December 18, 2020

Ep. 8 - "Don't worry about Julio, sweetheart."

For episode 8 Gi brings on Owner of Trap Panda Clothing, Queen City's own Julio Gwapo. Gi and Julio talk about growing up on the west side of Charlotte, hustling at a young age, and being a one man business. Gi cannot stress how community is important enough as she starts the conversation off by saying, "We Buy black. We Shop Black. We are Black.'


To kick off any meaningful conversation, understanding someone's upbringing always puts things into perspective. Gi and Julio take a trip down memory lane as they recall their old stomping grounds on the west side of Charlotte. "Beatties Ford, Sunset, Statesville...That's where I spent most of my childhood at," notes Julio who told us he has nothing but immense respect and love for his hometown.

So much, that unlike the norm, "I was all over doing everything with everybody. That why I don't even claim a side like that." That took Gi, a west side gal herself, back for a second. It was evident that this man was putting on! Although growing up on the in Charlotte is eventful to say the least, Gi and Julio also talk about the stigma of the "struggle" and how it can really take a toll on people. Julio remembers that he had no choice but to learn how to operate and navigate this concept at a young age. A concept he thinks, can plague people for life without action.

"The problem isn't glorifying, it's still struggling! My momma and daddy ain't about to be proud of me if I'm out here grown as hell still not being shit. It's one thing to glorify and respect where you came from but if you are still struggling, and not doing's lazy to me."

The two also go into how people's idea of this struggle creates a stigma in people and makes them think they have to be a certain way. Julio tells people he came from that, "However I don't operate like that. Just because you from there doesn't mean you have to be some animal, killer, none of that. I knew I didn't wanna go to jail, or have a lot of kids. Coming up, all we knew is that we had to prove this point. "


As we all know, success rarely comes from not having the drive, that hustle gene. Young business owner, Julio, is no stranger to grinding for what he wants. He recalls starting to hustle a young age, using his first job as his first investment.

"I was 14. Got my first job at Carowinds. Got my first check and went right to buy that weed to sell....later it was shoes...and so forth."

A long way from selling reggie on the street, a humble Julio tells us he appreciates where he is now, but knows his work is nowhere near done. He tells Gi he could've been even more financially secure had he been even more on his game. Something we thought he was at the peak of!

"I could've been a millionaire by now. Had I not gotten bored and starting finding new things. I'm not just good at hustling I am a FOOL at it. God blessed me with that. But then I get off track quick sometimes. It's a balance, and now, I am more focused than ever. This decade. We getting it."

With all this inspirational talk of getting out of the mud, Gi switches gears and wonders what keeps this one man machine going. When prompted, Julio paused and only said one word.


He later elaborates that it was the fear of not being stable, not being able to take care of his kids is what drives him the most. He tells Gi, "It's like whenever I feel like I am getting low (which everyone has a different definition of) I panic. I freak out."

The Trap Panda Clothing Owner tells us that being financially conscious was so important to getting where he is now.  Learning to invest instead of only spending and saving was a key concept he referenced. He also tells us how you have to have careful planning, or you'll just be left with regrets.

"People always talk about what they should've done with their money when it's gone. Those things need to be done. You have to be prepared. It's like if you lost all your money today what are you gonna do?"

Besides the mentality and attitude, the people you surround yourself with was also something important Julio noted. Having a group of people that support each other was key into Julio launching his own brand, emphasizing that "When one of us took off we all did. It doesn't make sense to do people dirty or undercut them. At the end I'm gonna the very least called a hater. I don't want that."

Being that The Black Vibrations is all about uplifting and highlighting Black excellence, Gi felt what Julio was saying strongly as she thanks her team and contributors every episode.


When asking Julio where the idea to start his own line, he remembers shopping with one of his favorite local lines and not being able to find the "right" fit for his new pair of shoes. "So I said damn I just need to make my own, I started it for me so I can match my gear. I didn't really plan for this."

When asked about coming up with the brand, he also said he didn't want to stress on thinking too much about it. Julio tells Gi that he wanted his brand to be simple and easily identifiable.

"A lot of people ask me the meaning...and to be honest...I was googling and looking up ideas...and I saw a dope I said hmm..Dope...Trap Panda...and I ran with it. I didn't want to think too much of it and get stuck. Some people take years to come up with their concept."  - Julio

After coming up with branding, Trap Panda's owner started with very little promotion. He tried different looks, focusing on finding the right vibe that will resonate with people, something people will LIKE.

"When I first started selling it didn't really do well. So that made me go harder. Come out with doper stuff. It's the way I am...and these days you really need to earn people's business."

Julio goes on that he wants people to buy his stuff because they like it.  He loves being in full creative control, which allows him to be change up what he needs to do in order to grow his brand. He demonstrates that by posting the gear on its own without any notes about "limited time" or salesy ad copy. "If I post it and you want it? You will holla at me."

Gi compares it his business model to fancy restaurants that don't post menu prices, but the business man retorts,"I have the best prices in town. Why? I do everything myself."

A one man operation, Julio talks about how he uses the power of social media marketing, coupled with his social proof in the form of shoutouts are what drive his business. "I do everything right, but that buzz on  social media is a cheat code!" Gi notes that she herself has bought from Trap Panda before, noting a great experience.

"You got me a shirt to match my Tye Dye 1's and you were so professional and you had the packaging on point all of it. It is definitely appreciated."

Lastly, Gi recollects  how he has an overwhelming support base, seeing his clothes on people all over the city. Talking on support, Julio wanted to make it clear one last time:

"I don't even really like when people say they buy my stuff to support. Nah, buy it because you like it. I am good, don't worry about me sweetheart. Julio good. You buy with me if you like it. "


Aside from being a fashion mogul, Julio is also a dedicated father. Calling it a blessing, Julio also sources his children (11 and 1) as an everyday motivator. Wanting to take care of them, trying to do right by them and show teach them right are all complex dimensions, ones that even Julio admits he is still working on.

"It's all a balance. My 11 year old wants this. My 1 year old is a baby still. I gotta pick one up from day care and take the other to basketball practice. I gotta meet the mom. It can be alot. But you got no choice...I was raised thinking fathers can just leave and although I leave to provide for them...I am still there for them no matter what."

Admitting he is not perfect, Julio talks about his most recent crossroads in parent hood, teaching his oldest son how to be a man. "You know that's where I am. Showing him how to be a man in my own way. Making sure he is proud of me, I mean there is no better reward."

All in all, there are many level to the young CEO, and we are glad he came by to give us a glimpse into his one man empire.


Episode 8 of The Black Vibrations Podcast will drop on 12/26!

Follow and shop with Trap Panda!!

Instagram: @trap_panda_clothing

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