Sean Kelly’s story is a tale of transformational growth. Jersey Champs, the business that he started in his college dorm room, became a company that revolutionized the jersey industry. Kelly managed to transform the initial $1,000 pre-order money into a million-dollar enterprise. Central to this growth and transformation are a series of strategic decisions that attest to Kelly’s skills and intuition as an entrepreneur.
As a student in Rutgers University, Kelly recognized a business opportunity in the popularity of jerseys among high school and college students, and the lack of diversity in custom jersey design that’s unrelated to sports. However, he quickly realized that it would be impossible for him to start a regular sports jersey business. A college student’s budget would not cover the amount that’s normally required for licensing and production. Kelly’s solution: invest in a freelance graphic designer, work with a manufacturer in Pakistan, and sell products online through Shopify. This is how he launched what soon became the highly successful Jersey Champs at the age of 20.
One by one, Kelly would use his innovative approach to face and overcome the challenges that he faced as an entrepreneur. His ability to make the most of available resources enabled him to capitalize on low-cost technology such as e-commerce stores, social media, and influencer marketing strategies. Having found a unique niche to build his business on and having figured out a production operation with low overhead costs, Kelly now set his sights on creative ways to spread the word and generate demand.
Much of the success of Jersey Champs can be attributed to Kelly’s strategic use of celebrity and influencer endorsements. Jersey Champs has become known as the sports jersey of choice for the stars, with partnerships including 2 Chainz, Logic, Lil Pump, Soulja Boy, and many others. When the company first started, Kelly would ask the musicians that he featured to post images of his custom jerseys on their Instagram feed. Through the years, he has learned more and more about how to work with celebrities, influencers, artists, and athletes. As a brand, Jersey Champs has a well-defined ideal customer. Choosing partners to collaborate with will depend on the trends and people that the brand’s ideal customers are following. By building his brand and growth strategy around the customers, Kelly can quickly reach out to valuable people.
Today, Kelly works with a team of 6 graphic designers. He sourced all of the designers from Instagram and he makes sure to tag them on Jersey Champ’s page to give them exposure. He now travels frequently to give presentations on entrepreneurship and social media. Kelly continues to learn from his experiences, success, challenges, and through trial and error. Just recently, he has ventured into marketing on TikTok, which is currently the popular social site with Gen Z audiences. At 23, Kelly’s just getting started and he’s always on the lookout for ways for his business to keep growing.
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