A young entrepreneur inspires the community with his words and wears.
Daniel Richards started his first business when he was eight years old—not a lemonade stand but a clothing line. The thread of inspiration came when his mother, Debby, was getting him ready for his first day of third grade. It was a sweltering September morning on Nantucket and Daniel wanted to wear something that was formal but also breathable. So his mother suggested he dress in a fresh T-shirt with a tailored waistcoat over it. The T-shirt-vest combo created the perfect balance of cool and classy that Daniel was hoping for. After he received compliments from his friends and teachers at school, Daniel and his mother realized that they were on to something. Two years later, MOTIVEST is a promising clothing startup on Nantucket that has recently transcended fashion to help tie a community together.
“MOTIVEST stands for ‘Motivate Others to Tolerate, Inspire, Value, Encourage and Support Teamwork,’” explained Daniel, now ten. “MOTIVEST will not only improve your look, but also help others.” Daniel’s older brother, who now lives in Jamaica, helped their mother develop the prototype for MOTIVEST. What started as a simple vest has since branched off into a line of $20 T-shirts all branded with the MOTIVEST ethos. The idea was to create a piece of clothing that would inspire young leaders to combat bullying in school. “By wearing a MOTIVEST shirt, you are telling others that you are a friend who can be trusted,” Debby explained. “So if someone is getting bullied, they know they can get help from someone wearing a MOTIVEST shirt.”
While the Richards family’s company experienced modest growth over the last two years, the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations on Nantucket introduced MOTIVEST to a much bigger audience. During the demonstration at Tom Nevers Field in early June, Daniel climbed onto the back of the pickup truck where the high school organizers were delivering speeches. Taking over the bullhorn, he made his own impromptu remarks. “That was the first time he’d ever spoken in public,” Debby said. “But he has a knack for it.”
Nantucketers were so moved by the young boy’s speech that he was invited by the Nantucket Justice League to speak at the candlelight vigil they held a week later. There on Main Street he recited poems by heart that he and his mother wrote about discrimination in the United States. “I am a black boy, I am ten years old, I have seen and heard too many stories been told,” Daniel began over the microphone, wearing one of his MOTIVEST waistcoats. “They say the police are to protect and serve, but I am scared they may put a trigger to my nerve.” The crowd marveled at the boy’s delivery and impassioned words. “I love my country; it is all I know. No need for Halloween, every day is a scary show…Please wake me up to the America of opportunity, where every individual is treated with dignity.” Since his performance at the vigil, the community has rallied around Daniel and helped him emerge as one of the island’s youngest voices calling for justice and an end to systemic racism. With the help of social media strategist Anastasia Wolf, Daniel and Debby have been sharing their poems and MOTIVEST products through Instagram. Daniel has also been working with Brian Mullen of Nantucket Innovation in building his MOTIVEST brand. Above all, Debby remains his chief support system.
“I love how the community has rallied around Daniel,” said Debby, who moved to Nantucket from Jamaica full time more than twelve years ago. “I’m trying to teach him that even if he doesn’t sell a lot of shirts, he still needs to stand behind the message of the shirt. I try to remind him that if things don’t go your way now, that doesn’t mean they won’t go your way later. Most importantly, I want to teach him gratitude.” Together, Daniel and Debby are sewing inspiration into the Nantucket community, one poem and one T-shirt at a time.