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Alumni Award recipient reflects on journey

Photo by Kate Kunz

Photo by Ashley Naud

The Weal sat down with 27-year-old Albert Mejia, SAITA’s promotions coordinator, graphic designer, owner of his own streetwear company, professional dancer and co-founder of dance crew Empirical Freedom, recipient of SAIT’s 2017 Outstanding Young Alumni Award, and overall “flyest guy” we know, to talk about his brand, dancing and where it all began.

The Weal: What is Legal Hustle?

Albert Mejia: Legal Hustle started off as a clothing brand, but now it’s more of using my voice through a clothing brand and pushing a message of hope, the future generation and living a straight edge life.

TW: When and where did it begin?

AM: It started here in Calgary in 2011. It was an idea we had in high school that bloomed when I got my career in aviation. When I had money, that’s when my former business partner [and I] put our heads together and just started the business.

TW: What did aviation have to do with the idea?

AM: It was more of just my blueprint to life. I knew I could get a job in the industry right away after graduating. So, I just used that resource that my dad had, he’s been in the industry for over 50 years, to start my career off, get a job, save up some money and put that money into my business.

TW: What inspires you?

AM: Everything. It could be sitting and people watching, drinking coffee, but a lot of stuff that I grew up with, different brands, hip-hop, different kinds of music, sports, celebrities. But streetwear, it’s into a lot of political touches. Right now there’s a lot of violence, racism that’s going on around the world, so that’s kind of where my head is at right now with the brand.

It’s like using my channel in fashion to put it out there and put it in the eyes of the younger people and even the people that are my age or older.

TW: Tell me about your background?

AM: I’m a clothing [streetwear company] owner and [graphic] designer for my brand. I’m also a professional dancer — I’m a co-founder of a dance crew called Empirical Freedom, which focuses on Krump dance. I’m one of the Krump pioneers in Western Canada, and I’m also the creator of Calgary’s sneaker community YYC SOLEdiers. And I work for SAITSA as a promotions coordinator.

TW: How did you feel when you found out about the Alumni Award?

AM: I cried. Dr. Ross gave me a phone call to congratulate me. I kind of knew it was coming, because for the last two years I was getting nominated, so third time’s a charm. I told my co-worker that this was the year I was going to get it, and I got it, and I cried.

TW: Why do you think you won?

AM: I think I won because I don’t invest into students or people with money, I invest with my time and one-on-ones and speaking in front of students, because I feel that you get more out of it than if you just give a donation. I’ve donated to SAIT, but I didn’t really feel fulfilled. I felt more fulfilled coming in and talking to students or even just talking to people on the street. I feel like that’s where my life is pushing me right now is just to be motivational/inspirational to future generations.

TW: What do you think are the most important factors that make your business a success?

AM: Failure. Marketing and all that stuff is basic, but it’s all about failure. If you’re not failing at something, then you’re not doing the right thing. If you’re not learning from your failures, then you’re still not doing the right thing. If I were to list my top three factors it would be fail, fail and fail.

TW: What words of advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?

AM: Know your business, know your people, but again be ready to fail and fail and fail again. Business takes money, but failure takes experience and experience gives you growth, so I always say that if you’re ready to fail then you’re ready to start, but if you’re not ready to fail then don’t step into the circle.

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