At the beginning of his ninth grade year, current Valmeyer High School senior Mason Williams had an experience that altered his life.
He had a group of friends he always sat with during lunch, but that year they made new friends. They kicked Williams off the table, resulting in him sitting alone the rest of the school year.
That experience, combined with other instances of bullying in his childhood, led Williams to create X to the Fourth as part of the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program at VHS during his junior year.
CEO is a program dedicated to providing entrepreneurial leadership opportunities to students. It allows schools to partner with local businesses to create project-based experiences for students by providing funding, expertise, meeting space, business tours and one-on-one mentoring.
X to the Fourth is a clothing brand designed to raise awareness about bullying and help bring people together against it.
“I believe in power in numbers,” Williams said. “So the more people who are against bullying or who are aware of bullying can help stop that by overcoming the bully together.”
Williams, 17, created the name and logo for the program while talking to one of his teachers at VHS.
“Me and my teacher were discussing what my business should be,” he explained. “He was like ‘The logo should be your name or something.’ It took me like two seconds to figure out my logo, which is four Xs. So I came up with X to the Fourth.”
Although the logo originally was meant to just look interesting, Williams said he realized it had deeper meaning.
“Basically, at first you can see the four Xs, but then if you look within the lines, like my motto says, you can see it’s actually an ‘M’ and a ‘W’ overlapping, for Mason Williams,” he said. “Some people see four Xs. Some people see three diamonds. Some people see people holding hands.
“All that means is just because somebody else doesn’t see the same thing as you doesn’t mean you should criticize it – just like people. If somebody looks different than you or acts different than you, that doesn’t mean we should bully them about it either.”
Williams began the business late last year, but merchandise has only been available for approximately five months. In that time, Williams has focused primarily on giving away items to build his brand.
Now, however, he said he hopes to begin selling more products. He is placing an order at the end of June or early July and plans to sell those items.
Currently, the company offers four designs that can be ordered on T-shirts or tank tops. X to the Fourth also offers a hat and wristbands. More shirt designs are also coming soon.
Given the typical trajectory of a brand, Williams said he hopes to increase sales later this year. He also said he might seek to speak at schools about bullying next year.
Williams credits the CEO program with helping him begin the business.
“CEO really pushed me to get out there and do this business,” he said. “Without CEO I don’t think I would have done it.”
For more information or to order products from X to the Fourth, visit www.xtothefourth.com.