John Okungbaiye, 26 from Hackney, East London found life growing up hard. Passionate about textiles, John pursued this through his studies and work until a trip to New York inspired him to launch his own brand with his older brother, Joshua. 

Growing up, John’s creativity was fuelled by the vibrancy of the cultures, colours and patterns that surrounded him and was the only boy in his class who knew how to use a sewing machine. When John visited New York with his older brother Joshua he spotted a niche in the fashion industry. 

John said:

When we went to New York, we noticed people carrying their back packs across their chests and tummies so that people couldn’t pick-pocket them. I thought if you simply relocated the zip, it would help prevent loss and pick-pocketing in big cities.

Inspired by their trip, John and his brother, who have always had a close relationship, decided to give up their jobs and go into business together. The pair came up with an innovative zip-relocated deign to help prevent pick-pocketing, leading to the creation of High Spirit Bags

John added: “I knew a local London tanner who could supply and make my designs, so we made prototypes and got pop-up stalls at Spitalfields and Westfield. We manned the stalls ourselves and spoke to everyone who visited. It helped us gain real feedback into the kinds of things people did and didn’t like, who our target audience was, and what would sell.”

John was confident about the creative side of the brand, but wanted to get a better understanding of how to structure a successful business which led him to complete The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme. 

John said:

I can’t put a price on the help The Prince’s Trust have given me. It’s been epic. They taught me everything from cash flow and tax to marketing and SEO; they’re always there when you need them, they’ve helped me to build good relationships with buyers, and they’ve made me feel so much more enlightened about the technicalities of running a business.

High Spirited Bags has since gained several celebrity fans, including Sir Richard Branson and are now stocked in a number of retailers across the UK, including The Trust's Tomorrow's Store. Determined to keep growing their business, John and Joshua hope to open a tannery and workshop of their own. John also hopes to set up his own charity to help inspire and guide other young entrepreneurs to make a success of their ideas.