Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Land of the Brave: Entrepreneur Ariel Hernandez Makes Every Penny Count

The universe aligned when we sat down with Penny Brave creator Ariel Hernandez to get the scoop on his up-and-coming Orlando street wear brand and his favorite local spots. We had tried to meet at Sportstown in the Milk District only to find the doors closed (Were we too early? Was this a bad dream?!). As we wandered down Robinson, Fallon from Etoile Boutique passed us and asked if we needed a seat. She then proceeded to set up an outdoor living room on the sidewalk in front of her shop, coffee table and all.

It was the perfect setting for our chat with a young entrepreneur, his lovely wife, and their enviably cute toddler, who happens to be the namesake of their brand. We started off asking the obvious: Which came first, Penny the baby or the Penny the brand?

Yeah. You thought we were exaggerating about the cuteness.
Ariel Hernandez: Once we found out we were having a daughter and decided on her name, Penelope Brave, the brand and concepts just came to me. So, the baby came first. (Side note: we at theORLANDOAN are currently fighting over who called dibs on stealing this baby name.)

theORLANDOAN: Who are you trying to appeal to? We are pretty obsessed with your Tumblr and have picked up on a definite street-vibe.

Photo taken by http://instagram.com/palmyhk
AH: It is for everyone but, really started picking up in the music and dance scene. Since I’m in the B-Boy [break dancing] community, I was able to pick up buzz thanks to my friends who wore the shirts while performing internationally. My other friends who are musicians also rock my shirts and have created buzz in that community.

tO: So, who came up with including The Sandlot in your brand?

AH: One night, I was sitting in front of the tv, on the computer and I came up with the idea of a series called Big Dreams Big Screen: a collection honoring movies that I love and that centers around people chasing their dreams. At that very moment the movie The Sandlot was on and the scene where Babe Ruth says “legends never die” was playing; that’s when I knew I had found the first movie idea.

tO: Other than the movie series, I love the shirts in different languages. Is that a series as well?

AH: Yes, we started out with Spanish because I’m half Puerto Rican and Chinese and my wife is Mexican, so we decided to pay honor to our heritage with the Valiente shirts, which means "brave" in Spanish. We also chose to do the word “brave” in Japanese because I am a huge fan of all things Japanese and loved the way the lettering looked on the shirts.

tO: Do you plan on expanding the brand?

AH: I would love to! Right now we are just doing t-shirts and hats to gain exposure. We recently launched five-panel hats, so it has been fun getting them cut and sewn. As far as the language and movie series, the minute another idea inspires me, we will continue expanding the collection.

tO: What is your role in the process of producing the items?

AH: Because I haven’t found a manufacturer in Orlando yet, we are currently shipping from California.

tO: Is your entire family involved in the business, or just you?

AH: I usually come up with the ideas, run it by my wife, Gerry, and if she says no, I skip the design.

Gerry Hernandez, Ariel’s wife: I think I put more creative input into things. He’ll ask me, "What color should I do?" and I’ll be like "you should go for this color" and he’ll say "Oh no, I’m not going to do that." But, a day later I’ll see the design and it’ll be the color I told him.

tO: So, she’s your creative consultant?

AH: chuckles Yeah, exactly.

tO: Where can we buy Penny Brave products?

AH: For right now, just online. Eventually, I’d love to have my own shop and even distribute to local boutiques. But, I’m very picky about who will be able to carry our brand because we want to make sure it represents Penny Brave the right way.

tO: So, time for a lightning round of theORLANDOAN’s “Rep yo’ hood”!

Favorite neighborhood in Orlando?

AH: The Milk District, because we live there and love the culture.

Favortie restaurant? 

AH: Oh man, I love Takocheena!

Favorite park?

AH: We usually go to Lake Eola.

Favorite bar?

AH: When we used to bar hop before the baby…BBQ Bar.

Finish the sentence "ORLANDO DOESN'T SUCK BECAUSE__________________."

AH: Orlando doesn't suck because…it has so many cultures living together. Everyone moves from so many different places that there is a huge diverse community; it just has to be discovered.

To buy Penny Brave products, visit www.PennyBrave.com

Sheli Baez is our resident latinORLANDOAN. When she's not playing Esperanza on Univision's Dominican remake of Downton Abbey, she's blogging about Latin American culture and events in Orlando.


  1. This was excellent! Penelope is adorable! Can't wait to snag my husband a Penny Brave tee for Christmas.

  2. Great interview! And I agree with Angel, Penelope is very adorable :)

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