Chad Williams was an economics major at SUNY Buffalo State, paving the road for a bright professional future.
That all changed as a junior, during an evening with his friends on Chippewa Avenue, when he was falsely accused of assaulting an Uber driver.
In the excruciating year that followed, Williams, who is Black, dealt with a public defender who took little interest in the case, and a justice system that looked at his protestations of innocence with something between indifference and disbelief.
“I’m a college student during the whole thing, and it was weighing on my mind,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to go to work. I didn’t want to go to school.”
After he resisted a plea deal, the case was finally dropped as Williams was entering his senior year in fall 2019.
It was a personal graduation of sorts – he was now determined to do something about social justice issues that nearly derailed his life.
Williams founded dooProcess, a social justice apparel startup, as a way to express himself and make a difference.
Described as “streetwear with a soul,” dooProcess entered the New York State Business Plan Competition last year, competing against student-entrepreneurs from elite institutions across the state. In May 2020, Williams took first place in the consumer products and services category.
It was a springboard for a company that will introduce cause-specific designs, sold via the company’s website. Williams will officially unveil his biggest run to date on Feb. 28, the “Walking While Black” collection, a reference to the harassment people of color sometimes face from law enforcement. Fifteen percent of the proceeds from each run will be dedicated to social justice causes — in this case, a local benefactor will be the WNY Peace Center.
“I want dooProcess to be a way for kids all over, even kids that don't experience these hardships, to know there’s more than one way it can go,” Williams said.
Williams graduated in spring 2020 with a degree in economics and was subsequently hired by Launch NY as an operations analyst, giving him a stable, full-time platform to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. DooProcess is part of Launch’s Founders Go Big initiative, designed to support minority entrepreneurs.
Williams wants dooProcess to grow into a bigger company, with a broad market and higher sales, but his ambitions are firmly rooted in using his firm as a tool for social justice. One idea is to start a law firm that gives defendants an alternative to overworked public defenders.
“I feel good because I made it through, but there are countless others who didn’t, and that’s what I’m working for,” Williams said. “Say you didn’t do anything but you’re being pressured to take a plea deal, so now it’s on your record. I want to stop these things.”
Source: Biz Journals