Souleyman Gackou, ENG ’21, spent most of his childhood in Senegal and visited Philly during the summers before coming to stay permanently in 2012. After six years of struggling to find formal Senegalese attire in Philadelphia, he began to create his own traditional clothing and sharing it on social media. Friends saw the photos and posts, and feeling inspired, they sought out his expertise for traditional African clothing.
“We are as much African as we are American, and we wanted outfits to show how proud we are of our heritage,” says Gackou.
Seeing his friends also struggle to find formal attire, he was inspired to create his own business.
Using his family’s connections in Senegal, he was able to create outfits using Senegalese fabrics, tailors and craftsmen. When looking for advice and opportunities for small businesses, Gackou found the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI). The IEI helps members of the Temple University community—students, alumni, faculty and staff, from all 17 schools and colleges across the University—to develop and grow their startup ventures through mentorship programs, pitch competitions and other educational opportunities. Utilizing these resources, he founded his company King Solomon in his junior year at Temple.
“The mentorship programs and networking opportunities offered through the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute were a great thing for King Solomon,” says Gackou.
In 2019, he participated in the 1810 Accelerator’s Startup Studio, a 12-week accelerator program offered by the IEI to provide ventures with feedback, guest lectures and a roadmap to success. With this jumpstart, business accelerated and he needed to expand. With this expansion came new challenges, including customer growth, managing a team and learning how to delegate. These were compounded following the supply chain issue that escalated during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite these supply chain issues, he kept a focus on his employees. “My job was to ensure that their contributions were recognized and valued,” says Gackou.
His biggest piece of advice for other entrepreneurs is to ensure that you are acting on your intentions for your business. “The idea phase is beautiful, but it is nothing without action,” says Gackou.
Right now, King Solomon is working on their Tafa Collection, which is coming out in April of this year and will feature traditional hats, slides and accessories. You can learn more about King Solomon here and keep up with Soulyeman here.
To learn more about the IEI’s resources and programs, visit the institute’s website.