Your success can serve as a model for those who desire to transition from a struggling college student becoming a successful entrepreneur. Can you tell us about your journey from a college dropout to becoming a the founder of Jersey Champs?
Sean Kelly: Running an eCommerce business was definitely a learning process.
I had to take a leave of absence from Rutgers University as I was having panic attacks nearly every day trying to balance my work, school and social life. I would work 15-18 hours a day while doing homework and also finding time to go out and party 2-3 times a week. It was just too much. I knew I had to focus on one so I first gave up going out completely, but still found myself struggling in school. I knew I had to drop out and once I Jersey Champs surpassed $125,000 in sales, I knew it was time. I devoted 100% of my time to running the company and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
I focused heavily on marketing when the company first started to get the word out there, so I often would pay large Instagram and Twitter pages to post my jerseys. Back then shoutouts were tremendously undervalued and there were very little buyers. I then evolved into Twitter ad spots, then eventually started doing Facebook and Snapchat Ads, while also landing some major influencers and celebrities to wear the jerseys. In the early days, I often found myself manually trying to market my way manually. These days almost all of the marketing is done with as little manual labor as possible to save time for me to focus on other areas of the business, such as product development, wholesale orders to sports leagues and strategic partnerships
What’s your top piece of advice for people wanting to become entrepreneur?
Sean Kelly: It’s not for everyone. I mean that in the nicest way possible. I truly believe most entrepreneurs are born with an innate desire to create something with their own hands. Either way, prepare for the first year of starting out to be the hardest year of your life. People only focus on the success when it happens, but they never think about what it took to get there.
I’ve transitioned into someone that I’d never thought I’d be at such a young age. I do not drink or smoke which 99% of kids my age are doing, and I used to do heavily. There are certain sacrifices you will have to make for your business and you have to be prepared to give them up.
How have you been able to get celebrities to wear your jerseys?
Sean Kelly: Instagram DM. Gary Vaynerchuk is not kidding when he says an Instagram DM can change your life. I have a full time employee messaging various celebrities every day to collaborate with Jersey Champs. Before I hired someone, I did it myself and spent hours every day messaging or emailing managers of celebrities.
Luck will be involved, but persistence will always surpass luck when you work hard enough. I’ve always believed that once you start climbing the ladder it only gets easier and that has certainly been the case as we work our way up to the likes of Mark Cuban and 21 Savage wearing our jerseys now.
You’ve used Instagram to help create your brand. Can you tell us why you’ve chosen Instagram as a tool for growth?
Sean Kelly: It’s completely ironic. I hated social media in High School, but I knew the jersey market was 80% millennials, so it was a market I had to tap into. I took courses on Instagram growth, watched hours of videos and even paid money to large accounts to teach me their ways. I adopted their techniques and developed my own and eventually became extremely experience in Instagram Marketing which needed up becoming over 80% of our sales in the first year of business.
Where can people contact you?
Sean Kelly: Feel free to reach out to me on my personal website or at my Instagram page. I’ll attach the links below.