Back in March, if you told me that I would be sitting here, like this, where I’m at, come November…I don’t know if I would have believed you. To be perfectly honest, I don't know if I, back then, could have envisioned the amount of growth and transformation I have gone through in the past eight months.
And I think a lot of us are like that.
My sister just recently wrote an incredible article detailing her journey back to self amidst the stressors and restrictions imposed from this quarantine, and I think many of us have done something similar. We’ve found hobbies and passions and have embarked down new pathways that have brought us peace in the midst of chaos; it’s brought us direction in pursuit of freshly ignited passion.
Take Jalen Chatman, for example. The twenty-one-year-old from Inglewood, CA, started JU$T CA$H Clothing this past May, and already he and his brand have been mentioned among the most influential up-and-coming entrepreneurs and growing businesses, cited in publications from LA Wire to Yahoo Finance.
A current athlete at Portland State University, Jalen serves as an example of the very foundation his brand is built upon. His mantra, “Chase a Bag,” serves as a reminder to athletes at all levels, that wealth-building and financial success can be achieved outside of a career in professional sports as he himself “really didn’t start to get into fashion until [his] late years of middle school.”
JU$T CA$H serves as that reminder.
It’s never too late to chase your dreams—or a bag.
“Even though it’s good to have those dreams of being a professional athlete, your career will always come to an end."
Jalen’s push to begin his brand was catalyzed by the peak of the pandemic, where COVID-19 sent many college students home to finish their semesters online. With his football season also cancelled, the newfound freedom and time on his hands actually made his mother call a “family meeting,” he says, to encourage him and his sister to find new outlets that they could channel their creativity and free-time into.
“I always have had this entrepreneurship about myself and wanted to have a business of my own,” he explained to me, deciding eventually on starting a clothing brand. This led to him researching and pursuing all legal entities and necessities needed in order to successfully create one (LLC, EIN, etc).
Jalen says he came up with the name “JU$T CA$H,” and after weeks of brainstorming with his uncle and deciding on a logo—his first order of business—JU$T CA$H Clothing was born.
“I made a few samples and put them on my social media to see the feedback I would get," said Jalen.
"From there, [I] made an Instagram for the brand and started selling first mainly to family and friends who wanted to support.”
And he found immediate success with the launch of the brand; to which Jalen credits his entrepreneurial spirit to a long-time childhood passion.
“Personally,” he said, “I think I decided to be an entrepreneur when I was about fourteen,” when in his Freshman year of high school, he had started a small side-hustle by selling custom-made visor hats to the students on-campus.
“My mom made one for me and everyone loved it,” said Jalen. “It grew so big to where I would have order forms for customers.”
Can we talk about how Jalen is twenty-one?
Because Jalen is only twenty-one.
And the significance of his age stands for multiple reasons. For starters, his drive and focus have been characteristics he’s grown and cultivated since a youth; these ideals strengthened by his involvement in organized sports.
He says, prior to starting his own business, his intended career path was football.
Like, the NFL.
A dream he still is working on manifesting.
However, it's his understanding of brevity, especially within the world of athletics, that helped Jalen expand his focus; cultivating multiple talents and pursuing a number of interests, rather than flourishing in just one.
“Even though it’s good to have those dreams of being a professional athlete, your career will always come to an end,” he said, which has been made even more clear by the drastic changes made to sports seasons at all levels—from recreational youth to professional sports—all due to the spike in Covid-19 cases and difficulty monitoring outbreaks on campuses nationwide.
With a number of programs postponing and cancelling seasons, this newfound free time allowed Jalen to devote time to his other projects and interests. So, despite his love of football, stay-at-home mandates in Los Angeles provided him with a necessary respite to ignite Jalen’s pursuit of his business ventures; an opportunity that helped cultivate his own personal understanding into the foundation for his mantra and his brand. JU$T CA$H isn’t about just creating wealth for himself—it’s about inspiring others to follow in pursuit of their own.
And, believe it or not, this idea was first sparked pre-pandemic.
“The previous school I attended was Rutgers University,” he says when elaborating on how this idea motivated the vision behind his brand, “and we would have this weekly meeting called 'Life Beyond the Game' which always sticks with me because they would have these guest speakers who were football players just like me, but when their career ended they had a plan, and started something for themsleves that would continue to make money for them whether it be [in] a business, investments, or something they always wanted to do but never had the time for.”
Jalen is an example of how entrepreneurs have, despite the pandemic, found both success and growth in his endeavors.
And this is just the beginning.
Already, Jalen has secured office space in Los Angeles to ease the flow of both packing and shipping merchandise. As his brand gains traction and notoriety, leveraged by the use of Instagram, Tik Tok, and a few friends in the NFL, Jalen plans on opening storefronts in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas before growing to expand elsewhere throughout the United States.
According to him, though, his social media strategy has been one of the biggest drivers of traffic to his store.
“Being that I play football,” he explained, “I have had the opportunity to create relationships and network with a lot of athletes around the country—and a lot [of them] have helped me promote my brand, and I’m extremely grateful for their help.”
Jalen plans on growing his business even more by continuing this strategy, employing more of the same marketing tactics and leveraging his relationships with personal connections who, he says, “have a large following and/or influence.”
And while Tik Tok—one of the fastest growing platforms for Gen-Z—is majorly populated by users aged between 16 and 24, Jalen seeks to leverage influencer reach and not only continue tapping into his target market, but also expand brand awareness.
What's incredible is that Jalen has, in such a short period of time, created a brand that is truly omnichannel—something big brands even today are struggling with achieving. Companies—especially fashion brands and brick-and-mortar retailers—are currently in limbo as they acknowledge the fact that the modern customer is no longer confined to a single platform. There are so many ways to shop, that brands must be strategic and broad-spectrum when determining how to best deliver a smooth buying experience to customers regardless of the channel, platform, or the stage of the buyer’s journey.
And Jalen has done a remarkable job providing his customers with a rather seamless shopping experience.
Not only does he plan on expanding his reach through the growth of brick-and-mortar stores, but Jalen has created an integrated shopping experience for his customers. Aiding in the accessibility of his brand is the JU$T CA$H app, which is available for both iOS and Android software. Users can literally go from the brand website, Tik Tok and social media (because he has a following on both his Twitter and Instagram pages, too) straight into the JU$T CA$H app, all without setting down their phone.
What’s most incredible to me is the fact that Jalen’s brand was literally launched just this past May. Like, just seven months ago. And now, when really gaging his growth and the progression of his journey, you would think he’s been at this much longer.
It’s truly a testament to his work ethic, but it also speaks to his mission; his ultimate desire to promote financial literacy and multiple streams of wealth within his community.
It's the focus for me.
I asked Jalen what his daily routine is, and he’s all about his business. He said, “I start off by preparing orders for deliveries or to ship out, manage all forms of my social media for the brand and make interesting content for its following, making sure I keep an up-to-date inventory count on my website and brand app."
There you have it.
JU$T CA$H Clothing is a baby. It’s a brand conceived just months ago at the height of a pandemic, and yet it has grown exponentially, all led and managed under the direction and undertaking of a young man from Inglewood, CA. I mean, Inglewood is known as The City of Champions, so I’ll just sit back and watch this company and its CEO soar to higher heights. If anything, Jalen has inspired me to pursue my own dreams, to chase my own wealth outside of my own day-to-day.
I’m all in. I’m excited. And I’m going to go chase a bag.