The Story of a Young Entrepreneur: Matthew Johnson

Images Via @ctgems

By Jonah Morello |

As the fashion industry grows in our modern world, the demand for rare and one of a kind pieces of clothing grows along with it. Many people from the younger generations are keeping up with trends and styles. For the past few years, vintage clothing has been on the uprise among the street culture. Street culture has stemmed from the fashion industry itself, and as a result has brought about the sneaker craze that is sweeping the United States. It has created the many new brands such as The Hundreds, Supreme, Diamond Supply Co., and A Bathing Ape.

However, it has also brought about the vintage clothing craze that is currently crawling its way through the country. Many brands have taken advantage of this and have begun to make replicas of old pieces of clothing with new material, and although this gives certain consumers what they are looking for, nothing beats the good old original pieces. Few people have taken advantage of this aspect of the growing industry, but the few that have are making out with their pockets full of money as original clothing.

One young entrepreneur has taken this advantage. He currently attends The Morgan School, and is known to many as Matt Johnson. A senior this year, he began purchasing and selling vintage clothing last year as a result of his interest in making some money. He helps customers around the country come in contact with some cool vintage pieces of clothing. I recently sat down with Matt to talk about him and his growing business:

Jonah Morello: Nice to see you Matt! How are you doing?

Matt Johnson: I’m good, I’m good. (Laughs) How about you?

JM: I’m well. So I have been watching your business grow over the past couple of months. It’s received a lot of sales and looks to still be growing.

MJ: It definitely has grown a ton. I mean last year it really started out as a hobby, but now it’s a business. I am really pleased with the growth that I have had, and I have had a fun time doing it.

JM: I can imagine. I have been on a few trips with you, and it’s always an adventure. However, I do have a few questions to ask you about the business, and where it all started.

MJ: I would be glad to answer, so fire away.

JM: Alright, so my first question to you is where did you get the idea for the business?

MJ: Well first, the business that I run is called ctgems. It’s a vintage clothing business that I run online. I sell vintage clothing and shoes to customers through eBay and through Instagram. I got the overall idea for the business through the internet, specifically YouTube. I had been watching some videos about shoes, and I came across a channel. The guy who ran the channel goes by the name of SoleFood SanFran. He is a vintage clothing seller as well, and I had watched a few of his videos. They really intrigued me as he took videos of his clothing hunts and finds. The videos intrigued me so much, they inspired me to do some of my own hunting. I also was inspired by another vintage clothing hunter who goes by he name, Mr. Throwback. He has a store in New York that I actually went to this winter. It was an awesome experience, and just being in the store and talking with him inspired me even more.

JM: I still think that it’s crazy that you became inspired from a video. I mean I have never seen that happen to anyone, but with you, you just took the idea and went with it.

MJ: That’s exactly what happened. With me, I just become focused on something, and after that, I just chase after it.

JM: Very well put. Alright, second question. What makes your business unique?

MJ: That’s a really good question. I mean right now, there are a lot of businesses out there that are very similar to mine because recently the vintage clothing market has exploded, and it’s doing really well. I think what makes my business unique is that I am able to provide my customers with one of a kind, rare, and high quality items. It’s special because nowadays, a lot of people are looking back on their childhood and remembering everything they had or liked, and a lot of the items I sell make them feel like a kid again or at least help them reminisce about their childhood.

JM: Yeah, that market is definitely growing from what I have been seeing. I mean I miss my childhood a lot too. (Laughs)

MJ: Exactly. It’s just something that a lot of people don’t want to let go. And a lot of these items that I sell are special to many of my customers which is a great because that’s another thing I like about running a business like this.

JM: Yeah, a lot of people must appreciate it. I mean I certainly do. Alright, next question. I know that you have a lot of responsibilities to keep the business running. What are some of the responsibilities that you have taken on with the business?

MJ: With the business comes many responsibilities. The hardest thing is taking pictures and writing descriptions for all of my inventory. I have to do this daily as I maintain an eBay page. I also go to a handful of thrift stores at least three times a week. And another thing I do is I keep track of all my inventory and costs using a Microsoft Excel sheet. The Excel sheet tells me when I purchased an item, how much I purchased it for, when I sold it, how much I sold it for, and the profit I made from the sale. The Excel sheet really helps because it allows me to see all of my costs and profits, and it also allows me to see what items are in demand.

JM: That Excel sheet sounds like it really does help. Especially with a lot of new businesses turning to technology to assist them, it is really great that you are already use it for the business. Alright so I know you like running the business a lot, but what is your favorite part?

MJ: I think my favorite part is that I get to collect and see all these different items. (He pauses for a minute, and makes a sale as he is talking) I love being able to reminisce right along with the customers, especially since I grew up in the 90’s which is the era where most of my items come from. I like being able to find these one of a kind items for the customer. I also like being able to be my own boss because I am able to make my own decisions, and I am able to run the business as I see fit. I also enjoy helping the brand grow. Coming up with the name was a really difficult process, but once I came up with it, everyone liked it. My logo is also currently in the works so be on the lookout for that. But I would have to say my favorite part about running the business is that I get to take road trips. Usually, when I have a free day, I make the effort to go to places like New Haven, Orange, Milford, Branford, Cromwell, Berlin, and Dixwell Avenue in Hamden and thrift all the stores in that area. I enjoy being able to do that because I am able to take a friend like you, and we make a day out of it. It’s just a great experience, and it’s always an adventure when we go. Never a dull moment. (Laughs)

JM: (Laughs) You’re right, that it is. It is always an adventure. Ok, so needless to say you have a ton of things that you like about running the business. What are your least favorite parts though?

MJ: Alright, two things. I really have to take a lot of time to take inventory pictures and add descriptions. It is time-consuming and requires patience, which is a hard thing for anyone to do for a long period of time. The second thing is I dislike not being able to advertise as much being that the brand is still young, and I would really like to help it grow.

JM: Interesting. So speaking of advertising, how do you advertise the business?

MJ: I do most of my advertising through social media such as Instagram account which is @ctgems and my Facebook account which is CT Gems. I am also working on a business card to start sending out with my orders, and this summer I am hoping to expand a bit by having some tag sales. I will also have a booth at the Church Fair this summer, which I am super excited about!

JM: I am as well as I will be helping you out with that! So considering that you want to expand, what are some of your goals for yourself and for the business?

MJ: I want to be able to have a steady cash flow from the business, where I would have money on a monthly basis. I also just want to keep providing my customers with unique items, at the highest quality I am able to provide.

JM: Well, I hope you reach those goals in the near future. I’m sure you will. Well, we are nearing the end here so I have one last question for you. What would your advice be for any young entrepreneur like yourself?

MJ: I would say make sure you keep track of all your costs. It is very important to try not to lose money through the business. It is also good to have a very strict budget in place. I would also say to advertise as much as you can through social media because you will be able to reach a broad range of customers that way. My final thought is that you should not let anyone tell you that you can or can’t do something. Make your dreams a reality!

JM: Very well put Matt. Well, we have reached the end. It has been nice talking to you. I learned some things that I didn’t know before, and you gave me some great answers!

MJ: My pleasure Jonah! I am really honored to have been able to do this interview. However, I have to run because I actually have some product to deliver to a customer. Thanks again, and don’t forget to check out ctgems on Instagram, Facebook, and eBay!

3 responses to “The Story of a Young Entrepreneur: Matthew Johnson

  1. This article was very interesting, I had no idea Matt was doing all this stuff! I also think the title was great.

    Like

  2. It was really interesting hearing about Matt’s business, especially since I had no clue he even had one! It’s great that he’s running it by himself and clearly knows what he’s doing by now, gaining the skills to create and manage a successful operation. I hope all goes well for him and the business keeps growing!

    Like

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