Jacobi Lewis: IGETIS Sportswear
I get to the Starbucks a little early because the thought of being late makes me anxious. This store is where Jacobi and I met- him as a regular customer, me as the ever busy barista. His presence in the store was like a ray of sunshine, and each barista knew him by name and order. His demeanor is no different when he comes through the doors today. Energetic, smiling, his joy helping everyone in the store light up. Even though I haven’t seen him in months, his face still brightens when he sees me. Reaching out to people to ask them to be a part of my project has been a little nerve-racking, but constantly rewarding when I have meetings like this.
Jacobi and I begin catching up before I’ve even managed to get out my laptop to take notes. It’s difficult because when you meet him, you can’t resist talking to him. As I get my laptop set up, I tell him I’m probably going to ask him questions that he’s technically already answered, but if I don’t write them down- I’ll lose some of the key points.
I start with the question that typically start every interview with: tell me a little about your journey to where you are today. (I’ve already done a little Facebook stalking- so I know this is going to be a fascinating journey before he’s even started.)
Jacobi’s love of fashion is what initially brought him into the retail world. He worked at multiple big clothing staples: Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Gap. In addition to his love of fashion, Jacobi also enjoyed the opportunity his job gave him to connect with people. Engaging with customers is a big part of what “completely sold [him] on retail.” Gap became his entire world. He was soon managing multiple departments such as menswear and baby. He quickly was promoted even higher into loss prevention.
Promises continued to be made that were never fulfilled
It was here that he encountered a “totally different beast”. A story that I completely identified with, his promotion coincided with a different view on the company culture. Promises continued to be made that were never fufilled. When Walmart came to recruit him, he accepted the position of area manager. Again, he was sold on the company culture, deeply invested in the new world he worked in. He had aspirations to someday be CEO of the entire company. But instead of being promoted, he was thrown under the bus to protect someone else.
Because of Jacobi’s ability to engage with people so well, he was put in charge of overseeing the employees, while another manager supervised the mechanical side of the operations. He quickly found that many employees were due for evaluations. These evaluations were important to the employees, often providing them an opportunity to visit families in different countries. One employee, who was overdue for evaluation, had already gone to El Salvador to take care of his family. Jacobi already knew that missing this evaluation was a huge problem. He knew owning responsibility for the error would result in people losing their jobs- more than likely his boss.
After bringing the issue to his boss’s attention, he was told to simply call and do a phone evaluation. He completed the phone call, had the paperwork signed, printed out and put into the employees file. Everything seemed to be taken care of, until they were audited. It was clear that this particular evaluation was “signed” by printer ink, not in person with a pen. And the consequences were huge.
As soon as Jacobi walked into the HR department, he could feel the heaviness. They knew Jacobi well, knew him as a person with integrity. Their request for his presence in their office began immediately with questions. “Jacobi, what is this?” They presented the phone evaluation. Jacobi told them what had happened, but when they went to question his boss, she denied having any knowledge of his actions. Jacobi was escorted off the premises, “as if they didn’t even know [him]”.
He had everything to gain, and nothing to lose.
Like any person, Jacobi spent the next year angry and bitter. Job interviews were unsuccessful because of his negative attitude. He knew he needed to accept responsibility for what had happened, even if it was difficult. Owning his part in the series of events was the only way to get past them and move on with his life. He had a wife and a new home. His wife was shouldering the responsibility, but she couldn’t do that forever. He began taking temp jobs (often paying only $8-$9 per hour), landing a 2 week engagement at an oil and gas company.
When the 2 weeks was over, they extended the job. Then they extended it again. And again. He ended up being there for 6 months when the CEO of the company noticed his resume, and offered to train him in a sales position- a permanent position. Even though he wasn’t certain this was the right place for him, he had everything to gain, and nothing to lose. He accepted the offer, and continued to move up the corporate ladder until he was President of the company, a role people told him he couldn’t achieve until he was about a decade older.
Even at the top of his game, a desire continued to build inside. Jacobi is not a person to stop, even if he is technically at the top, he keeps moving, growing, and learning. He knew he needed to build something for himself. Ultimately, in 2016 sitting at a table in a Starbucks, IGETIS was born.
IGETIS is derived from the Greek: ηγέτης • [igétis] meaning “Leader”.
IGETIS means leader. And being a leader has been a constant theme in Jacobi’s life. And I mean that pretty literally- he has a Bachelor of Science in Leadership from the College of Biblical Studies in Houston. He tells me that a leader is developed through passion, perseverence, performance, and purpose- the four P’s as he affectionately calls them. It’s no surprise that the four P’s show up in IGETIS’s mission statement. Leadership is what defines the company.
Jacobi tells me that we as people is to automatically think we will find support, and he was no different. He went to friends and family to show them his ideas, and was quickly met with “Are you crazy? Why on Earth would you leave such a nice job to start company- especially in an industry that is already dominated by high-profile brands?” Instead of being discourged, Jacobi immediately found he was “built for this fight.” He knew he was finding his true purpose. “If I’m the only person who sees it, that’s what matters.”
He decided not to waste time trying to prove himself to his doubters. He wanted to express himself through combining his love of fashion, sports, and people. “If you don’t know me, you will. Leaders don’t prove, they express.”
Passion, Purpose, Performance, and Perseverance
Jacobi is a believer in energy. Part of IGETIS’s mission statement is to energize and inspire. He sees the energy behind persevering and passion. This energy is a driving force, not only working to inspire world class athletes, but the moms, dads, sons and daughters of the world. You don’t have to be an athlete to be a part of the IGETIS movement, “we are all in the sport of life.” I certainly am no athlete, but Jacobi’s words resonate with me, and I am absolutely inspired. IGETIS may start with sportswear, but its mission translates into how we live our lives. People can find the 4 P’s (passion, purpose, performance, and perseverance) in everything they do.
IGETIS separates itself from other well-known brands by supporting the emerging leaders. Even though IGETIS is still small, they are enjoying where they are at and where they have come from (a lesson we can all stand to apply to our own lives.) When Jacobi looks into the future, he sees the company as a global brand. He’s not interested in beating the competition; that’s not the end goal. Whether they impact the life of an athlete or a stay-at-home mom, as long as that person is inspired and energized, Jacobi sees success. It can be one, one hundred, or one thousand- if IGETIS helps people, regardless of the number, they’ve done their job.
“You can inspire people. With whatever resources you have.”
I ask Jacobi for his advice for people who are dreaming of starting their own business. He tells me that he has always been told he is a dreamer. “Don’t let anyone kill your dream. Keep dreaming. Nothing was put together without first dreaming.” This important asset, Jacobi says, means a whole lot.
“You have to live in the moment. You can’t necessarily worry about tomorrow and what you don’t have. Use what you do have.” Many people let the fear of what they don’t have keep them frozen. But you are enough. You can inspire people. With whatever resources you do have.
“Never give up.” Jacobi chuckles at the use of such a cliche saying. But he also notes that they’re cliches for a reason. “There’s only one you,” he states. “If you give up, you may stop someone else from succeeding. Someone who needs you to inspire them.” Many people thought the worst thing Jacobi could ever do was leave his job to start something different. “You’re insane!” they told him. His reply? “Maybe I am. But you need some insanity.”
The IGETIS logo is includes a Saber-toothed cat swooshing by you. The latin name of the Sabertooth translates to “deadly knife tooth.” The ambush predator is always lurking, and you probably never see him coming, but before you know it, he’s taken over. It’s no surprise that when I ask him what his spirit animal is, Jacobi immediately knows the answer.
Many people live in a box, and let their world revolve around what other people have to say. But Jacobi believes that you “need to transcend the box to have your own identity. You need to know when to exit.”
Interested in sharing your story?
Let’s chat! Schedule a meeting here!