cbuzz Episode 14: Jason Ross, JackThreads

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Bringing you the best stories from Columbus business owners, cbuzz is presented by the Columbus Chamber in collaboration with the Columbus Dispatch and CD1025. Our host, local comedian Dan Swartwout, talks with entrepreneurs every other week in Columbus’ first business-focused podcast.

Folks, meet Jason Ross. If you can track him down, he’s got a great story to tell. Just a hint—he’s probably one of the better looking guys in the room, and rightly so.

Ross, a native of Medina, Ohio, is the founder of the men’s fashion and lifestyle brand, JackThreads.

Launched in 2008, JackThreads came into the scene at the height of the flash-sale movement, where consumers would have small windows (think 24-48 hours) to get great deals from name brand companies looking to sell excess inventory at discount prices. Members would sign up for notifications and would shop across JackThreads’ platform that effectively acts as a huge retail store that updates its product every single day.

From a modest upbringing, Ross made it big, plain and simple. Growing up south of Cleveland in a middle-class home, Jason was the person (perhaps like you too) who was too cool for donning the “in” attire. Ross went to college at The Ohio State University with a good, if hidden, sense for men’s casual fashion and it was then that he decided it was time to stand out from the rest.

By graduation, he was a living, breathing entrepreneur dressed in a finance degree. After taking two-and-a-half years to develop a business plan, Ross launched JackThreads. Well, it was more like a stumble out of the starting blocks (the company sold three items on its opening day, and thanks to a computer error the customers weren’t even charged).

But didn’t I say he made it big? Hard work, a good idea and a strong business community (ahem, Columbus, ahem) works wonders.

“From July [2008] to the end of the year, every month our business grew,” Ross said. “We went from zero to 35,000 members in our first year with no marketing [costs].”

jason ross in the studio

In a good way, Business grew out of control. With little overhead worries, Ross was overwhelmed with JackThreads’ success. From having semi-trucks dropping off product at his own house to eventually outgrowing storage warehouses, JackThreads’ success with men’s fashion gained notoriety nationwide.

“I spent all these years getting my business to this point, and then I had all of these competitors saying ‘I would love to buy you and have you run this business,’” Ross said.

“I had five inbound offers on the table. I’d say two or three of them that weren’t very good. Of the five there were two that were legit…[one of them] was Thrillist. It was all content for guys, so we did some advertising, saw some great results. So their founder and I just started talking about what would this look like if we put the two businesses together.”

With similar target audiences, Thrillist acquired the majority of JackThreads in 2010, and with that Ross left Columbus for Manhattan. JackThreads grew exponentially as Ross followed his business for the mutual partnership, “but honestly, JackThreads grew on its own for the most part,” Ross said.

The partnership proved fruitful for various reasons, and to Ross, it seemed like everyone had realized it too.

“For the next two years, JackThreads just grew…and so what happened is in 2010 we did four million, then 20 million, and then we did 40 million, and then we did 80 million. There was this point in the middle of it when we became the majority revenue of Thrillist’s portfolio and it felt like, in that moment…everyone wanted a piece of JackThreads,” Ross said.

A good business idea—check. A thriving company—check. Then after 12 months, Ross decided it was time to go home. As the old saying goes, you can take the flash-sale site out of Columbus but you can’t take Columbus out of the flash-sale sight. Is that right? Either way, Ross moved back to Columbus in 2013 with an exit strategy completed. As for now, we’re still waiting for the next great Jason Ross idea. Chances are he’ll be back on cbuzz, so stay tuned.

So there it is. The Jason Ross story; something built from nothing, shifting his business model, then selling it. Talk about a PIVOT.

Published on:
January 7, 2016

Dan Swartwout, Host; Jason Ross, JackThreads

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