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Change Agents Vol. 2

Originally Posted 2/21/13

Change Agents Vol. 2 :: Buy Low, Sell High - An Interview with Jon Barretto

LEGEND ::

Deadstock - New, unworn vintage merchandise
Vintage Deadstock - Brand name under which Jon sells vintage snapback caps
Fully Laced - Jon's line of custom SB laces and branded clothing
Buys - Wholesale purchases

Evan: Can you give us some background?

Jon: I grew up in Daly City up until High School. I went to grammar school in South San Francisco, and then I went to Riordan High School right here in San Francisco, an all-boys, male Catholic High School. Following High School I went to USF. I consider myself a San Franciscan, I have been here long enough to really feel like I belong here and I know San Francisco. Whenever someone comes in from out of town, a friend, or someone in the industry, I like taking them around SF. I like bragging about San Francisco because I love my city so much.

E: How about your parents?

J: My Dad is Portuguese, he is from Hong Kong, and his father, my Grandfather, is from Macau. My Mom's Chinese, she's from San Francisco, and grew up in Chinatown. My Grandma from my mothers side, is from Southern China, Guangzhou. It's funny because I actually visited Guangzhou, and we have done sourcing in Southern China. Everyone talks about going back to their roots, but nobody actually thinks about going back to where their family was actually born and raised. I've been to Hong Kong a couple times actually, and have walked the same streets my Dad walked when he was growing up. Know your roots!

E: You've held multiple jobs before getting into the clothing industry. Can you talk a little about your early career moves, your interests when you were younger?

J: I don't like the word hustler, but people would always say 'Jon hustles his way through this, Jon hustles his way through that.' A lot of it came from growing up around the flea markets. I use to sell at flea markets in Daly City once a month during the summertime through Daly City Parks and Rec. That's where I felt I really learned how to sell, and really found something that I was good at. Some people have natural talent playing basketball, or drawing, or singing or something, I found my spot in selling. Growing up I was into collectible stuff, cards, comic books, toys, all the real geeky stuff. You match that with selling and you have a pretty good business. Buy low, sell high, that is the basic principle in business. If you do that you will come out ahead. That was before I had any sort of real career.

My first job was through Daly City Parks and Rec, when we were doing a lot of the flea markets. That's where I realized I liked working with people, I liked working with kids. After that I did some small office jobs here and there, some clerical work, that stuff is important for anyone to learn.

I worked in Foot Locker Serramonte for 5 or 6 years, and that's where I learned I had a passion for sneakers. I liked the whole design aspect of them, and the utilitarian aspect, something that you could wear and flaunt, and then actually use, whether for sports or kicking ass. Stylish and functional. After Foot Locker I worked at NikeTown my Junior year in college, my senior year I worked on-campus jobs and learned how to hustle people in pool and ping pong managing the student center at USF. Did my 4 years undergrad at USF, graduated in business marketing. I worked a year doing marketing at Nintendo which was a lot of fun. Went to school for marketing, got a job marketing, it kinda made sense. After Nintendo I got into a company called Ecast, I was doing sales for about 2 1/2 years, and then I branched off to do my own thing.

E: Do you think your business mentality came from your early days at the flea markets and that sort of thing, or was there someone in your family who helped to guide that path?

J: Haha, no, my family is very poor and uneducated. My dad worked at Kodak for a long time, he fixes copy machines and is very handy and stuff, but he never made a ton of money. My mom basically lived off of my dad until they got divorced. My mom worked in the airline industry and never had a real career. So I think that by not having much available to me growing up, I was forced to work harder, because when you see things you want, you either work hard, or you steal. I decided to do both.

E: You have built a lot of your name by way of sneaker culture, particularly with custom laces, and later branded clothing and flipping vintage product. Can you talk about how that came to be?

J: Back in my junior year of college, I actually started a little company called SKUs.net (Styles Keeping U Satisfied). We utilized the whole idea of flipping stuff, buying low, selling high, along with our being into sneakers and stuff. We found a couple of deadstock shoe stores online, and we bought a couple sneakers, vintage but unworn. This is before the big eBay boom. I was able to apply the knowledge I had gained from the sneaker industry, Foot Locker and Niketown, and started to learn that (online) market more.

After SKUs.net (basically after I had run out of inventory), and while I was at Ecast my 2nd year post-college, I felt like I was working too hard for the wrong person. I was getting tired of working for the man. A lot of people have their 9-5, and then some people have their 5-9 after the 9-5 to go ahead and do their passion and have fun. What I wanted to do was to basically buy low and sell high. It didn't matter whether it was sneakers, or shoelaces, or snapbacks, or anything. I read this book, I can't remember the title, but the whole storyline was this guy who made pool tables in China and sold them on eBay, but never held any inventory. He could work from anywhere in the world, and would drop-ship the items. It inspired me. This guy put listings up on eBay for custom pool tables, and he leased this warehouse in Long Beach, one of the largest ports in the US, to take in the pool tables when they arrived, and ship them directly to the buyers. And this guy would just hang out on beaches and work off his laptop. And i realized I could do that. I could bring in something cool from China, and sell it on eBay, which is the world's marketplace so they say, and I could do the same thing.

E: So the idea of never having to touch the product was what was appealing.

J: Exactly. So one day I just packed my bags and went to China. I went to the Canton Fair, it happens twice a year. Basically all the factories go to the Canton Fair and show what they got, and buyers from all over the world, not just the U.S., but the U.K., Australia, everywhere, come to China to see what the new factories have to produce. And they buy it, and sell it through their retail channels and wholesale channels and whatnot. So I went to the show, and stayed with my buddies' Dad who who was doing work with a neon sign factory. He had a relationship with this factory, so I started importing signs because that was the relationship that I had. One thing about importing is that when you have a good factory in China you hold onto it and try to maximize it. It's hard to find a good factory, it's tough not being face to face, you could send $3000 to them and never see it again. That has happened to me, I sent $800 to a factory and never saw it again. Live and learn. So I did the neon signs, I did a project for the novelty chain Spencer's which was cool, did some unlicensed Batman and Superman signs that I sold through my comic store's chain, those sold really well. I was doing asian furniture, modern furniture…

E: pretty much whatever you could sell.

J: Anything I could sell, anything I could manufacture direct and sell directly to the retailer I'd do it. You cut out all the middlemen and thats where you get your margin. You don't necessarily have to sell a lot, by selling a decent amount you are able to make good money because your margins are so high. It literally costs you pennies to make, and if you sell it even close to retail price you are doing pretty well.

E: Does this tie in (no pun intended) to the development of custom laces?

J: I found an opportunity for SB (Nike Skateboarding) laces, and with my experience in the sneaker industry, and still buying sneakers throughout my post college career, the whole Nike SB boom started. They started coming out with dope sneakers, but they wouldn't necessarily have the dope laces to match. When we first started, we created 10 different colorways of SB laces, and we literally just called it SB laces on the packaging, and it took off. It was selling, it was working. If another brand or another person sees another brand or person make a lot of money doing something, they say, 'hey I can do that better and I'm going to do it better.' So it's up to the original brand or person to create barriers to entry so that it will discourage new people from entering the market. So to create this barrier, we branded it Fully Laced. And we called it Fully Laced because a lot of other names were taken, like Laced Up and some others, but Fully Laced was number 4 or 5 on the list. So that's how it happened.

E: So would you say that you were the first brand or entity doing custom laces for that particular market? How were kids getting custom laces before you?

J: It didn't exist. To get different color laces you could go to your local Foot Locker or Foot Action and buy plain laces. You are limited to blacks, whites, reds.

E: So the main idea was that you were offering lots of colorways and customization?

J: Exactly. And the SB laces, it's a special weave. It's an oval type lace. It's not a flat lace, it's not a round lace, it's something right in the middle. Later on we found the opportunity to create different types of shoelaces, elephant print laces, cement print laces, gucci striped laces, and we will probably do more this year, go back to our roots and do pattern laces.

E: So you have the laces, and you also have the Fully Laced clothing line. How did that happen?

J: Fully Laced as clothing started off as a promo item. We created some basic Fully Laced tees to give away and to sell for a low price to push our shoelaces. But they sold pretty well. We had built up a large customer base, and if people were already buying the laces, if we came out with a shirt they would buy the shirt. It just made sense to go with our sneaker theme, so a lot of our Fully Laced designs are influenced by the sneaker culture. Later on, within the past year or 2, I realized that we didn't want to limit ourselves just to making sneaker lifestyle t-shirts so we branched off into different collections which gives us the flexibility to do whatever the hell we want.

E: Let's talk about vintage. When did you develop an interest in the vintage clothing market?

J: My interest in the vintage market came naturally. It's funny we call things vintage, and it's from the 90's. It makes you feel old as dirt right? But literally, vintage can mean as little as 15 years ago. With the whole thing about just understanding different markets, whether it's the collectibles scene, or the music scene or whatnot, the whole vintage scene fuels a lot of different kinds of people. With my experience with eBay and through 'picking' through flea markets I was able to really learn about anything that you can get of value at a flea market. Be it clothes, hats, anything. The whole snapback trend I saw happening before it happened. Being able to capitalize on that first, we were able to be one of the frontrunners in the whole scene.

E: You say you saw it coming before it happened. What factors contributed to that, what did you see going on that made you think it was going to be as big as it has become? Did you think it was going to be a flash in the pan or have some longevity?

J: I thought it was going to be a quick trend, I didn't think snapbacks would last as long as they have. The more I speak with other brands like Mitchell and Ness and New Era and Zephyr and whatnot I realize that snapbacks are here to stay. When we were growing up, we grew up with snapbacks, and then the people a little bit younger than us grew up with fitteds, but the people who are growing up now are growing up with snapbacks again. So its all cyclical. The way I saw the trend coming was basically this :: vintage has always been hot. 80's stuff, 70's stuff…well not as much 70's, but late 80's, early 90's with neon and stuff like that. Remember when we were first starting to push streetwear pretty hard, everyone was into all the bright shit. And so that was a reflection of the 80's trend. The whole point being that vintage is hot. Old school is hot. People like old school because it isn't readily available. The whole thing with streetwear is that people want limited edition stuff. If you are buying something vintage, it's limited. You aren't going to see someone walking next to you wearing the same thing. Once it's gone, it's gone, people wear the shit out of their clothes and then after that they give it to Goodwill or they toss it. That's why Vintage Deadstock is unique. No one has worn it before. If something vintage is really tight I'll buy it, I'll wash it, and I'll dry-clean it. But damn--what if the person before you was real, real nasty? Like when you walk down the street and you look at a stranger and think 'damn, I bet that guy smells really really bad.' But maybe he has a dope hat on and he threw it to Buffalo Exchange and you buy it next! You never know right? You have to throw some mothballs in the closet and give it a couple of shakes. That's why Vintage Deadstock was so cool, because we offered a wide array of snapback hats that no one had worn or seen before. Because no one has seen them before people began to learn about the scene, to dig deeper.

E: Before we get further into Vintage Deadstock stuff, let's back up and talk about how you first got into buying vintage products. When did the brand come about, can you break down what exactly happened right at that point, who you saw around you. Were other people doing this type of thing or did you just one day stumble upon a warehouse full of hats?

J: So you want to know about the epiphany.

E: Yes, I want to know what happened right at the inception, the Big Bang, if you will.

J: Ok. So there's this Indian dude named Brahma. And he ran the sports game in San Francisco. All sports apparel, licensed sports apparel. This dude has 3 stores in San Francisco, and I stumbled across one of his stores at the edge of Chinatown one day, and he had a lot of snapbacks. It just so happened that I had a good amount of money at that time. And this was a point when snapbacks were not a popular item. Fitteds were still the thing. And I just saw the opportunity to buy them at a good price and sell them. Because it was retail-setting ready, and it had been sitting for such a long time, stuff was kinda beat. It was kinda dusty. But good deadstock finds come when people pack up their store and they stick it in storage for 15-20 years. This stuff had dust settled on them, some brown on the front, just not crispy. Nevertheless I bought them, I think he was retailing them for $15-20, and I went in there and said can I buy 100 hats for 7 or 8 bucks a hat. This was my first deadstock buy. So I got 100 hats for 700 or 800 bucks.

E: At that time who was the customer that was purchasing that hat?

J: I think mainly it was just the collector. A sports fan. Not a fashion item, just someone who likes the team, more for nostalgic value.

E: Did you feel that you were more going to profit off this item as a collectible, or that it was going to become a fashionable item as well?

J: Thats a good question. It didn't matter. I knew I was going to profit on it through eBay. I never thought about that before. To think about it now, no, I didn't think I would be selling them to the streetwear market. I just knew I would be selling them.

E: So back to Brahma.

J: Back to Brahma. So after the first batch, which I sold through very fast, I realized I had to get more. So I called up Brahma and said 'you know what, I'm not messing around, I have cash.' And in the flea market scene cash is king. Money talks. And I called him up and he brought me to his warehouse, which is underneath one of his Indian restaurants. I'm sure it was not zoned and permitted, it was extremely grimey. Basically it was deadstock heaven. In the front he had a very small San Francisco novelty store, that sold the cheesy San Francisco shirts, the SF Fleece with the bridge, shit like that. He basically had a couple thousand hats inside a non-functioning commercial refrigerator that has probably held all the finest curries you can think of. I went in there, bought all that out, he had another room, I bought all that out. And after being able to have some revenue, not only from Fully Laced but from the previous deadstock buy, I said 'whatever you got, I'll buy it. I'll clear it out.' And at that time I was getting snapbacks for $3 a hat. Hats that were translating to $50, $60, $75, $85 a hat, easily.

E: This was still to the collector market?

J: No this is Karmaloop, baby. This is Karmaloop time.

E: OK, so we are jumping ahead a little.

J: We jumped ahead. We skipped Fully Laced meets Karmaloop. A quick tibit to fill in the gap a little bit -- from the success of Fully Laced, the relationship of Fully Laced and Karmaloop, basically my goal that year was to get another brand on Karmaloop. we were making good money by having Fully Laced reach this entirely new mainstream market, we want to get another product onto this mainstream market. Well guess what, I got a lot of hats and i can get these hats to that same market and I can kill it. And i think that action during that time started the snapback trend. I think that's when it happened.

E: So what you are saying is that Vintage Deadstock going onto Karmaloop actually started the snapback trend.

J: I think it did, or at least was a very strong factor. Absolutely. With the footprint that Karmaloop had and has, and by delivering a product that no one had seen before that is really cool and really limited to a mainstream market, the action of them gobbling them up so fast and wanting more, that created the snapback trend.

E: I want to go back a little bit and talk about these buys. So you are doing these buys with Brahma, you are selling them on eBay at that time. Were you going to other suppliers as well? How were you able to accumulate significant inventory?

J: First of all, let me say that I have no problem talking about my suppliers, because all of them have nothing left. I bought it all. The second largest supplier during that time was a flea market find. This guy basically sells hats at the flea market. And he had frigging heat. Original Raiders script. Eazy-E style. He had a dozen sitting there, 3 for $20. And I said 'give me everything you got.' When I was doing these deadstock buys, you don't want to walk in with your kimono open, right? You don't want to be like, 'ah I want to buy all this shit because it's worth so much money.' You really want to massage the deal. Anyways, he supplied me with the dopest stuff, for at least a year and half straight. He had the inventory inside one of these storage lockers like you see on storage wars. He had lockers just full of snapbacks, but every month I'd go to visit him at the flea market, and he'd bring boxes of stuff for me to pick through and buy. And that went on for a year or a year and a half straight. His name was Doug. Doug the hat man. Everyone hit him up, he ain't got nothing left.

E: Ok, so you're buying from various suppliers, at this time I am assuming you are realizing this is becoming a lucrative business. You are able to amass these items and mark them up significantly with very little effort.

J: Yes. Not having to do a lot of work, buying something cool that I'm interested in, and selling it for more. Like I said before, its really about buying low and selling high. Some people go through their entire life and really never understand that concept. Business majors will go through textbooks and learn this and learn that, and then go sit behind a desk and be a mushroom their whole life. It takes a certain breed to buy low and sell high. Not a snake, not a hustler, not a sleazeball, not a car salesman, but just being able to understand that buying for a price and selling it for more than what you bought it for is what makes the world go round.

E: Seems pretty straightforward.

J: It's basic! But some people don't get it. We take people's intelligence for granted. Some people just aren't very intelligent.

E: Did you feel there was any competition at this time, or does that happen later when you get the stuff onto Karmaloop and have a larger footprint?

J: Serious competition came later. There are guys that have been doing vintage for longer than I have. There's heavy hitters in Vancouver, in L.A., in New York, and some guys in Vegas that do it also. Outside of that theres not much. Our action of making snapbacks as widely available as we did came from putting them on Karmaloop.

E: By creating a huge channel for a product that very few had access to before.

J: Right. Karmaloop is streetwear. I had snapbacks, and I put 'em on Karmaloop, and snapbacks became available for streetwear. Plain and simple. Black and white baby.

E: How did you feel about the way that mainstream sports stores responded to the market? Did they respond fast enough, did they offer competition?

J: Snapbacks are easy to acquire now. Vintage snapbacks are not easy to acquire. Sports fan stores jumped back on the trend almost when it was too late in terms of the Vintage Deadstock trend. By the time they realized that snapbacks were getting hot, someone, either myself or one of the other vintage buyers worldwide bought out all of the good stuff. A lot of these sports stores are our parents generation. They don't understand streetwear. We understand streetwear.

E: So they may have had access to those items but they didn't know what to do with them.

J: It was in their garage, in their stockrooms and on their sales racks.

E: Did you ever do buys from stores such as these?

J: Absolutely. That's how a lot of vintage resellers get their merchandise. Through flea markets and through mom-and-pop sports fan stores. We bought out numerous stores like that. We would look in the yellow pages or just Google search the local sports stores and call em up and ask them what they have. If necessary we'd fly out to see the inventory, and buy everything out right then and there. One of the biggest buys that we've made in the midwest was in Illinois, it was like 500 miles south of Chicago or something. I have absolutely no reason to go 500 miles south of Chicago because I'd have to fly into O'Hare and have to drive 5 hours through the armpits of the Midwest. But I bought out $8000 worth of stuff blind, cash. That's a lot of money for them, and myself as well, but this is 100 grand worth of stuff. He took a picture and I was like alright I'll take it. I spent probably $6-800 just on shipping.

E: What are some considerations you take into account when buying vintage? There are so many teams, leagues, etc. Do you have to consider the risks associated with making these choices?

J: With Vintage Deadstock being so rare and limited, we buy almost anything. We don't turn much down unless it's just nasty. Teams that are hot, teams we gravitate towards are of course Bulls and Raiders because of the whole nostalgia value, Hurricanes, U.N.L.V., any sports teams that are hot at the time translates to what's gonna sell. Kids just want to be limited. Kids want to be different. They don't want to be wearing the same shit that their buddies wear.

E: On the point of limited items, one of your newer companies is 123 Snapbacks, which is essentially Vintage Deadstock with new reproductions of classic styles.

J: Vintage doesn't last forever. Vintage Deadstock has a finite amount of inventory. We new that with the success of Vintage Deadstock and snapbacks that snapbacks are still gonna be hot even when vintage snapbacks aren't available. So we partnered with a bunch of hat manufacturers and we make both custom licensed snapbacks and we buy them bulk, we wholesale them. We work with the heavy hitter brands like Mitchell and Ness and Zephyr, New Era and American Needle. And it's funny, the brands manufacturing snapbacks in the '90s were late on jumping on the trend to sell snapbacks to the streetwear market. American Needle, Game, Zephyr, those are the big ones.

E: Why do you think snapbacks caught on in particular above other vintage apparel items?

J: Because theres more inventory available. Because its a lot easier to stack a dozen snapbacks in your warehouse versus a dozen sweatshirts or jackets. Vintage gear is still hot. Starter satin jackets go for big bucks. Vintage champion sports jerseys. We recently bought out a bunch of deadstock crewneck sweatshirts, and they are gonna be really popular.

E: Do you think it's a different consumer that is interested in the vintage item as opposed to the reproduction? Is that even a factor, and are people educated on whether the product is actually old or new?

J: The mainstream streetwear customer now knows the difference between a vintage snapback and a retro (reproduction). if you asked them a year ago the majority would not be able to tell. Because we are late in the trend, now the customer is more educated. Now the market is separated as well. If people can afford a Vintage Deadstock snapback now, they will buy it. We've created snapback collectors now because now all the streetwear kids have a couple dozen snapbacks in their collection, and they'll have their retro snapbacks, and they'll have their prized vintage ones that no one else is going to have.

E: OK, so, you have the Vintage Deadstock stuff on Karmaloop, and it's doing well. Who is coming in at that point to grab some of that market share?

J: Everyone is competition. If someone has $50 to spend on apparel, our goal is to have them spend it with us. If we're talking about Vintage Deadstock, it's about controlling the inventory. Sure there's guys with more inventory than us and guys that've been doing it longer than us. Our move was simply American Gangster style and go straight to the source.

One of the largest suppliers of licensed sports apparel during the '90s was in LA. and they were one of the suppliers for deadstock snapbacks to all of the heavy hitters. I went in, put all my eggs in one basket, and bought absolutely everything I could.

E: To shut down distribution to other entities.

J: Absolutely. This is before the craziness of the snapback trend. That was enough inventory for a very very long time. I still have some from that original buy. Literally it was tens of thousands of snapbacks. All retailing at $45, $55, $65 or more. That was really big for our company. That was the biggest buy I've ever made in my entire life. That probably angered some people.

Everything takes a little bit of luck. It takes a lot of knowledge. It takes a lot of hard work. One of the most sought after snapbacks with collectors is Hawaii Rainbows because its the old Rainbow Warriors logo. A lot of defunct logos are more collectible and more sought after by collectors. The past couple times Ive been to Hawaii I was looking around thrift stores and sports stores to see if I could get a lead on where I could find the stash of Hawaii Rainbows hats. I knew it had to be on the island. It had to be there. And I found it. It was only a couple dozen Hawaii Rainbow snapbacks, but these retail for 125-150 bucks. But along with that we found basically 1000 snapbacks, crewnecks and things like that. This guy owned the sports apparel stores in the touristy area of Hawaii, he had 3 stores and we bought him out. It was tough convincing him to let us go to his house and go through his garage--thats where it takes the experience and the knowledge, and the sales savviness to be able to convince people our parents age to let a young guy go through their house and basically buy up the stuff.

E: Will the 59/50 (New Era Fitted) come back to dominate?

J: I don't think it will ever dominate the way it had before snapbacks came into play, but…the 59/50 is just a sweet hat. Nothing else fits like a good 59/50.

E: Ain't that the truth.

J: People with fat heads can't fit in snapbacks. They are true to their 59/50. I'm going to create a product for the fat heads thats a snap-on to the snapback so you can extend the snapback.

E: The Snapback Extender. You heard it here first.

J: I think something like that could actually work.

E: Do you draw inspiration from other business-minded individuals?

J: I like Robert Kiyosaki, Donald Trump. I like Tim Ferris, who wrote The 4-Hour Work Week. I took college seriously, but I wish I took it more seriously. I'd kinda like to go back to college and take the courses again. I was close to getting Cum Laude, but was .1 away, which was kind of a lot for a GPA but it was close. That's why I'm rocking this NBA 'Stay in School' Starter joint. I got this deadstock from 2 lesbians at a flea market.

E: I see. It sounds like when you started out, you were more concerned with finding products that could be resold at a profit, i.e. the Neon signs. As you have progressed you have gradually honed that mentality towards things that you are more directly interested in i.e. vintage sportswear. Would you say your mindset has changed at all in terms of being strictly profit-driven to being more passion-driven, or at the end of the day is the margin still first and foremost in directing your ventures?

J: I don't have a passion for streetwear. I have a passion for sales, I have a passion for business. I enjoy a lot of the aspects of streetwear and I feel like I understand streetwear. Fully Laced is gonna live on forever. Vintage Deadstock is going to live on forever. 123 Snapbacks is going to live on forever. We have a great team of guys working for us. If my calling ends up being to sell matchbooks for the rest of my life--scratch that, I'm going to retire early. But if i see a strong profit margin in any product, I'd go for it. As long as it doesn't require a lot of long-term work on my end. I think a lot of the success that we've been able to have, we being the businesses that we have under the Fully Laced umbrella, we've been fortunate to have all the brands do well. I like starting a brand, doing the parts that I do best with it, and then letting our team continue it and keep building the brand, to incubate them and make them more profitable companies. Post corporate America, I was basically running SB Laces and Fully Laced on my own, literally by myself for a year and a half, 2 years. Theres a limit to the success you can bring the company when there is only one person working. Because you have to ship to make money, and for a year and a half I was shipping freaking all day long. But to build a strong streetwear brand you have to create great designs, you have to manufacture, you have to keep your bookkeeping straight, and you have to market it. And one person can't do all those things. It takes one person to create a company, but it takes a team of guys to make it successful. Yeah, thats good.

E: Buttery.

J: Thats good stuff.

E: What would you say to a business-minded individual reading this who would want to follow your lead?

J: For anyone trying to start a business, absolutely go for it. For people trying to start their own brand, you better be sure its different. You have to be competitive. You have to find your niche, you gotta find what makes your brand different from everyone else. Find something that you enjoy doing, capitalize on it, and work really, really hard. There will be countless nights where you'll sleep 2 hours. You will work all day, shipping, meetings, shipping…and then at night you deal with your factories and your sourcing. And the next day you do it over again. You have your income during the day, and you have your opportunity at night.

E: Goals for yourself?

J: One of my career goals was to get a product into Wal-Mart or Home Depot. You create one widget, let's say some kind of tool that no one has seen before, and it gets into Home Depot and all of their stores. You can just kick back and live off of that. That is one of my goals. It's not just to make a lot of money--well, it is to make a lot of money. But its to create something that no one has seen before, but that everyone can use. That's sort of what we did with bringing the snapbacks to Karmaloop. Bringing them something they haven't seen before.

E: That's a great way to wrap it up. Thanks for your time.

J: Thank you.