DENTON — Terae Warner, 28, weaved in and out of aspirations for years, never quite finding his professional purpose in a bin of crumpled up and tossed out jobs.
Warner’s newest project, though, isn’t just another phase he plans to outgrow, he said. He’s the CEO of a recently opened Denton clothing store, called Not A Phase 634.
Warner said his clothing company, on Market Street, has been a passion project that allows him to express himself through 1990s-reminiscent wearable art.
“When people come in, I want them to feel like, ‘Oh, I’m back in my era,’” Warner said of his designs. “And the younger kids, I want them to come in and be like, ‘What’s going on?’”
When Warner launched the Not A Phase brand in April 2018, he said he had “just three T-shirts, a vinyl cutter and a heat press” to create some of his first pieces.
These humble beginnings, Warner said, led to obstacles that frustrated him and forced him to rethink his creativity.
“I struggled when I first started out, because I had this vision of how I wanted everything to be and look,” he said. “But monetarily, and with the little bit of knowledge I had, things didn’t come out exactly how I wanted.”
But Warner didn’t let that discourage him. His desire to contribute to society in a meaningful way was motivation enough for him to keep going.
“Some days I would wonder, ‘Am I ever going to find my niche?’ Am I ever going to figure out what I’m here to do?’” he said. “Because I would start a lot of things, and I would never follow through with it. So I said if I start this, I’m gonna make sure that it’s not a phase.”
Since the company’s conception more than a year ago, Warner said Not A Phase has become known locally and received positively by the community.
The storefront’s grand opening, Saturday, July 6, attracted people from all over Caroline County, many of whom had been following Warner’s entrepreneurial journey.
“When we were getting ready to do the ribbon cutting, I was setting the ribbon up and I turned around, and I didn’t realize how many people were here,” Warner said. “We have a big following. We know a lot of people in the area. It was a nice crowd.”
The store sells uniquely designed graphic T-shirts, collared shirts, bike shorts, and sweatshirts and shorts. The pieces come to Warner blank, he said, and then he places a logo or graphic on them to make them fit his brand.
Warner’s storefront in Denton also functions as a thrift shop, featuring items traded in for Not A Phase store credit. He said anyone is welcome to bring in brand-conforming pieces for consignment, but he’s choosy about what he’ll sell, because he wants it to blend with his vision.
In the future, Warner said he hopes to expand Not A Phase to include more items and to be sold more widely in other retailers.
For now, he’s enjoying the opening of his first storefront, telling his story through design and spreading entrepreneurial vibrations throughout the community.
“People reach out to me all the time. Sometimes things get rough and you need that motivation,” he said. “I just always try to remind people that I’m no different than anybody. I’m really not doing anything that the next person couldn’t do.”
Warner also said he hopes to host seminars or workshops for kids in the area to learn from and become motivated by his experience as a business owner.
“I want to teach and help the youth,” he said. “We can go over entrepreneurship, maybe some fashion stuff, business stuff, things that the next generation is gonna need.”
For more information about Not A Phase 634, visit www.nap634.com, or visit the shop at 212 Market St. in Denton.