Launching Joerts

The jean shorts start-up began as a “chuckle.” Then the founder committed to “doing weird things with weird people.”

Tim
Tim
Jan 21 · 6 min read
Image for post
Image for post
“Your jeans are dead. Long live your JOERTS.”

What is your creative venture?

Alright, so my new venture is called JOERTS (as in + ). It’s this ridiculous concept to create the first-ever fashion brand with no actual clothing inventory. I hijack the old jeans sitting in your closet and “upcycle” them into a pair of limited edition JOERTS. It’s a bit thrift, a bit DIY, and a bit punk.

How it works: When you buy a pair of JOERTS, you start by sending me a pair of your own jeans (you know, that pair that fits great, but you just don’t wear that often anymore). I take them, hack off the legs, and sew on a limited edition JOERTS patch on the leg. I keep the process simple by sending you all of the prepaid shipping materials and providing a questionnaire that allows you to select your preferred length and whether you want the fray facing up or down. Your new JOERTS even come with a hand-signed and numbered certificate of authenticity.

When you buy a pair of JOERTS, you start by sending me a pair of your own jeans. I take them, hack off the legs, and sew on a limited edition JOERTS patch on the leg.

Your jeans are dead. Long live your JOERTS.

As kinda absurd as this may all sound, I’m serious about the mission. JOERTS is a benefit corporation with an explicit environmental purpose to keep clothing out of landfills (nearly 13 million tons of clothing end up there every year) and support local nonprofit initiatives ($4 from every pair is going back to a Milwaukee org that provides clothing for those in need).

Why did you start when you did?

I’ve actually been sitting on this idea for over two years now. It all started as a creative exercise during a student innovation program I was running through The Commons. We were talking about a pair of jean shorts I was wearing when the name suddenly hit. The URL joerts.com was available, I bought it right away, chuckled to myself, and went about my life.

But then it just kept coming back into conversations. Whenever I shared the concept, there was an unexpected amount of enthusiasm and support and people began encouraging me to actually pursue the business.

It wasn’t until this year that JOERTS felt right. Maybe it was COVID keeping me at home so much, but it definitely felt like a “now or never” moment. So I made a quick LinkedIn video, posted it, and then things got real.

What background and skills helped you get going?

There’s a really weird set of experiences and skills that have culminated with JOERTS.

Going way back, I basically grew up in the world of rummage sales and flea markets. I even worked at a thrift store all through high school, which gave me a solid collection of vintage clothing and a very eclectic sense of style. But I also witnessed firsthand just how wasteful fashion is. People got rid of and believe me, only a small fraction of donated clothing goes out to the floor.

And then at night, I spent far too much time in mosh pits at punk rock shows. The speed, energy, and attitude instilled a desire to challenge the status quo and give it my all. If you ever see me with my headphones in while working at a local coffee shop (post-COVID) you can rest assured I’m still listening to some fast, loud garbage.

I got a degree in advertising and design from Marquette and MIAD, started a tech startup design and development studio, co-founded Startup Milwaukee, and co-founded The Commons. The 16 years of diving deep into design, branding, startups, technology, and innovation probably helped make JOERTS happen too.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Designs for JOERTS

What obstacles did you have to overcome?

Procrastination, doubt, fear. They’re all purely self-imposed and internalized obstacles, but that’s all real stuff that every entrepreneur faces.

For a long while, I was legitimately afraid to create the brand. This was unusual because I’ve gotten pretty good at quickly crafting a visual identity, but this time… I mean, . I was worried it would all come across as conceited and then I didn’t even want to think about which direction to take because I thought I was “too close” to all of it.

That’s pretty dumb. I sat myself down one weekend, turned on some loud music, and just started sketching things out. I even wrote a little. Finally, I noticed some patterns and saw some themes emerge. From there, I went to the internet for some design inspiration and ultimately got out of my own head.

I sat myself down one weekend, turned on some loud music, and just started sketching things out.

What mentors, allies or friends helped along the way?

I’m really fortunate to have incredibly supportive coworkers, family, and friends. My wife has been really important in helping me stay focused and motivated. My coworkers at The Commons have been amazing cheerleaders and I’ve been floored by the support I’ve gotten from my network.

Did you have to pivot or change direction at any point?

It was probably a year ago that someone suggested limiting the number of patches and that really opened up a whole new level. Otherwise, I’ve spent so much time openly talking about the concept that creating this first release has been fairly smooth.

What are you focusing on now?

I’m focused on selling out the first release. It’s a simple black and white patch, limited to just 500.

Once I do that, a lot of other doors open: new releases with new color combinations, materials, designs, unique partnerships, and scaling.

Image for post
Image for post
“My coworkers at The Commons have been amazing cheerleaders.”

What are you most proud of for this creative venture?

I’m pretty proud that I’m able to blend something that I find challenging, entertaining, and meaningful. I’ve gotten to stretch some creative muscles, enjoy weaving in some humor, and am maintaining a focus on social / environmental impact.

It’s also been kinda cool how everyone wants to brainstorm ideas for what to do with the leftover legs. People have been messaging me with all sorts of ideas and I’m continuing to take any thoughts. Right now, all I’m committing to is keeping them out of the landfill.

After starting on this journey, what advice would you give others?

I’m living my professional life with a few key principles right now:

  1. Get more comfortable being uncomfortable. Doing something that gets you out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. I have no business starting a fashion brand.
  2. Say ‘yes’ and show up. This goes beyond your Facebook event invites. Commit and follow through to the best of your abilities in any way possible. I talked about it a lot and then posted a LinkedIn video that publicly committed me to doing this thing.
  3. Do weird things with weird people. JOERTS might be a little more solo than anything at this point, but it’s definitely weird and has started attracting other awesome weirdos that want to support.

Anything else to add?

I’ve probably said too much already. Congrats to everyone that made it to the end.

The Creative Journey

A timeless path to discovery

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store