There are over 31 million small businesses currently operating in the United States. However, only 2.3% of these businesses are Black-owned. In some areas, the percentage of businesses that are Black-owned goes up. For example, in the DC Metro Area, 7.7% of businesses are Black-owned. In the Fayetteville Metro Area, 11.2 % of businesses are Black-owned. Starting a business can be challenging, so I interviewed Eric Jackson, the owner of The Uncommon Ones, to hear what he had to say.
Who Are You Are and What is Your Business?
My name is Eric Jackson and I’m a junior organizational communications major from Georgia and I’m excited to get started.
So, my brand is called The Uncommon Ones and I actually just celebrated my year anniversary on the 26th of January 2023. And it was pretty cool just to be able to see the growth of it. But essentially the main thing that I’m selling right now are satin line hoodies or full-on jogging shoes. All of it is embroidered, and then my most recent release was our anniversary/Black History Month release. It basically has a number of different historical figures on it; on the back, it says “I’m my ancestor’s wildest dreams.” It’s a work jacket that did pretty well in terms of the pre-release and everything like that.
What Inspired You to Start?
So, when my friend that’s a graphic designer asked me what I wanted the brand to mean, I didn’t really know. I kind of thought back to a book that I had read in the past. One of the things that the person said was he ‘sought to be uncommon amongst uncommon people.’ That kind of always stuck with me. I feel like, not only do I feel that way about myself sometimes, but I feel like other people do, too. And defining whatever you’re gifted at and excelling in that space.
Did You Have Anyone Help You Along the Way?
Mainly just myself and then me figuring out where to find investing courses. So, I found other people that have notable clothing brands, and I would buy their courses. Then I would figure out how they’re doing it, and kind of just put my own spin on it. Then, my friend who’s a graphic designer, he basically came up with the start of the logo, and we edited it as we went along. It was mainly just me investing in myself, and like learning how to do it. Then from there, it was a matter of just continuing to scale from what I had already learned or compound what I already know.
What Have You Learned Since You Started?
How to find a manufacturer. How important it is to have somebody that can actually make good quality clothes. Of course, sometimes it’s just figuring out a design and dropping the clothes. But if you don’t have anybody to make a high-quality product, then you might sell something once, but it’s going to be hard to get people to buy into your brand again. Because if you’re selling let’s say and it’s nothing that’s there to be wrong with it, especially when you’re getting started.
For example, a low-quality t-shirt; [the] likelihood of people buying that t-shirt again isn’t as high versus one that you put a little bit more time into. Or like, a jogging set versus a gilded hoodie versus a hoodie that was made by somebody that sourced the product, and so on. So just little stuff where you would never know unless you have the information itself.
What’s the Most Difficult Part of Running a Business?
I think the most difficult part is, like, the money management. Of course, when you’re making money it’s cool, but understanding that most of that money isn’t going towards you – it’s going back into the brand. So, whether that’s to buy more inventory, or putting it towards marketing, having money for photoshoots. There are all these different expenses that you don’t realize you have until you actually have to pay them. So, it’s a matter of saying “okay let’s figure out how to be strategic about it” and not putting yourself in a position where you’re strapped for cash.
What’s Your Favorite Part of Running Your Business?
Just all the people that I meet along the way. But also seeing something that you put into a graphic design come to life. For example, this work jacket took me two new manufacturers or three total manufacturers, but two new manufacturers to get to come out the way I wanted it to. To be able to see it go from an image on my phone to “okay now it’s real life.”
So eventually it’s going to be in my hand and people are going to be wearing it. That’s cool to see. Or even just being on campus and seeing other people wearing the brand. It’s like a “WOW!” Like, it’s actually real, you know? And of course, it’s real, but it’s like when you see other people randomly or people telling you “Oh I saw somebody in your hoodie.” It’s a cool feeling.
What’s Your Advice for Others Who are Thinking About Starting a Business?
I would definitely say figure out, not necessarily figure out exactly what you want to do, but experiment. Honestly, the cool thing about being young and being able to start a business is that you’re not tied down to anything. It’s not like we’re making a ton of money to where, you know, you’re losing a livelihood based off of starting a brand or not starting a brand. So honestly, I would take the risk and do it. The worst that can happen is you fail, and then what? You learn something along the way.
It’s like to be able to, you know, learn the skill sets in terms of marketing, sales, whatever. Maybe, you know, they’re all transferable, whether it be in another business or another job or whatever it may be. It’s pretty cool to see what you can build. So I would take the chance to just see what you can do when you get to do something that you’re passionate about.
Black-owned businesses provide goods and services to the black community, and they are essential for the community’s growth. Starting and running a business is complicated and can be very difficult. However, it is also very rewarding in many ways. It is great for making money and it’s nice to see your ideas come to life. If you are passionate about what you are doing, it’s definitely worth it.
The Uncommon Ones
No doubt Eric Jackson is passionate about his clothing line. That drive will surely grow and expand his business in the future. Visit his website and support his business by clicking here: The Uncommon Ones.