keep my mind occupied.
“Footballers have too much time on their hands if they don’t have the wife and kids and I didn’t want to waste that time.
“He was like, ‘No, our focus is promotion, that’s all you focus on’. It was intense to the point where the captain had to jump in and tell the boss to chill out as it was my first day, and if I could play football and do business without it affecting my game there was no problem.
“We got promoted that season and I still started Fresh Ego Kid.”
There’s an irony about Morgan being into fashion at all. He explained: “I’m originally from Moss Side, Manchester. There was a lot of madness there back in the day, so mum wanted to move out and we went to Watford. I was about seven years old – I’m 36 now.
“I grew up in Watford and it was a very difficult time for me. I’d gone from a predominantly black area to a predominantly white area, attending a school where I was the only black kid and then going into secondary school that was very racist and situated right next to a racist area. It was hard.
“I looked up to my nan who was a dressmaker in Jamaica and moved to Manchester as one of the best. If you were going out and wanted a dress my nan was the one you went to see. [For] my dad, everything was [about the] sewing machine and he did dancehall clothing. [His] brand was called Uzi, so it’s very interesting that I have got into clothing. It’s mad.”
Fresh Ego Kid has cemented some of the biggest names in sport and entertainment as fans of the brand.
Rapper Giggs, Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier, Scorcher, Anthony Joshua and Raheem Sterling are among just some of the people who Morgan considers friends of the brand and supporters who gave the reputation for the Fresh Ego Kid early impetus.
He credits his business partner who joined the team two years ago, however, for lifting his vision and enabling them to go from strength to strength.
“This is no rodeo. I understand the ins and outs of merchandise, the ins and outs of branding, the ins and outs of now, retail, because in the early days I didn’t know what I was doing.
“I was also still balancing being a footballer, in form, not in form, injuries, not scoring, my health. It was difficult. There were also the trials and tribulations of running a business, getting things wrong, making the wrong investments at the wrong time and stuff like that, it all comes to life. But, it’s all a learning curve.
“Now we’re in a good place. I’ve since partnered up with one of my good friends who is a former board member at Tottenham. It was more of an understanding that I needed a change of structure, I was a bit all over the place and a restructure was needed to move forward positively.
“Growing the brand meant we needed to make the right decisions at the right time, so partnering with New Era, the biggest head- wear brand in the world was key, that was number one.”
He continued: “I’ve come from starting off just a normal clothing line, turning into a clothing brand, doing a collaboration with Starter, going into Footasylum, then doing a collaboration with New Era, then going into JD and Footlocker.
We did a recent collaboration with Xbox which was like, ‘Wow’. “The expertise that my partner has brought is getting into a room with people with money, rooms where people have and understand corporate structure, which I didn’t understand.
“We went into JD Sports and that was a big win for us because you look at them now, they are everywhere. Even there though we hit a wall. You’ve got to understand that Nike, Adidas, Puma, they all are billion dollar companies that have been around for 50- plus years.
You might come into a store and see a wall full of Nike but you don’t know that they pay tens of thousands a month for the particular store placement. It’s like when you go to Tesco and you walk along an aisle – everything at eye level is ensured [it is] placed there, There is a science to it. We had to learn all of that.
“We have around 80 independent retailers up and down the country, but [when] we got into Foot Locker that was a huge moment for [me] because they don’t work with many people. I’m struggling to recall any small black business like mine that they have opened doors for.”
So what’s next for Morgan and Fresh Ego Kid? “For us it’s about trying to work with the right people at the right time and learning more as a young black businessmen.
“We need help as young black entrepreneurs. I want loads of things – I want to help the kids. They need to understand that corporate UK wants a piece of what we are doing and I want them to understand how they can get it.
“The UK culture is resonating worldwide. I want to get some of that corporate money, give it to the people with talent and make Fresh Ego Kid grow as a brand and bring people in, that’s what I want to do.”