Sometimes the most successful companies are built on the simplest of ideas
There are generally two things that I hope readers get out of the millionaire success stories that I write and post here at Darryl Kimball.net
The first and foremost goal is for readers to get tons of inspiration. I want people to read a story and say to themselves; if that person can succeed then I can succeed. Or if that person can build a $2 billion company, than surely I can build a $10 million or $20 million company.
The second goal is for the reader to draw specific lessons from the success stories of other entrepreneurs. Even if those lessons are very simple in nature. A good example of a simple lesson is the practice of questioning the status quo. Many wealthy and successful business people became that way simply because they refused to accept the status quo. That is the simple but powerful lesson of Dropbox’s Drew Houston whose net worth has recently been estimated at over $1 billion.
[So one day I decide to read and critique Google's top 20 search engine results for the phrase "How to Get Rich." Here is what I found out.]
The story of Brothers Bert and John Jacobs and how they built their $100 million T-shirt and Apparel Company is almost equal in its ability to inspire, as well as its ability to teach us some very powerful lessons in persistence, faith, hard work, and the money making potential of a simple idea.
Thomas Edison was once quoted as saying; “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Read on and you will see how Bert and John Jacobs almost fell victim to this old adage. After five years of selling T-shirts out of their van, travelling up and down the east coast, Bert and John were feeling the pressure to give it all up and go get jobs. But they held on just a little longer until one simple idea changed everything.
In the beginning they were just looking for ways to make some extra money
In the late 1980s Boston brothers Bert and John Jacobs were probably not much different than countless other aspiring entrepreneurs who would choose the T-shirt industry as a way to start a small business and make some extra money. Beginning with just a $200 investment and their own artwork, Bert and John began selling their T-shirts on the streets of Boston and college campuses in the Boston area.
Being a college student himself John felt like he could relate to other college students through their T-shirt art. Bert, who had been delivering pizza and teaching skating thought it would be a good way to meet people while making extra money.
Experiencing some success in selling their T-shirts in and around college dormitories, Bert and John decided to take their business on the road. This started what would turn in to five long years of road trips up and down the east coast, generally in six week segments.
The two brothers literally lived out of the back of the old Plymouth Voyager van which had the seats removed so they could haul their T-shirts. They often slept in the back of the van on top of the shirts, or in college dorm lounges when they weren’t being run out by security. Their diet often consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the occasional beer when someone offered them one.
After five long years of trudging up and down the east coast John and Bert were beginning to question if they were any closer to success than when they started. They were also feeling some self-imposed pressure to go out and get real jobs like all of their friends had done.
Persistence pays off; the good life turns into good ways to make big money
At the time, no one could possibly know that two small happenstances would change everything about their T-shirt business and would launch them on the road to the $100 million dollar apparel company that they own and run today.
The first happenstance was a conversation between the brothers as they were on the road returning from one of their sales trips. They discussed how there was so much negativity in the news media and how the media really played off of people’s fears in order to sell ratings. The two brothers began to talk about a different approach. They wondered if there was a way to bring optimism back perhaps through a character on one of their T-Shirts; a character who would be the symbol for optimism. A hero whose power is in the way he views the world.
From this conversation John created the first drawing of Jake. Jake was essentially a stick figure with a beret on top of his head, a big smile and a pair of sunglasses resting on his face. Jake was both cool and happy.
The second happenstance came a few days later when they arrived home in Boston and threw a party with all of their friends. The brothers had developed a habit of posting new artwork on the walls of their apartment and let their friends write comments about each piece. Under the drawing of Jake someone wrote the words “this guy’s got life figured out.” The brothers studied the phrase and reduced it to three words, “Life is good.” The crazy part of the whole thing is they have never learned which friend wrote that phrase under Jake.
Two days later the brothers went back out on the familiar streets of Boston with 48 shirts featuring the smiling Jake and the phrase “Life is good.” In 45 minutes every shirt had been sold. According to Bert that was the day that changed everything! A star was born, and his simple message of optimism exploded like nothing the brothers had ever seen. The year was 1994 and the Life is Good Company had just been founded.
Growing the product line and the business- How to become rich
John and Bert printed up more T-shirts and lined up their first retail shop to carry their new shirt. As Bert explains it, that first retailer called them back and asked them if Jake likes to eat ice cream. The brother’s response was, “he will if you put in an order.” From that point on the Jake character continued to develop, almost on its own. Other retailers would call up and ask if Jake likes to fish, or if Jake rides a bike.
By listening to shop owners and customers, John and Bert used an early version of crowd-sourcing to fully develop Jake’s adventures and character. In other words they listened to what their customers wanted, and responded accordingly.
In the early days of the company the Jacob brothers sold mostly T-shirts and hats, but they regularly expanded to what is now a full line of apparel for men, women, and children as well a wide number of accessories. To date the company offers over 900 different items in over 14 categories. They sell their products in 4,500 retail stores in the U.S. and around the world. There are over 100 “Genuine Neighborhood Shoppes” in the U.S. that are independently owned stores that sell exclusively Life is good Products. Life is good also sells online as well as through five company owned retail stores.
The Life Is Good story is a feel good story that epitomizes good ways to make money
The more you learn about Brothers John and Bert Jacob the more you come to like what they stand for and what they have accomplished.
Thanks to their parents and thanks to growing up in a small house with a total of six kids, John and Bert have remained well grounded in their success and remember the important things in life; friends, family, love and laughter. Indeed that is the basis for their entire company.
Along the way Bert and John became inspired themselves by a young cancer patient named Lindsey. It came to their attention that every time Lindsey was interviewed by the media she was wearing a Life is good T-shirt, even though she had only been given a year to live. Lindsey would tell people when asked, that before the cancer she took her life for granted, but after being diagnosed she wanted to enjoy and appreciate every day.
John and Bert began to hold an annual Life is good Festival in order to raise money for kids. Eventually they founded the Life is good Foundation to which they donate 10% of all company profits as well as 100% of proceeds from speaking engagements. To date the brothers have donated over $9.5 million to help kids in need.
More Wealth Creation Tips
Persistence is huge if you are going to enter the world of business and become an entrepreneur. One of my favorite all time success quotes is about persistence; “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Simple ideas that appeal to millions of people still seem to answer the question of what is the best way to make money. While John and Bert Jacob put in five years of hard work without a lot to show for it, once they landed on the concept of Jake and the Life is good theme everything began to fall into place quickly. The concept appealed to the masses and the rest is history.
One could almost argue that what John and Bert are really selling is optimism. Develop a simple product that makes people feel good, and you too might have a winner on your hands.