The “Great Recession” of the late ‘00s may have persuaded many entrepreneurs, including young entrepreneurs, from establishing new businesses. But the forlorn economy has never been a factor in Jason Ross’ decision to start JackThreads, an online men’s fashion retailer.
“I never thought of [the recession] ever. I never wanted that to creep into mind; that was just another obstacle in my way,” said Ross.
With over 1.2 million members and 55 employees, JackThreads has grown tremendously from its conceptual origins more than six years ago. Launched in 2008, JackThreads has capitalized on the fashionable and frugal male, offering flash sales of up to 80% off the original retail price.
“It came to me because I am the JackThreads customer. I was looking for a business plan, and I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and was true to me. I’ve always been into fashion and I’ve also always been a discount shopper,” said Ross. “There was no outlet catering to cool guys…I saw a great opportunity.”
With no fashion or tech background, Ross experienced a long process of trial and error. JackThread’s rise was gradual, taking nearly two and a half years to launch. By the time the company was ready to present itself to the public, a marketing budget was not feasible.
“Just like we have from day one, we had to get creative. My thought immediately went to, ‘I’m a guy looking for these products at great prices, where do I spend time online.’ I knew a number of online communities that were creating content that was interesting to me. I started cold-calling blogs and print magazines, and I got them to write a story on us. Anytime they featured us, their readers would go crazy; they started shopping immediately, they were inviting their friends. It was a combination of being featured in the right places online and also creating a unique experience. Word-of-mouth was key to us,” said Ross.
Ross, 30, is a far cry from the middle-aged CEOs that run most companies. Ross believes being young has helped him in his business ventures, giving him the (some say fool-hardy) benefit of youth who don’t have commitments and baggage like families and long employment histories.
“When you’re young and you don’t have all the life commitments, it’s the perfect time. My mindset in the early days was ‘I know it’s going to take me a while to figure out how to be successful on that career path, but if I work at it and I don’t quit, that knowledge is going to be more valuable than anything I’d learn at a corporate job.’ It took years to get through a lot of ups and downs. Looking at where it got me in the business, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” related Ross.
In the future, Ross hopes to expand JackThreads, a goal already underway, as the company was recently acquired by New York media business Thrillist Co., which has significantly expanded the start-up.
“The opportunity today is much bigger than it ever was. We also know that there are other business development opportunities we can build off of JackThreads today,” said Ross. “We are constantly figuring out ways to grow the brand and evolve it.”