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Westchester Entrepreneur Leaves Banking To Invest In 'Kool' Kids

Mamaroneck resident Orane Barrett is the founder of Kool Nerd Clothing.
Mamaroneck resident Orane Barrett is the founder of Kool Nerd Clothing. Photo Credit: Submitted

At first glance, the t-shirts and hoodies at Kool Nerd Clothing look like anything else you might find online. But in reality, each piece of clothing unlocks the potential for a child in a high unemployment area to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (also known as S.T.E.A.M/S.T.E.M).

Mamaroneck resident Orane Barrett left his job as an investment banker to start the company, in operation since March 2016.

His reasoning? Unemployment in lower-income communities is three-times the national average while 500,000-plus S.T.E.M. jobs are currently unstaffed. His Kool Nerd Club (KNC), he said, was created to close that gap.

How, one might ask, does that work? KNC is basically a social-brand that operates on a “one equals one” model. It relies heavily on social media engagement as well as its app and word of mouth to drive action -- and awareness.

"As a social-apparel brand, one shirt sold unlocks one hour of mentoring/tutoring from a college student to a middle-school or high-school student in the areas of S.T.E.M. at a partnered Boys & Girls Club," explained Barrett.

"We've proven this model during our pilot phase this summer by sending five college students to the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle, based on early 2017 sales."

Barrett came up with the Kool Nerd name because, in his opinion, "Kool people don’t conform."

"Without being defiant, they find creative ways of creating their path," he said. "However, a nerd is a person that is passionate about a certain subject. Combined, a Kool Nerd is a person that pursues their passion (nerd) without conforming (kool)."

And indeed, his Kool Nerd Movement Tour -- think a speaking engagement plus college readiness workshop-- is growing. It is currently sponsored by Microsoft.

The Kool Nerd Movement is the second arm of his brand which includes direct interaction with students in lower-income communities.

"Through our public-private sponsorship model, sponsors support us to bring our movement to students, at no cost to schools, districts, or taxpayers," he explained.

KNC is presently in Harlem and plans to be in Flatbush, Brooklyn by February 2018.

Go to www.koolnerdclub.com for more information.

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