The KK & Jay Self Made Path

KK & Jay are on a self-made journey. Individually, as a team, and as a global community. We are dedicated to the working man and woman. These people are not only our customers, they are our life blood, they are us! Our products serve simple functions, but our mission accomplishes much more. Redefining what it means to be self-made, delighting and inspiring confidence, allowing people to be their best.

We are self-motivated. We are self-aware. We are self-made. Too often this status is thought to be a level, a destination reserved for a select few who have seemingly achieved the unachievable without any support. This is a myth! There is no level to be reached, only a path to be found. Our starting points may vary as we are all participants is what Warren Buffet calls the “Ovarian Lottery,” the great and uncontrollable determiner of our future selves. To whom, where, and in what time we are born, certainly matters. But there are no winners or losers in this lottery. Only numbers drawn for a game yet to be played. True, some may be born into seemingly more opportunity, and some with seemingly none at all, but that in no way guarantees success or failure on a self-made journey. Hard work, dedication, resourcefulness, decision making, and the ability to take responsibility are the true determining factors. This along with all forms of influence, both good and bad, play an integral part in shaping our paths. We are mindful of these facts and we are determined to play a positive role for others. Through our products, for those who are fortunate enough to need and afford them. Through our commitment to give back for those not yet in a place to need our products. Through all our differences, ultimately, we can all be self-made. We are the proof.

Mohamed (KK) and I (Jay) couldn’t have had more different journeys to get here. Myself, a Jewish kid raised by a single mom. My style and attitude were shaped by my hometown Yonkers aka Y.O. at the doorsteps of the Bronx. The epitome of a true-blue hometown New Yorker. My grandfather was a pharmacist who had more simple sayings than Yogi Berra. Hard work, doing the right thing, and making a buck were his favorite topics. While Mohamed, Muslim and nearly 10 years younger was born among the cascading waterfalls and craggy mountains of Sierra Leone. Mohamed’s father took him and his family to the villages of Madagascar while on an 8 year mission for the UN before returning home. There, they found themselves caught in the middle of a brutal civil war. Where, before his parents moved mountains to get him to the US, he was exposed to what he only describes as “blatant disregard for human life”. Yet, somehow, we are aligned. Not in spite of these different paths. But because of them.

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Mohamed’s journey is defined by an ambition that knows no bounds. As an African and an only child, Mohamed was expected “to make 95% of every shot from behind the 3 points arc. Every free throw must be earned, every rebound must be fought for with blood and tears, every lay-up must be beautifully crafted, and every crossover must be justified.” Where he is from “the idea of self-made is not associated with whether one received a helping hand in achieving their gains, it is instead related to the ability of the individual to never forget their humble beginnings.”

For myself, my journey seems to be rooted in entrepreneurship. Growing a business in my experience can at times feel unwieldy, and out of control. Strategies can seem like guessing games. Decisions like bets. After graduating from NYU Stern School of Business, while my classmates were busy landing interviews, I was shaping a business plan. Sneakers and fashion were my passion, and at 22 I opened my first store, Nostylgia with only one goal in mind: blowing up. I worked harder than I ever had before, and my life became synonymous with my business. While we became a much publicized fixture in our Uptown Washington Heights/Inwood community, collaborating with locals and international companies alike, I always remember my grandfather’s words, "are you making a buck?". So, after 7 long years amid escalating overhead and the expecting of my first child, I shuttered operations.

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However difficult calling it quits was at the time, this huge life change only furthered my self-made journey. Finally learning that being self-made, didn’t mean doing things by yourself. At this time in life, it actually meant getting a job and working for someone else. But now the purpose was clear: I was earning a paycheck to contribute to my family and re-establish myself separate from the business that once defined me. It was at this moment, I felt truly confident and truly on a self-made journey. Serendipitously, it also happened to be where I met Mohamed and where this man from worlds apart famously coaxed me back to an entrepreneurial path.

Now, as we strategize together from different parts of the globe, me from the Bronx, he from somewhere in Africa while he continues his humanitarian work, each of us contributes different layers of value to our enterprise. The impetus to keep going comes from our customers and getting to see the effect our business has on their lives. This reaffirms our commitment not only to those who buy, but to ourselves and our mission for all.

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It is through this lens that we are partnering with organizations like Career Gear, and other like-minded social enterprises providing services and assistance to those in need of a leg up. We are forever committed to working with and contributing resources to all those that are driven to fulfill their own self-made futures. Because if a good tuck will help you make a good buck, we’re all in.