Tri-C Student's Second Act Opens With Cleveland Clothing Store
October 16, 2015
When Andre Moore opens the doors to his Runway Fashions boutique today, it will be an event that many would not have thought possible 10, even five years ago.
Five years ago, he was serving time in prison. Today, Moore is studying small business management at Cuyahoga Community College.
“I feel a little anxious, very much excited. I question myself so much because I don’t want nothing to go wrong,” Moore, 44, said. “The money really is nothing. It’s the principle that before I leave this Earth, I want my family to be able to say I was a good man.”
Runway Fashions is at East 64th Street and St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland. It will offer women’s clothing and scented oils for men and women. Moore said he grew up around a lot of women and noticed they took a lot of time and care with their clothing. He will curate his inventory by scouring the Internet and visiting fashion hot spots in New York City.
“I am just branching off, nitpicking at places. I can tell a lady, ‘This is the only dress like this in the city,’” he said.
Moore served five sentences totaling 18½ years for drug- and theft-related offenses. He grew up around Superior Road and Lakeview Avenue, where he watched his father get gunned down in a case of mistaken identity. His has been a life surrounded by crime and violence.
“The male members of my family, that’s all they do: drugs, guns, robbing, killing. Like a VCR, we played it back,” Moore said.
But when Moore had his first child, he started to question this lifestyle. It’s hard, he said, to cut yourself off from your family and friends. The gravity is strong, and it takes time and will, but it was precisely what he needed to do.
“This is not the life for a child. I don’t want to be somewhere and then I get a phone call saying, ‘I got your child. I know what you do. I need some money,’” Moore said.
When Moore was released from jail in 2011, he enrolled at Tri-C, not so much with the intention of opening a business as to have a way to stay out of trouble. His professors soon noticed he had a good mind for business.
“His support to other students in the classroom is second to none. He has always been there for the other students,” said Andrew Bajda, assistant professor of business administration. “Not only is he entrepreneurial, he’s got a lot of leadership qualities.”
Moore developed what would become the seed of his business while in prison. He would buy a one-ounce bottle of scented oil for $3.50, repackage the oil (using straws and melted plastic spoons) into “single serve” tubes and sell them to other inmates for $1 each. He could get 20 tubes from one bottle of oil.
When he got out of prison, he continued selling scented oils wholesale to salons, barber shops and other outlets. As part of his studies at Tri-C, he decided to develop a business plan to grow this enterprise. It would eventually lead to Runway Fashions. Bajda said Moore had received a lot of positive feedback on his business plan. His wife of two years, Ayesha Switzer-Moore, has offered input on store design.
But most important to Moore is taking care of his family and earning his associate degree. He carries a 2.96 overall GPA.
“I have to get my degree,” Moore said. “My life is strictly being a family man and being educated and trying to get my business going.”