Angela Jin is a senior and student president of the Carroll School of Management Honors Program at Boston College, which is a full-time job in itself for most. Yet, she’s also co-founder and CEO of 1950 Collective, a $100K company with a commitment to opening up dialogue about the stigmas of mental health, empowering women, taking a stand for social justice issues, and making ridiculously cool T-shirts. Innovative, devoted, and confident, Jin is the epitome of the powerfully unapologetic female leader that the January 21st Women’s March sought to celebrate.
Why did you start 1950 Collective?
It started off as a project—a kind of side project—to distract my cofounder and I from the mental health troubles we faced. It was really just us being like, “Oh yeah, let’s start a T-shirt company, how hard could it be? One Direction T-shirts are so ugly, we could totally do a better job.” Then we were like, “Wait a minute, we actually could feasibly do this… It really isn’t that difficult logistically.” And that’s how it started. We had never anticipated getting press for it; we literally thought we were going to do it for two months, have a laugh, and shut it down. In the first seven weeks we had generated $11,000 of revenue, and we realized that this could really go somewhere, that this is actually something that’s more than a project—it’s a business, it’s legitimate. From there it kind of took off. We kept saying, “Oh, we’ll shut it down now. Oh, we’ll shut it down now.” And it’s been two years and we haven’t shut it down. It’s been a wild ride.
How did you find a niche for a product/brand like this in a market (online clothes shopping) that’s relatively saturated?
Basically, we understood the One Direction community pretty well—the fandom. We’re both avid fans. We tried to sneak backstage, we got within one hundred feet of them and almost got arrested…we’re literally crazy. Our main angle is that we’re crazy fans, and we understand what the fans want. We’re not some old white men who are trying to come in and be like, “We know what 12 year old girls want.” They have no freaking idea. And our thing is that we’re just like you, we understand you, and we’re relatable. A lot
of that came through in our branding—from the get go, we’re not some random company. We’re Angela and Nishiki, we’re two college students, here’s our backstory. We made it very transparent and relatable in that sense. Social media was just absurd—at the beginning, we literally posted a picture of Niall and would make up absurd s— like, “Niall Horan is the reason we live!” and “We can’t breathe when we see a good photo of him!” And just all of that rhetoric that we speak to each other with, and that other fangirls speak to each other with, we used as a branding point, whereas other companies say, “Shop our new collection!” and stuff like that. So that’s kind of how we differentiated ourselves from the market. Also from the get go, before we even knew we were going to turn a profit at all, we were saying we were going to donate 10% of our profits to women empowerment organizations. We knew we wanted to give back, and it really was never about making money in the first place, it was just about using it as a fun platform, and then eventually using it as a platform for social justice issues. So I’d say that’s how we differentiated it.
What got you passionate about women’s empowerment?
For us, we knew we started the company because we wanted to empower ourselves through our mental health struggles, and we wanted to remove the stigma of mental health. That’s why we were really open about why we started the company. It was just kind of a point to make that we went through all of this really s—– stuff, and instead of letting it get us down—which it definitely did at one point, and we admit that—using it as a catalyst to do something bigger with the platform and open up the dialogue about mental health issues. And even before we started the company, Nishiki and I constantly talked about social justice issues and things that were really weighing us down in our college experience and directly impacting us in our human experience. We felt like we weren’t involved enough in social justice issues, so that’s really where that came from.
What is the hardest part about starting/owning a company while being a full-time college student?
A lot of people think it’s glamorous, and it’s not. A lot of people are like, “Oh my God, you’ve been in Seventeen magazine, you got this press, you did that.” It’s a lot of behind the scenes, grueling, gritty work. A lot of missing parties, a lot of prioritizing the business over your school, and really figuring out a way to balance essentially having a baby—which is what this company is to us—and then also being a full time student, also wanting to be someone involved on campus, to go to parties, and stay active in your clubs.
I think the hardest part logistically was that for the first six months, I was shipping orders out of my dorm room. People would be like, “Oh, where’s your warehouse located?” I’d say, “Williams Dorm on CoRo…” I’d have hundreds of packages going out through the Mac mailroom, and our dorm room was flooded with me packing orders by hand. So that was something vivid I remember being difficult, because people would ask, “Oh are you going out tonight?” And I’d be like, “I literally have to ship orders to Russia…” and they’d say, “What?” and I’d be like, “Don’t worry about it.” It was really crazy in that sense. But we’ve had a lot of time to figure our s— out, and figure out what are good systems, what can make it more autonomous, what we can delegate to other people. Now, I only put in probably four to five hours a week on the company, and otherwise it’s pretty self-sustaining. I’m doing well in my classes; I have time to be a part of a lot of other organizations on campus. Eventually, you just figure out a way to make it efficient, because it can’t survive if it’s not.
Where do you see this going in the future? What are your goals for the company, both as a profit-maker and as a voice for women empowerment?
We actually just announced today that we’re going to launch a new social justice collection and we’re donating 100% of the profits to different organizations. Each shirt is going to have a different message on it, and it’s going to go to the respective organization. So one will be about the immigration ban, and that will be donated directly to a charity involving Muslim immigration and undocumented immigrants. Another one is going to be about feminism and having ownership of your body, and that will be donated to Planned Parenthood. We care about so many different causes, and sometimes it’s really difficult to centralize that. So, we realized this was the perfect way to have a little collection of the things that are most important to us, to our fans, and to our customers. And kind of a way to empower each other through this. I just think it’s important because again we didn’t start this company to profit off of it necessarily, so I think that’s nice for us to get back to our roots. We started this to be a platform for others, and that’s what the collection will be. So I’m excited for that.
Do you think you’re going to do this after school?
I want to work in the music industry. I don’t have an official offer yet, but I’ll most likely be in LA working in the music industry after graduation.