If you’re looking for investors, make sure that they have the same shared vision of how to grow the company. If they have an understanding of your industry that’s even better. The original investors we had we’re very nice people and I will always be appreciative of them helping get Sportiqe started. However, just because you have a successful business in one industry doesn’t mean you know how to grow a successful business in another industry. Some business practices in one industry don’t cross over to the other.
As co-founder and principal of Sportiqe, Jason Franklin has more than two decades of experience designing, creating and manufacturing Modern American comfort wear for nationally recognized brands along with leading Sportiqe’s multimillion-dollar sales and business development. In 2006, Franklin co-founded Sportiqe, a global, lifestyle apparel company, that is committed to delivering elevated basics using high-quality fabrics, innovative designs and on-trend fit that not only look and feel good, but provide superior comfort no matter the occasion. Early on, the company was catapulted to the national stage after landing major wholesale deals with the NBA and the Dave Matthews Band, which spurred the brand’s massive growth. Sportiqe was among the first apparel companies to bridge the gap between the fan and fashion world. Franklin’s eye for style dates back to his childhood in Chicago where his aspirations to one day play basketball for the NBA turned into a desire to design stylish clothes for sports fans that went beyond the ill-fitted t-shirts generically emblazed with a team logo. He began sketching and some of his first designs were sports-team hats. A local Chicago apparel company took notice and began manufacturing his designs. At age 12, Franklin vividly recalls watching MTV’s “TRL” after school with friends and seeing Jay Z wearing one of his hat designs in the “Girls, Girls, Girls” music video. Others rappers like Tupac in “Poetic Justice” and 50 Cent in his “Wanksta” music video also sported Franklin’s designs. Little did he know, this was only the beginning of his celebrity and professional athlete customers, which would eventually become a mainstay in his career. At 15, Franklin’s love of sports landed him a ball boy job for the Chicago Bulls where he rubbed elbows with basketball’s elite including Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, who become a personal friend that took an interest in mentoring him. Franklin credits these formative years for helping shape his professional aspirations, instilling hard work and dedication to his craft and teaching him how the kindness you extend to people can be infectious. Now with the NBA as a client, Sportiqe’s stylish and comfortable t-shirts, hoodies, joggers and hats are frequently worn by A-list celebrities and professional athletes. The company’s wholesale division collaborates with global leaders like Nintendo, Peloton, Google, Paramount Pictures, Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and Samuel Adams, to name a few. Sportiqe has outfitted more than four-million people around the world since its inception. In his personal time, Franklin enjoys spending time with his wife and two young daughters, practicing yoga and meditation and roaming the country searching for the best places to eat.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is it about the position of CEO that most attracted you to it?
At a very early age I knew I wanted to have my own business. I had a vision that I wanted to revolutionize an industry. I remember being in the sixth grade and waiting for the bus while reading The New York Times business section. I was fascinated reading articles about business owners disrupting different industries. After a while it became pretty clear to me that in order to reach those types of lofty goals, I would have to run my own business one day.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO does, but in just a few words can you explain what a CEO does that is different from the responsibilities of the other executives?
To be a founder or CEO, you need to have the ability to get in to “the weeds” of any department at the company, if you need to, while also having a 40,000 square-foot view of the business — all in within the same hour.
What were your biggest struggles throughout your professional life and how did you overcome them?
I have found that overcoming obstacles in your professional life that you have no control over can be the most difficult. From professional sports lockouts and strikes to customers going through management changes and businesses taking on a whole different direction, we just can’t control everything. Because of these uncontrollable challenges, we realized two very important things in the infancy stages of our business:
- Only worry about things that we can control.
- We always need to continue to work every day to diversify and grow our business. We can never rely on just one account or business sector.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being a CEO?
One of the things that I enjoy most about being a CEO is knowing that the larger we become, the more families we will have an impact on. Having the desire to make people more comfortable in their everyday life starts with our Sportiqe family and then trickles down to their families, our customers and partners.
What are the downsides of being a CEO?
One of the downsides of being a founder and CEO is that your day never ends, and your mind never shuts off. Being a new dad to 2 beautiful daughters (ages 2 and 11 weeks), I’m constantly going back and forth from shifting my attention to my growing family at home, and a growing business. Both need constant attention and it takes balance on both ends.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’m not sure if there is one particular story. However, I’m always overwhelmed and humbled by all of the stories and pictures people share wearing Sportiqe. Our Sportiqe herd makes sure that they’re wearing the brand apparel during some of the most significant moments of their lives, good or bad. From someone wearing the Sportiqe Daly Joggers during their chemotherapy treatments, to wearing a Sportiqe Comfy Tee during the birth of their child, it’s about making people look and feel good in whatever they do. No matter the journey, challenge or adventure, it all falls under the same desire to be comfortable. So, it’s re-assuring to know that we’re doing our job at Sportiqe.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s funny now, but it was not funny at all while it was happening. In our third year of business, we were working with a client who was having a large, two-week event. They loved our apparel and asked if we could make bags. At the time, we didn’t make bags, but to please the customer and wanting to get every order we could, we told them “Of course we make bags!” So, we took the large order and got the bags sourced and produced for the event. The client ended up not being happy with the bags and wanted to return them all. We took a pretty big bath on that one, but we did learn one valuable lesson: FOCUS ON WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT. Saying “Yes” to everything a client asks for might not be the best for your business in the long run.
Specifically, what is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
In my previous job, I had the burden of taking on a lot of the creative vision for the brand. Since our Creative Director Joel and I have been working together for so long, I feel like we now share the same brain on the creative direction of Sportiqe. I still provide some input and insight, but Joel’s abilities have really allowed me to be more focused on business development and marketing.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be a CEO, what specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful CEO and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be a CEO?
The biggest trait you need to lead a company is passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, there is no way you’re going to have the drive to start, build, and scale a successful business. You also have to throw your ego out the window. You need to be able to do any and every job at your company if need be, especially when you’re first starting out. Also, you need to understand that you’re not always going to have the answers and you need to be willing and open to learn. I’ve been in the apparel industry for 30 years and I’m still learning new stuff all of the time.
People who are lazy and have large egos will not be cut out for the title of CEO or founder. Those are two traits that will not be a recipe for success.
Who inspired/inspires you and why?
Scooter Braun is definitely one person that I have been inspired by. What he continues to do to change the landscape in the entertainment industry blows me away. What’s also awesome about Scooter, is regardless of how busy he is, he also seems able to maintain a really good balance between work and family life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful for my former mentor, the one that got me in to the apparel space. He gave me my first chance when 1 was 11-years-old and I went on to work with him for 14 years. He really encouraged my creativity and taught me how to sell. I am also thankful that after 14 years he told me no matter how close I was to his family and his family’s business, that I would “never” be “family” or own a piece of the apparel division that I started for him. It was that moment and discussion where I realized that in order to reach my goals as a young entrepreneur, I would need to go out on my own and start my own business. Had he given me the small percentage that I was asking for, I would’ve never gone out and started Sportiqe.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Sportiqe has an overarching goal to make people more comfortable in their life. We really take pride in producing apparel that people know will provide them comfort when they put it on, even in the most uncomfortable situation.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You always need to raise more initial capital then you think you need. We thought we had a pretty tight business plan. We had gone through each line item thoroughly. Everything looked correct on paper. However, once you actually get started there are opportunities that come up that you might not of thought of that require additional capital. We had no “rainy day” fund when we started the business. Every dollar was accounted for.
- If you’re looking for investors, make sure that they have the same shared vision of how to grow the company. If they have an understanding of your industry that’s even better. The original investors we had we’re very nice people and I will always be appreciative of them helping get Sportiqe started. However, just because you have a successful business in one industry doesn’t mean you know how to grow a successful business in another industry. Some business practices in one industry don’t cross over to the other.
- If at all possible, save as much money as you can before you start your business. Those first few years of starting your business, you’re probably not going to pay yourself much or at all. When we started Sportiqe, we didn’t take home a paycheck for nearly the first two years. I thought I had some decent money saved up, but it got pretty tight there for a while.
- When setting up a business get everything in writing. Our original investment group (my family “friends”) had told my partner and I that if we achieved some certain metrics, we would be able to earn more ownership of Sportiqe. We never had this in writing, and of course when we started achieving success those original conversations were quickly forgotten. Fortunately, we were able to buy all of our initial investors out.
- Patience and Profitability. There aren’t many overnight success companies out there. Building the right foundation and growing profitably are the best ways to achieve success. I think we took some deals at the beginning of Sportiqe that weren’t necessarily profitable for us. Look at each opportunity not only from a marketing perspective, but from a profitability perspective as well. A sexy top line number doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a positive bottom line number.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have to go back to the overarching goal at Sportiqe, which is to make people comfortable. There are a lot of things in life that make people uncomfortable. We at Sportiqe firmly believe that if you are in your most comfortable state, you have the ability to achieve your maximum potential. Could you imagine a world where everyone is in a comfortable state and achieving their maximum potential? I can.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up”-Jim Valvano. There were so many times while we were getting Sportiqe going, that we could’ve raised our hands and just said forget it. There were so many times where the odds seemed insurmountable. We started this business in 2006 in one of the worst economic climates in our lifetime, and we were battling against come of the biggest giants in our industry like Nike and Addidas. However high the odds were stacked against us (and they were pretty high), there was this voice in my head that always kept reminding me of that quote.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I love the energy that Steve Ballmer is bringing to change the entire culture of the Los Angeles Clippers organization, and I would love to connect with him. Also I would love some more time to get the chance to catch up with Scooter Braun. As I mentioned before, I think he’s really revolutionizing the whole entertainment industry. I also still have so many questions for Phil Knight(Nike founder), author of Shoe Dog, that I would love to ask in person.