For Chicago native Julio Valenzuela ’15, Oswego became home when as a 14-year-old entering high school, his family left the big city to open the Azteca Mexican Grill on Bridge Street. Coming from an inner-city school that was mostly Latino and black students, to a nearly all-white, small-city—if not rural—school was something of a “culture shock,” he said. But the move also enabled him to confront his own stereotypes and see beyond skin color and racial identities.
He set his sights on establishing a personal and professional brand that “seeks to bring others up and spread good energy” and that “represents the progressive power of ambition, gratitude and purpose.” A screen printing course with Professor Bill DeMott helped him formulate an idea for an apparel company and an independent study the following semester led him to the realization of that dream. He created H3Collective—with products including sweatshirts, shirts and accessories—during his last semester.
What was your time here at Oswego like?
It was awesome. I really enjoyed the Graphic Design program, and all it had to offer. A highlight was definitely bonding with a group of creative friends. A few of us transferred in the same semester and it seemed like the timing couldn’t be better. We ended up renting a house together. We worked on small projects and brainstormed ideas of where we see ourselves after school and what our goals are. That was an essential part of my well-being throughout my school years.
How did you come to launch H3Collective?
Basically, I saw the opportunity to start a business for credit by doing an independent study my senior year. I always knew that fashion design and branding was something I wanted to do. I pitched the ideas for the different projects that I would need to accomplish throughout the semester and established the deadlines. If I hadn’t given myself deadlines, then I wouldn’t have come up with a name and concept and wouldn’t be here right now.
Then I had to come up with branding and logo—logo guidelines and a typographic logo. Then, there were two different pieces that I would design—a hat and a shirt. From there, the following project was to screen print the shirt myself and then the hat was building a relationship with a company and working with a company one-on-one to bring my vision to life. The last project was coming up with social media content, including lookbook photography and two promotional videos.
Let’s talk about the name of your company and the three H’s. What do these words mean to you?
Hungry, humble, happy. That flowed nicer than any combination of the three. And it just happened to be three H’s. These three words form my mindset and it’s all about balance. I knew I wanted to bring like-minded, conscious individuals together to influence a positive lifestyle.
The first ‘H’ (hungry) represents ambition; I like to surround myself with people who want more out of life and don’t conform to society’s expectations. The second ‘H’ (humble) represents humility and gratitude; I love the idea of being a student for life and always being open to learn from others. The third ‘H’ (happy) represents happiness, of course; I believe your purpose is something that brings you happiness and excitement meanwhile being of service to others. I like to encourage everyone to go after their passion, no matter how big or small.
How does that philosophy spill over into your life?
There are always going to be people who judge you or who undermine your goals or your vision. But at the end of the day, it’s you versus you. Nothing can stop anybody. The only limitations are the ones that we create in our minds.
What do you hope for the people who buy into your brand?
To create healthy habits that bring balance in their life and to go after whatever it is they’re looking to achieve. If it doesn’t make them happy, then it’s probably not worth the effort. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Collaboration is key nowadays.
Check out the H3Collection