The Journey Before the Jump

Growing up I was always creative and driven, but somewhere along the way I temporarily lost my willingness to put myself out there. At some point, we all do. But if you’re lucky, you’ll find it again. For me, it was a combination of fear of criticism, judgment, and caring too much what people thought, but as I strolled into a hidden, off-beat retail shop in high school, I was instantly reconnected with my desire to create without limits.

Once in the store, I found the owner. His name was Jeff Yokoyama. I quickly learned he was a well-known fashion designer who had pioneered youth culture brands like Maui and Sons, Pirate Surf, Modern Amusement, and Stussy. These brands spoke to my inner teenager, the one who’d spent years designing dorky pieces of clothing in his spare time. The one who’d watched his own father run a successful business and dreamed of starting his own one day. And while I didn’t know anything about printing t-shirts at the time, I had always loved the idea of creating a brand.

“Do you design and manufacture your own goods here?” I asked him. 
“We used to print all of the t-shirts in house. Why?”
“I’m interested in screen printing and designing.” 
He looked back casually and said, “You’re my new screen printer.”

Art by Geoff McFetridge

Neither of us knew it at the time, but Jeff had once driven my mother to the hospital while she was having a heart attack. (She’s fine and in good health.) But it’s a testament to the fact that if you’re willing to seek them out, the right people WILL find you. Jeff was “the right people.” Jeff’s ideas were wild, and he spoke with such conviction. I wouldn’t truly understand the gravity of his teaching until I was much older, but I can say with certainty the biggest lesson I learned from my time with Jeff was this:

Your ideas have value, no matter your position in life. Never wait for permission.

Shortly after working for Jeff, I formulated and launched my very first project, Margie of California. I named it after my Grandma’s clothing line from the late 50’s. It was around this time I discovered my passion for taking inspiration from life’s real moments and creating something new from them. I had been working for Jeff for two years when I came to the realization that college didn’t feel right. At 18-years-old, I craved the experience that came with learning through trial and error, and the pain that comes with failing.

I had just turned 21 when I received a call from a friend who owned another retail store — Thalia St. Surf Shop. He referred me for a product position at Reef. (Like I said, if you’re open, the right people always find you.) As much as I loved running my own company, I knew there was a lot to be learned at Reef, so I took the job. Over the course of 5 years I traveled the world and worked with some incredible people at Reef and then Vans, but ultimately realized the desire to build my own brand was still at my core. I wanted to keep evolving and taking risks, so I started thinking of ways to reconnect with my roots: Building and creating things myself.

Every year, I would attend a Christmas party, and friends would gather for dinner, drinks, and the famous call-out game. During the party, one of us would read off embarrassing “facts” about the group. It’s all fun and games, until your name is the one they’re shouting. I was at the bar getting a beer when I heard it.

“WHO WEARS TOO MUCH CHEAP DRUG STORE DEODORANT AND COLOGNE?”
 
The crowd murmured.

“SEAN DONOVAN!”

Truth is, sometimes you have to get called out (albeit, preferably not for wearing cheap cologne) to have your ah-ha moment. Driving home, I couldn’t stop thinking, “I don’t even wear cologne. Where’d he come up with this?” But then it hit me…like a waft of the cheap cologne I definitely didn’t wear. I wanted to start a cool brand, connected to youth culture, making high-quality body care products. No chemicals. No overpowering fragrances. And none of that sh*t plastered on the back of mass consumer brand labels. 
 
I took the idea to a former co-worker and friend, Brandon Rich, and he loved it. So, together, we started building a men’s body care brand centered around ingredients that were healthy for people. But there was a deeper message: You don’t need to add anything extra to be yourself. And so, Journeymen was born.

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We manufacture Better Body Care (Deodorant, Body Wash and Face Wash) using natural ingredients and high-quality essential oils. Opting for heathy ingredients, we’ve gotten rid of harsh chemicals like Aluminum, Parabens, and Sulfates. We’re sold in boutiques throughout the US and continue to launch new products with Birchbox through an exclusive partnership.

Follow along for more installments and shop the products here.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by + 373,685 people.

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