March 10, 2015 was the most important day of my life. Not the best, but the most important.
Growing up I always wanted to start a business. I am the oldest of ten kids (7 boys, 3 girls), and my heroes growing up and still to this day are my dad and grandpas. Our love for apparel started from hanging out in our dad’s closet and watching him lay out his clothes. My dad works with his brothers, so that’s what we wanted to do.
Starting from age 12, we ran various businesses together – summer camps, sealing driveways, personal training, selling poinsettias, etc. We did these until graduating college when it was time for a real job.
After college, I worked for an investment bank making great money for a 22 year old, but felt like I was dying a little each day. I desperately wanted to quit, but ideas weren’t coming as easily as they did years ago. I had started getting Normal shirts made by my sister-like friend who was working for a factory (she’s now our director of product development), and I was wearing these incredible shirts. People would ask me about them all the time, but I never thought of it as a business – they were just my Normal shirts.
Without having any great ideas or a plan, I decided to quit my job (wouldn’t recommend). I spent the better part of three years in my parents’ basement somewhere between trying to start businesses (mostly failures), feeling sorry for myself, studying for the GMAT, and applying to jobs. When I think back to that time, I think of how I dreaded questions like “Jimmy what are you doing these days?” A lot of days I hung my head low, blamed others, and saw myself as a victim – furthest thing from the truth and worst thing I could’ve done. I remember awful conversations with my grandpa. I’d hear the disappointment in his voice, but he would always say he was confident in me. I remember my mom and dad telling me to believe in myself and also huge blow out fights because it was a frustrating time. I was a mid 20s guy living in their house with no job. I remember my brothers and sisters acting like every idea I had at the time was going to be the best one. I remember those who I felt were talking behind my back, and also the ones who took my ideas seriously. The people who took me seriously made a big difference – the ones talking did too.
Towards the end of 2014 I was getting desperate, so I focused on going to a top business school. I got to final interviews. It was some demented hunger games type scenario. All of these geniuses are in a room, and we have to solve some world problem while we are being filmed, and a second year student taking notes like we are lab rats. Obviously I got rejected.
Then I focused my attention to getting a job – everything was riding on it. A top company that was going to move me to Dallas. I met with their entire organization and interviewed well. I had to explain away the 2.5 years of YouTube and GMAT prep, but thought I had done it. The top guy said to come back in town for the official offer. I returned home to a call: plans had changed and no offer was coming. That was November 6, 2014.
I remember exactly where I was and how I felt. It was a rush of anger, sadness, but then a little… relief? I finally had no more options and it actually felt good. An hour later, I wrote my dad an email. I can’t type exactly what I wrote (it’s framed on my desk now), but it basically said “I’m going to work as hard as I can to start The Normal Brand. I’ll be good.” He responded “I know you will.”
We launched at midnight March 10, 2015, and at 12:02 AM a girl named Emma bought a hat, the first thing The Normal Brand ever sold. I couldn’t believe someone bought so soon, and it wasn’t family. I’ll never forget that feeling. I was so happy that I ran upstairs to tell my dad. He was so excited he came downstairs to see it for himself on the computer. He helped me box it up. My mom took pictures.
The orders continued for 3 days until we sold out. In 3 days – we sold $5,800 worth of hats. It may as well have been $100 million. My brothers called me throughout the days for updates, and helped me box them up for the mailman to pick up (Lan joined full time that summer and Conrad shortly after – now we run the business together). In reviewing the 127 people who bought in those first three days five years ago, I get emotional. I see siblings, best friends, uncles, cousins, friends of friends, a few people I didn’t know like Emma, and my grandpa – he bought one of each.
Running this company with my brothers and our incredible team in an effort to make you cool stuff each day is literally living a dream. There are bad days and nights, and a lot of disappointments, but who cares – that’s part of it. We’ve met more cool people, made more lifelong friendships, have more insane stories, messed up and learned more in five years than I could ever imagine. Thank you for allowing March 10, 2015 to happen. We will forever be grateful and never take you for granted.
Thank you for allowing March 10, 2015 to happen. We will forever be grateful and never take you for granted.
Neck: Measure around the middle of your neck (at the Adam’s apple), keeping the tape a bit loose.
Chest: Measure under your arms around the fullest part of your chest.
Arm length: Bend your elbow 90 degrees and place your hand on your hip. Hold the tape at the center of the back of your neck. Measure across your shoulder to your elbow and down to your wrist. The total length is your sleeve length.
Waist: Measure around your natural waistline, keeping the tape a bit loose.