Felix Cheung is the founder and sole proprietor of DopeHut, an online store that sells youth-driven streetwear apparel. But DopeHut is more than just another urban brand. As head of one of California's first companies to become a certified B Corporation, Felix Cheung has embedded a social mission into the business' online (and offline) personality. Here, Cheung, who has taken a break from a Master's in Business Administration to focus full time on the DopeHut, discusses how he got into the streetwear scene, as well as his ambitious vision for the future when it comes to the proliferation of all social businesses.
Four Questions with Felix Cheung
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
This isn’t the type of idea that comes in a dream. This idea developed over many years. In 2006, I started a small online streetwear store with a few friends in college. That company didn’t work out, but I realized two things about the industry: One, there was no way I would be able to compete with multimillion dollar companies with a conventional business model; and two, there is a huge demand from independent clothing brands for ways to get more exposure and control their distribution. I think I’m a pretty creative guy, but I can’t design, draw, rap, sing or write well. I decided I would use DopeHut as my creative outlet and use it to help the real talented people succeed.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
It was always my dream to pull a Bill Gates. Like many entrepreneurs, I wanted to make tons of money and then use it to make a difference. I heard of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett organizing billionaires to donate half their money when they die. I thought this was very generous but still backwards thinking; why not donate the money when you’re alive? After having problems with some power-hungry people, I realized no one person or group of people can really say they deserve the money from this company; the artists and designers are the ones doing the real work. As the sole proprietor of DopeHut, I knew I had the opportunity to do something audacious; donate 50% of DopeHut’s profits to charity. I believe this is the way all companies will move towards in the future, maybe not to this extent, but I believe all major corporations will eventually have a “social” element to their business. I believe in the stakeholder theory of business; I have faith that if DopeHut can help enough people, there is no way it can fail.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I try to get inspiration anywhere I can: listening to music, watching sports, reading books, and thinking about all the people I can possibly help. The business world is brutal and non-stop; you need to motivate yourself and find inspiration wherever you can. I doubt anyone can achieve great things with money as their only source of motivation.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I really don’t do anything to try to be creative. All my life, I’ve thought of stupid out-of-the-box stuff. It’s just taken a while to understand when I have a good idea or a stupid idea. If I have a big problem or question, I try to meditate and focus on that question. Usually, the perfect answer will arrive when I stop thinking about it.