Teen uses free time during pandemic to grow streetwear business

Eion Jackson expanded JCKS Apparel after losing his job, school and baseball season due to COVID-19.
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Jackson makes all of the designs that are featured on his apparel using software on his phone and computer, and he hired a contract manufacturer with locations in Los Angeles, North Carolina, Mexico and Europe to produce the clothing. Courtesy Eion Jackson

A local youth began pouring his passion into his e-commerce clothing business when COVID-19 put life on pause in March.

Eion Jackson, 17, is founder and owner of JCKS Apparel. He began making clothing for himself and his friends about two years ago, and in August 2019, he launched a retail website, jcksapparel.com.

When the pandemic hit Michigan, like other teenagers, he lost all of the activities that were keeping him occupied.

Jackson last month completed via distance learning his junior year at Hudsonville High School. A sports aficionado, he had been playing baseball for much of his life with a dream of joining the school’s varsity team. On March 13, the last day of baseball tryouts, his dream came true, but the excitement was short-lived. That same day, the school announced its closure due to COVID-19, canceling the spring sports season. Soon after, he lost his part-time job at Rebounderz, a trampoline park in Jenison, due to the shutdown order.

Rather than sulk about his situation, Jackson found a way to capitalize on his time at home.

He has long been a passionate adventurer and lover of travel, which is part of why he launched his apparel brand with funding support from his parents. His products include T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, swimwear, hats and accessories such as lanyards, stickers and fanny packs — all of which have a theme of exploration and travel.

“I’ve always been really creative, and I recently have been getting more into fashion, so I thought, ‘Why not make a brand?’ Me and my family travel lot, and it really inspired me to try to make more people want to travel and explore,” he said.

“I feel like too many people stay home, and they miss out on a lot in the world. I want more people to see what’s out there,” he added, noting the clothing can help people express their dreams, even if they are on hold right now during COVID.

Some of the highlights of his life so far have included experiencing the different cultures and pace of life in European countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands, he said.

Jackson — who is self-taught — makes all of the designs that are featured on his apparel using software on his phone and computer, and he hired a contract manufacturer with locations in Los Angeles, North Carolina, Mexico and Europe to produce the clothing.

Missy Jackson, Eion Jackson’s mother, is a managing partner at The Vantage Group, a business consulting firm in Grand Rapids. While she said she has assisted her son “here and there,” he has “a natural talent” for running a business.

“There’s a popular business model called The Five Ps, which focuses on a company’s top five priorities (purpose, people, pace, perception and profit). With little knowledge of this model, he’s successfully executing all five of these priorities,” Missy Jackson said. “Some of the greatest business minds have a hard time following these steps, and a 17-year-old, when he took time to focus, implemented them and is thriving.”

She added one of the main reasons he has been successful is that he didn’t start with a focus on profits; he instead focused on creating brand recognition and continuing his passion.

Jackson began pouring time into social media marketing and growing his fan base on Instagram and Facebook as soon as school and sports were canceled. And business quickly started to boom.

Before the pandemic hit, he had sold products in three states. As of late May, he had seen a 100% increase in revenue and sold items in 17 states and counting, as well as Puerto Rico.

Jackson’s target demographic for the streetwear brand is teenagers to age 30, but he said he would love to see sales in any age group.

The average price point for a T-shirt at jcksapparel.com is about $30, and hoodies sell for about $55 on average.

Jackson also added PPE face masks to his online store, which have proved to be a popular item.

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