Akil “A.K.” Kurji is known as the man who brought the whole customized silicone wristband trend to America in 2012 with his company PMGOA, which he started in his garage. While they began with just a single laser engraver and some blank wristbands to imprint, the business soon began to bloom. However, his young age and being naive to some of his partner’s business practices was no help for his entrepreneurship. Since he didn’t fully understand the business world, issues related to legal compliance and more led to trouble. Through some shady practices, he ran afoul of the federal government and ended up pleading guilty to charges of conspiring to fix prices on promotional products such as branded wristbands, lanyards, temporary tattoos and buttons. But that didn’t stop Kurji. He fought back for his dignity, served his time, and came out on top to now change the world for the better!
What is Akil Kurji doing now?
After getting out earlier in 2020, amidst the rise of a global pandemic, Kurji led PMGOA’s rapid pivot to selling masks and print-on-demand apparel. The business shift was deftly executed, and in a time of crisis where people were losing jobs left and right, Kurji was able to add 150 jobs in just three months.
Unfortunately, that was when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It’s about 4mm and is located in his pituitary. He’s on medication to reduce its size, however, it will be something he has to live with forever as they cannot remove it.
Because of his health, he had to step down from his company and instead start an on-demand print company called Swagify, which has quickly taken the industry by storm.
What is so unique about Swagify?
Swagify is the only platform of its kind to allow users to choose their vendors after an order is placed. For example, with our competitors – when a user receives an order from a consumer and their vendor is out of inventory, then they’re stuck in a situation where they have to wait for inventory to arrive. This is a customer service nightmare. However, with Swagify – users can choose a secondary or tertiary vendor in case prices go up, items are out of stock, or the location of the product isn’t close enough to their customers.
Basically, customers always have the choice between multiple venders, multiple options and multiple prices. They no longer have to be put off by the “sold out” sign or get stuck in a loop of a nightmare which is bad customer service.
How successful is Kurji today?
Although he is not where he thought he would be today, he still counts his blessings and is thankful for the position he is in today. He started in his parents garage and climbed the stairs of success which he built for himself, from scratch. Even the time that he spent in prison, he refused to give up and just accept his circumstances. His dedication is the reason behind his growing and successful corporation of 200+ employees. The projection of his growth is a straight line going upwards and that is why they are building a state of the art facility in Rosenberg, Texas on a 10 acre property.
Deep down he always knew that he would achieve his goals. And when things didn’t go according to plan, he simply changed the plan to fit his goals rather than lose motivation. But Kurji’s greatest success is the core team that he found within his company who supports his vision and helps execute it to perfection.
Any tragedies, either professionally or personally that Kurji has encountered in his life?
While all people in business face ups and downs, the first major shock that turned Kurji’s life upside down was when he was sentenced to prison. Through some shady practices, he ran afoul of the federal government and ended up pleading guilty to charges of conspiring to fix prices on promotional products. His guilty plea on antitrust violations in 2019 led to Kurji serving eight months in what he described as a “federal camp.” That was a true eye opener for him. He had never seen such harsh living conditions. Being treated like an animal in a cage surrounded by nothing but plain grey walls really is insufferable for him. However, like most, he learned to adjust with his situation and was happy for the 3 meals and a bed that he was given. That experience really humbled him as a human and learned to appreciate the value of all that he had outside those 4 walls. Because anything more than the basic necessities is a blessing in life.
Kurji got out of prison but he did not come back into the same world that he had left behind. The world was completely different because of the Corona Virus that had the world in its grips. But Kurji’s struggles weren’t over yet. Soon he was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor in his pituitary gland. Even though it is benign, it is still 4mm in size and completely inoperable. He takes medication for it and literally fights for his life everyday but he is still grateful to be where he is; with his loving and supporting wife and his wonderful son.
All this has only made him more focused on his goals and priorities and what he really wants his life to be.
What are his hopes for Swagify going forward?
He has been working on this idea for years now and has a clear path in his mind for what the future of Swagify is going to be. Since he comes from the promotional product industry, he totally understands the frustration the distributors feel when they are trying to fulfill demand and source products. He knows that it isn’t the easiest task having to manually search for vendors, call to check stock, and then follow up to make sure orders are being fulfilled on time. It is a hectic and time consuming process that demands full attention all the time.
With Swagify – they enable distributors as well as individuals to sell their own products online, and choose their vendors through the technology his company provides. The technology in Swagify allows users to check stock, choose the lowest price, and track their consumers orders up until delivery. It’s a revolutionary system that hasn’t been tapped into, and Swagify will be the world’s first application that allows these services.
The motivation behind his company is not only to tap into a new source and plant his roots into unchartered territory, but also to help the community gain some control and check over the orders that they place online.
Any Quote or “words of wisdom” that Akil Kurji lives by?
Kurji has been a massive fan of Tony Robbins and credits him for the positive mentality that Kurji has had all his life, even during the tough times. He believes that Robbins’ perspective on life is what everybody should aspire to have.
His favourite quote of Tony Robbins’ is : “Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.”
How is Kurji making the world a better place today?
The one thing that brings him the most joy in the world is the fact that he has been able to employ many people and help provide many jobs to the unemployed, especially amid the pandemic because that is when people needed a kind and helping hand in their life. Helping people and their families is the main goal of Kurji and his company. He wants to strive to employ over 1,000 people in the coming year. Because he wants to see people achieve their goals and wants to be able to provide them with a chance that nobody gave to him.
Article by Born Realist