Do you remember the exact moment when you were motivated to do something or be someone great?
For Jackson State University alumna Monique Atkins, all it took was a small moment in high school to change the direction of her life in a big way.
One day, a person wearing hand-painted jeans came to present to Atkins’ art class. Mesmerized by the pants’ artistic detail, she decided to paint her clothes in similar fashion. After asking her mom to pick up supplies from the arts-and-crafts store Michaels, Atkins practiced drawing cartoon characters and realized she was on to something.
Atkins is the creator and designer behind Deeply Rooted ’07 – an apparel company that sells hand-painted t-shirts and limited selections of graphically designed clothing.
“Deeply Rooted ’07 is about overcoming the struggles you face on a daily basis; about you facing obstacles but knowing you’re going to come out of it stronger,” said Atkins.
The Chicago native started Deeply Rooted ’07, as a graphic design major, on the campus of JSU. She credits the institution for helping her become the entrepreneur she is today. The designer also charges two art educators, Charles Carraway and Kenyatta Stewart, with nurturing her ambitions.
“I actually still speak to Mr. Stewart. He gives me advice on my business,” said Atkins. “They both helped me a lot, and I always stayed in the art building late night learning. I wanted to keep practicing.”
Atkins explained that her presence in the art department had become so routine that people would suggest that she had no personal life. Unfazed by the comments, Atkins was not to be deterred from her goal.
“I was just always determined to get things done with my clothing line. Graphic design helped me a lot. Now, I’m my own graphic designer,” she said.
During her matriculation at the University, Atkins would hand-paint designs on shoes for various people. Then, pushing the limits of her creativity, Atkins spent $1500 to create 72 hand-painted shirts, and she eventually sold-out. The aspiring fashion mogul had successfully doubled her first brand investment.
After graduating from JSU, Atkins returned to Chicago to “make a name” for Deeply Rooted ’07 in her hometown. She created her website, and her family members agreed to help with brand expansion. The Deeply Rooted ’07 team consists of Atkins’s two sisters who serve as marketing director and assistant, and her brother aids with designs. Her apparel collection now boasts over 40 varied designs on t-shirts, sweatpants, baseball shirts, kids clothes and more.
Atkins said that while her brand is intended to reflect the daily struggles and pain of everyday people, her focus is capturing the essence found in the overcoming of struggles. “Each design is a conversational piece and it can relate to someone. I try to think about what people go through on a daily basis,” said Atkins.
Deeply Rooted’s most popular seller is a t-shirt called Planting Seeds of Knowledge which is centered around a scarecrow motif. She explains that the scarecrow is protecting a metaphorical garden that is planted with the seeds of what people strive or wish to become one day. The artistic Atkins has a saying: “Don’t ask the struggle what it did to you, ask what it has done for you.”
She expounded and stated that struggles should be teachable moments and all people can learn from them. It is a theory she attributes to her older sister, Regina.
“Some people are content with the struggle and will stay in the struggle. Sometimes your struggle can put you down for a minute and keep you there. But, everyone should want to get out of their struggle,” Atkins said.
She also adds that people should emerge from their struggles wiser and stronger and be willing to share their stories with others.
“Someone else could have that same struggle and don’t know how to get out of it or don’t know how to deal with it, but you could help them by showing them how you overcame yours,” she said.
Currently filling orders through her website, dr07clothing.com, Atkins’ long-term goal is to open a store in Chicago and eventually Atlanta. It would appear that she is on the road to notoriety being that Deeply Rooted ’07 is worn by television and music industry notables – like actor Danny Glover; activist and rapper David Banner; and songstress Sevyn Streeter among others.
She is also connected with another JSU alumna Erica Michelle, who is an actress on the BET Network show The Quad. Some of Atkins’s t-shirts will be displayed on the upcoming season as part of Michelle’s wardrobe.
Plans to add a workout collection to her line called Know Your Opponent are also in the works. The line was created after Atkins discovered she had type two diabetes in April of 2017.
“The line is mostly for people with sickle cell, diabetes and cancer, but can also be for anyone with any disease,” Atkins said. “It’s all about knowing what you’re up against in order to beat it.”
Besides from working on Deeply Rooted ’07, Atkins also manages music artists under her own company Gardener Entertainment and has a graphic design company called DR Graphix. She now has five Chicago artists under her guidance who will also promote her clothing line while she helps to advance their music careers.
For people who plan to follow in Atkins’ footsteps, she wants to remind them to stay humble, stay determined and stay focused because “those who see your determination and consistency will want to help you more.”