Jeff Sheldon is the proud founder of Ugmonk, a design-centric fashion destination. When he launched in 2008, he had four designs and 200 shirts total. Things quickly accelerated and all of a sudden, Ugmonk was being featured on several blogs, and orders started arriving from countries all over the world. Those first four t-shirt designs grew the business, and he was sold out before he knew what had happened. After that, he decided whether or not to consider it a success and move on or find a way to keep the business alive. With the support and involvement of Jeff’s family, Ugmonk now ships to over 67 countries worldwide, they’ve supported non-profit initiatives, and they’ve never lost their personal touch. Check out their beautiful and ever-evolving designs on the Ugmonk shop. Don’t forget to follow Jeff Sheldon and his incredible family on Ugmonk’s Instagram for updates.
What gets you out of bed every morning and how do you start your day?
My kids. We have two kids under two so I don’t get to choose when I get out of bed anymore. :) I start my day by helping around the house to make breakfast for my wife and kids and then get my workday started. I work form home so my commute is just walking up the stairs into my home office.
How did it feel to sell your first shirt?
Amazing. Honestly I wasn’t sure if my idea to sell shirts would ever work, so when that first sale came in I was really excited. It was validation that people truly resonated with my design style and ethos.
How have you prevented burnout in the tough position of running your own business?
The biggest thing that keeps me in check is having a wife and kids. If I was single I would probably find myself working way too much and not have a great work/life balance. I love what I do so it’s easy still to get sucked into work mode since my life and work are so intertwined. Having a family forces me to switch out of work mode and enjoy the other important parts of life.
What is the most difficult aspect of working for yourself?
I have what I call creative ADD. My brain is constantly jumping around to different ideas and things that I want to work on, so reigning that in and staying on track can be hard for me. Since I set my own deadlines, it’s easy to keep moving them to accommodate for other things that I want to work on.
What is the most rewarding aspect of working for yourself?
The best part is that I get to set my own hours, work from home and get to be with my family, and work on whatever I want to work on. I definitely do not miss sitting in traffic during a commute or having to be at the office at a specific time. The autonomy and flexibility of running my own business is priceless.
Can you discuss an opportunity you’ve been able to do, thanks to running Ugmonk?
Each year we do a Charity Drive in partnership with a great organization called Rice Bowls, who provides food for orphanages around the world. Through this we’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Honduras and Nicaragua to meet some of the kids that we’re helping. When I started Ugmonk I never anticipated traveling internationally and being able to help in this way, but it’s changed our perspective and outlook on life and business.
Has any country you traveled to had a huge impact on inspiring a particular design?
When my wife and I visited Norway and Denmark a few years ago were impressed by the attention to detail and thoughtful design details throughout the places we traveled. There’s an aspect of minimalism and restraint that feels so calming and considered compared to what we see in most of the US.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of/which is your favourite and why?
Launching Gather on Kickstarter last year and raising over $430,000 is probably my biggest accomplishment. I had been working on Gather for over 3 years and was hoping it would be well-received, but never anticipated just how huge the response would be. We hit our goal in the first 47 minutes after we launched and broke $100,000 in the first 24 hrs. As a product creator, this validation was an absolutely incredible feeling.
What is the number one step a person can take to get their own business of the ground?
Just start. Too many people overthink the mechanics of the business and just actually ship or launch. Start small and iterate along the way. We are all making it up as we go.
What do you wish everyone knew about running their own business?
Most people have very little idea of what it’s like to run their own business. They get to see a lot of the highlights and fun parts but don’t see all the low points or endless hours of non-glamorous work that it takes. Running your own business takes a level of commitment and sacrifice that many people aren’t prepared for.
What is your favourite thing to do to relax and step away from the stress?
Pretty much anything outside. Going on walks, soccer, or just playing outside with my kids. Getting fresh air really does make difference.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve given or received?
Work hard and be nice to people. You’ll be amazed at how many opportunities will come your way.