According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, aspiring entrepreneurs filed paperwork to start 4.3 million businesses in 2020, indeed proving a pandemic entrepreneurship. One of those entrepreneurs is a man by the name of Jared “JT” Thomas. The Dallas-based businessman is one of many that decided to bet on himself during the global pandemic, launching Empire Xclusive, a luxury retail store that is known for having the latest urban streetwear brands from your favorite big name and local streetwear brands.
ONE37pm Speaks with Empire Xclusive Founder Jared Thomas
Joined by his fiance/business partner Brandi Yvonne, the two have set forth to keep building an “empire” by expanding to multiple locations and other business adventures, but it wasn’t always an easy journey. Growing up, Jared battled with homelessness and lived in multiple foster homes, which forced him to quickly understand the importance of social currency in the hopes of creating a better life for himself and others who may have experienced the same type of adversities as him.
Together, Jared and Brandi have combined their passion for fashion and community to build buzz surrounding the Empire Xclusive brand - making it one of the hottest Streetwear brands in the south. Their services include VIP styling and entertainment along with clothes from high-end designers, merch drops, influencer collaborations, and more. The list of brands featured in-store also includes Von Dutch, Home Femme LA, Honor The Gift, and more.
In addition to the three Empire Xclusive stores located across Dallas and Las Vegas, Jared also has plans to open a Boutique Liquor store soon. We sat down with Jared to talk about how he overcame homelessness to now owning several high-end streetwear clothing stores, how to personally ensure your business is pandemic proof, streetwear trends that you should be aware of, and different ways to amp up your wardrobe this summer.
ONE37pm: First of all, we want to congratulate you on all of your business ventures! Let’s talk about your entrepreneurship journey first. How did you start?
Jared: I got into entrepreneurship pretty early. I was homeless my entire life in and out of foster care and rehab facilities with my mom, so it was definitely a journey, but it seemed like everybody that I was able to come into contact with that gave us a helping hand was an entrepreneur. I knew from the way that I grew up being homeless that I didn’t want to go into a workplace that required me to be super professional and there at a certain time every day.
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and be completely free. At fourteen I started my first business that’s actually still running today, which is a detail shop in my hometown Dallas. I started that through an encounter with a gentleman that had a BMW. I asked him what I needed to do to obtain that, and he said I had to figure out how to make my own income. I asked him what he meant, and he said he was an entrepreneur. From then on, I was sold.
ONE37pm: You and your fiance Brandi have a streetwear business together called Empire Xclusive. Could you talk a little more about that?
Jared: Empire Xclusive started in 2018/2019 when I got a space and wound up renovating it. Some things happened with my trucking company, and it pushed me back to 2020. I realized then that I wanted to get back into fashion because that’s always been a passion of mine due to the lack thereof when I was young. I never had the name-brand clothes and shoes, and it was something that I always idolized and paid attention to, so it was a very fulfilling thing for me to chase that passion. I launched in 2019, moving to Dallas later, and it was just a sold-out crowd from day one. We’ve been able to build from there. We set a target, and doors have opened up.
ONE37pm: You are also launching a wine ventures as well, correct?
Jared: Yes! It’s also about getting into industries that are recession-proof with our wine venture Spirits. Covid made me realize things that I never thought about could be taken away.
ONE37pm: We have a lot of inspiring entrepreneurs who are going to be reading this. How do you make your business recession-proof?
Jared: You have to know the market and the industry, and you also have to ensure the relationship that you create with customers is long-lasting. When you create those relationships, it doesn’t matter if it’s a recession or a pandemic, they are definitely going to keep coming back to you. I’m really big on curating and building relationships, alongside my teaching, and showing people that there are a million different ways to chase passions and do things to put you in a position to do things that everybody wants and needs.
ONE37pm: What are some things we can expect? Any trends out there that we should be aware of?
Jared: We now have a name enough to go get some of the bigger brands. Now that I’m able to get those brands, I’m going to be able to get into a bigger market. We’re opening in Vegas this coming June, and we really want to continue getting into those types of markets and breaking down those barriers. We want to be the new guys in the industry that can curate and usher in new trends. We are actually ahead of what’s supposed to be happening because we know fashion. We pick up brands that are going to be the brands of tomorrow, and that is what our motto is.
ONE37pm: What else is in store for you guys?
Jared: Expanding what we already have. We have quite a few expansion cities coming up, and some really interesting offers that I can’t share just yet. We just closed a deal yesterday that is probably going to be our biggest deal yet! Big things are on the way!