It was a random conversation in a grocery store that changed the course of Pierre Robinson’s career, and his life. Today, not only is he an entrepreneur with his own company, his 10-year-old son also has his own business, and the two recently collaborated on an initiative to promote generational wealth in Black and brown communities.
Robinson, who lives in South Berkeley, originally planned on becoming a medical assistant but, one day, while waiting in line at Pak ’N Save Foods in Emeryville, he began chatting with a pair of older women who asked him about his future plans.
“I said medical assistant because a lot of people used to say that, but they could tell I didn’t want to be that,” he said. “They asked me what my hobbies were and what I was good at, and suggested I focus my efforts there.”
So Robinson reflected on what he really wanted to do with his life.
“I asked myself, what am I good at? I like fashion and clothes,” said Robinson.
That insight led Robinson, in 2011 when he was 21, to launch Breaking Hearts Clothing, a streetwear brand that started off selling T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts but has expanded to provide a diverse range of products, including letterman jackets, cannabis products, and skate shoes.
Robinson said the company’s name was inspired by a song. “Wiz Khalifa had a song called Black and Yellow and it had a line — ‘No love for ’em’ breaking hearts’— and that line just stood out to me,” he said.
“I try to have a brand for people aged 16 to 50 — for the new school and old school. That’s what it really means. A lot of people think it means it has to do with breaking hearts, but it is about bridging the new school and old school together. I try to do different designs that both generations would wear.”
Robinson, who attended Jefferson Elementary, King Middle School, and Berkeley High, credits Berkeley and its culture for exposing him to diversity and creativity at an early age, which has influenced his approach to developing pieces for his brand.
After the Breaking Hearts brand launched, Robinson was able to capitalize off of the viral attention his clothes attracted when local artists would wear his clothing in their rap videos. Fans would leave comments asking about the brand.
“At the time, I was so new, I didn’t have a website, it was just sold through word of mouth,” said Robinson.
Long-time customer Brianna Shepard learned of the brand through one of the music videos and has seen the Breaking Hearts brand evolve over the years. “His product is getting better. The quality of the material and designs are better as well,” she said.
A business born of doctor’s advice and the cost of video games
Robinson’s 10-year-old son Dmir is an entrepreneur in his own right, having had a successful smoothie company for the past four years. The idea for the business originated from a conversation father and son had about the cost of video games, as well as from a health check up with a doctor.
“We had gone to the doctor’s and they said he needs to eat more fruits and vegetables, and smoothies was how we got him to eat spinach with the pineapples and strawberries,” said Robinson. “He likes video games, and they typically are $60 a piece, so I told him he’s going to have to work for them, I had to work for mine. So he was like, I can make smoothies.”
Dmir started Dmir Smoothies when he was 7 years old.
Dmir, who before the pandemic made his smoothies at a commercial kitchen, specializes in mixed-fruit smoothies and milkshakes. He has developed a social-media following for his smoothie business and often receives direct messages from young people across the country looking for advice on how to start a business as a young entrepreneur.
When asked about what it has been like to see Dmir’s growth over the past three years, Sherrie Martinez, Dmir’s mother and Pierre’s fiancée, said: “Since Dmir started his business I saw a major improvement in his communication and confidence. My hope is for him to continue with his brand and start to branch off into other ideas. I definitely want him to be creative and to be himself, and to be able to motivate other kids.”
A father-son collaboration with a timely message
Now father and son are joining forces to work on Generational Wealth, a collection of hooded sweatshirts. The project is more than just a creative venture for the duo — they are also hoping to convey a timely message. In the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, and given the economic impacts COVID-19 had on minority-owned businesses, more attention has been paid to racial inequality and eliminating disparities like the racial wealth gap. Through this collaboration, Robinson hopes to raise awareness about healthy financial practices, while also teaching financial wellness lessons to his son.
“People that know me, know that I preach generational wealth, trust fund accounts, and life insurance. We want to inspire the Black and brown community to get a head start in life,” said Robinson. “Every dollar you spend when you buy one of Dmir’s smoothie juices or a piece from the Generational Wealth collaboration, it goes towards his trust fund account. I want to put him in a position where he can get a head start when he turns 18.”
“It was a great collaboration for a father and son to do, and the meaning behind it,” said Martinez. “More of our generation is pushing that issue, and people are understanding how important generational wealth is.”
Looking ahead, now that society is opening up again from the pandemic, Robinson and Dmir hope to attend more events at Lake Merritt to promote the Breaking Hearts brand and Dmir’s smoothie business. In addition, Robinson is looking to mentor other budding entrepreneurs entering the streetwear business.
“I want to work more with up-and-coming brands. When I was coming up, I really didn’t have support, people didn’t want me to lend a helping hand,” he said.
And, as a father, Robinson plans to continue teaching Dmir the values of working for oneself and proper financial planning.
“I want to teach him that if he works hard now, later on in life he’ll understand that you really won’t have to work for nobody,” he said.