Local business led by MHS graduate is an example of entrepreneurship


Turnage shows off a TCF logo welded together by a friend. Turnage tries to make all the business connections he can with other young creators in Monroe.

Maya Kasprzak, Reporter

In a small suite on the second floor of 105 W. Front Street, walls freshly painted bright red, resides The Chosen Few (TCF) Headquarters. The clothing brand, established in early 2018 by 22-year-old entrepreneur and MHS Alumni Zay Turnage, has proven itself to be the exact street fashion Monroe needed. Since Zay graduated from MHS in 2016, life has thrown him in a multitude of different directions, all leading him to the level of success and exposure he is at today. 


Role Model Status

The amount of young, successful entrepreneurs being given the recognition they deserve in Monroe is quite low, setting Zay as an inspiration for other young aspiring entrepreneurs at MHS and throughout the community. Being a role model for those people can be a lot of pressure, but Zay looks at it as an opportunity for encouraging young people to believe in themselves.

 “I like to think of myself and my brand as a strength people can draw from,” Turnage said. “I want people to look at me and think, ‘Alright, I know I can get on my grind and do something dope.’ That’s all I want to be for my young audience.”

Not only is Turnage a voice for the youth regarding entrepreneurship, he also serves as Co-Executive of the Arthur Lesow Community Center chapter of the Monroe Area Youth Alliance (MAYA). The organization aims to uplift young minority voices in Monroe through different initiatives involving social and political activism. 


MHS’ Impact

Turnage walked into Monroe High as a freshman coming from Triumph Academy, and struggled to “fit in” and make an entirely new set of friends. However, throughout his high school career, he met many different people and made connections that would last him a lifetime. He still associates with many people he met at MHS, and he is even business partners with some. When asked about how MHS impacted his company and success, he mentioned a common inspiring class right way. 

“The number one thing I remember about high school is junior year AP English with Mr. Schade. That class helped me raise my consciousness and helped me think beyond a basic bubble. It taught me not only to see fallacies in people’s arguments, but to challenge their way of thinking as well,” Turnage said. “Regarding business, the class taught me how to cut through propaganda and advertising. It was a lot of fun.” 

The connections and friendships Turnage made at MHS also helped him realize the love he has for this community. Though he has had pop-up shops and other business opportunities in places like Ann Arbor, Toledo, and Ypsilanti, TCF continues to reside in Monroe because of the people and need for small businesses. 


Post-Secondary Pressure

Turnage graduated MHS with a plan to attend a four-year college, having little interest in entrepreneurship at the time. He attended Eastern Michigan University, but soon decided that it was not the way he wanted to go. He expressed how surrounding pressures made him feel, and how it shaped his future and outlook of the world. 

“If you don’t go to college, you feel like a failure. You are left to go through an identity crisis, and it feels so lonely in town,” Turnage said. “I only went to school for a year and a half, and then I dropped out because it wasn’t for me. However, it took me living life to figure out what I wanted. I realized that it’s all right to not have a plan.” 

Though college was not what Turnage wanted to put his time and energy into, he said he is still extremely successful considering his age and the amount of time TCF has been an official company. He recently started selling his own pieces in City Man stores at Franklin Park Mall in Toledo, expanding his trademark beyond state lines. 


Business Flow

While TCF Headquarters has been open since Sept. 27 each weekend from 12-6p.m., Turnage finds himself at the office almost everyday, creating and designing different merchandise. Each design he drops, from T-shirts to sweatpants to bags and other accessories, sell out extremely quickly. Zay explained how it has taken him since he started this company to be as successful as he is today and how he improved in various areas in order to ensure his accomplishments. 

“It’s been almost three years in this business for me, and the number one thing is to keep going,” Turnage said. “It sounds so cliche and surface level, but that’s all I did. I can’t say I had it all figured out, but I made strides each year in some areas and was getting better with putting myself in different places and talking to new people.“

Based on his own personal experience, he advises other young aspiring entrepreneurs to not lose focus, stay positive and be something this community is yet to see. 

“Stop being bitter about who is and isn’t supporting you, stay focused and keep going. You’re not gonna have a business plan in one day,” Turnage said reassuredly. “Figure out what you want, what your area needs, and how to stand out. You can recreate yourself in order to be attentive and eventually, successful.”