What was the driving force behind starting your brand? Was there a specific event, or series of events, that catalyzed the launch?
Mike Burnstein and I started Janji when we were in college with the idea of using running as a tool to explore, connect, and create change. We wanted to build the world’s most meaningful fitness apparel since other running brands only cared about highlighting speed. Don’t get me wrong, as collegiate runners, we cared about that! However, running has the power to be so much bigger. It can be a way to bring people together as well as a way to see the world in a new light.
So when we were in college, we applied for a business plan competition, won, and started Janji a year later. We’ve been changing the way people think of running ever since.
What should a future founder be most aware of before launching a brand? From your experience, what have been your biggest pain points and what have you found to be the most rewarding?
Starting a brand isn’t for everyone, and as someone who started a brand in college, I can say most of my friends took easier career paths. That said, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Seeing people who created friendships, explored the world, and were inspired by Janji — let alone those who’ve benefited from our clean water projects — is extraordinarily rewarding. There are always pain points, such as not hitting certain goals or having operational difficulties around scaling, but the highs far outweigh any lows.
Who was your first hire? What are the most important attributes you look for when building a team?
Our first hire was a designer. We’re a design-led organization (despite me being a history major and my co-founder, Mike, being an urban studies major), and that’s what has informed the brand at a fundamental level. The majority of our hires are creatives.
When building a team, it may sound cliché, but the most important thing is always culture. Do you care about your teammates? Do you care about building a better world? Are you ok with exploration (we have a culture of significant travel)? And do you care about your own personal growth? We’ve hired people who worked in retail and ramen shops, and if they care about personal growth, creating great work, and the team, they have tremendous upward mobility.
What are the three tools/platforms you can’t live without for your business? Is there is anything you wish you had started using sooner?
Ha, if we had started with the tools we use today, we’d be a totally different company. My personal favorite is Inbox Pause — I get to inbox zero almost every day, but it’s always on my terms. I answer emails once in the late morning, once before leaving the office, and that’s it. For our business, we (like every e-commerce brand) couldn’t imagine life without Shopify and our new favorite tool is Flexport.
And of course, we also love Assembled Brands and how it’s brought financing into 2019!
Learn more about Assembled Brands here!