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If you’re considering entrepreneurship, think about it like this: you can spend the next 10 years working for a corporation, or you can spend the next five or 10 years learning how to start and build companies. The latter may be harder, but also that much more rewarding and valuable for the rest of your life. When you’re at a young age with nothing to lose, it’s the perfect time to give it a shot.
Here are five key things that catapulted my company, Jackthreads, from a one-man operation out of my bedroom to a multimillion-dollar company with over 1 million members:
Early on, I realized the importance of choosing an idea that I’m passionate about. When I graduated from Ohio State in 2003, I knew I wasn’t headed toward corporate America; I wanted to start something. I launched a small business with a friend, selling promotional merchandise to college athletic departments. It was successful, but nothing huge, and I decided to walk away because I wasn’t excited by my work. I’ve always been into men’s fashion and online shopping, and when I began to parlay this interest into a business, it never felt like work. I was spending more time on hobbies I already enjoyed, making it much easier to wake up and push myself harder every day.
While online shopping, I noticed a huge hole in the market for guys who wanted to buy cool brands at affordable prices—which is a massive audience. After some research, I realized the brands in this space didn’t have a partner to turn to. Though the private shopping club model was taking off in Europe, I set out to bring it to the U.S. and address the lack of off-price retail options for 18-35 year old guys. Our niche targeting and unique audience is now what separates Jackthreads from other e-commerce sites.
No matter how passionate you are, cash is crucial to being able to create and scale any successful business. Access to capital is usually exceptionally difficult to gain; not everyone is lucky enough to attract the attention of an angel investor, but that’s not the only way to succeed. I used credit cards and worked night and weekend jobs to get my company off the ground. That funding source, combined with a very frugal mentality, allowed us to invest only in activities that directly supported the growth of the business.
- Team Selection
For the first two and half years of developing Jackthreads, I worked alone. The day I launched, the website was a mess—the e-commerce site wasn’t accepting any credit card payments! Thankfully, a young developer who had just graduated from Ohio State fixed the website within two weeks. He was hired immediately, and for the first nine months after launching, it was just the two of us. Whenever a certain job in the company got to be too much for us to handle on our own, we’d hire to fill the position. This came back to haunt me a few times, since I’d hire just to fill the role without ensuring it was actually a good fit. Hire slowly to make sure you get the right people on board for long-term success. A great team goes a long way, and we have that today.
- Role Models
Though sometimes it may seem embarrassing or intimidating, never be afraid to ask for advice. Along the way, I constantly sought advice from mentors, retail professionals, e-commerce experts, etc. Whenever an issue arose, I would seek an expert on the subject to bounce ideas off of, and this helped me avoid mistakes I probably would have made otherwise.
This article is reprinted with permission by The Young Entrepreneurs Council (Y.E.C.), which provides its members with access to tools, mentoring, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. Y.E.C. promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment.