Entrepreneur David Jefferson
“Black History Month should be every month”, says entrepreneur David Jefferson, and the way he defines it defines his own life, “to understand where you come from and where you’re going, and don’t let anyone else define you.
Jefferson is living proof that your past doesn’t need to define you. The owner of clothing store Stackin’ Kickz, he recently moved his store from NE 33rd and Sandy to the Lloyd Center Mall where he not only sells “sneaker culture and street wear apparel,” but lifts up others as well with weekly inspirational meetings at the store for middle school boys, soon to be expanded to girls as well.
He grew up in North Portland and didn’t have the best childhood and got into trouble in his youth, Jefferson said. He thought his record would be a thing of the past when he graduated from the University of Oregon in political science, but soon found out that was not the case.
“When I graduated from college I thought that would wash things away, but that’s not what happened,” he said. “I got fired from my first job before I even started because of my record.”
That experience led Jefferson to not trust the system but at the same time inspired the belief that he would not do anything that he didn’t believe in. He had already amassed a big collection of sneakers and loved clothes, so that became his passion and eventually, his livelihood.
“So I started selling things out of my trunk,” he said. He didn’t work in a shoe or clothing store, but instead ordered items off the Internet that weren’t readily available here in Portland.
“My goal was to get things no one else had. I love clothes and love creating outfits, and I became spiritual about the same time,” he said. “Whatever I do, my main goal is to make sure I don’t do something I don’t love, so I settled on shoes and clothes because that’s what I loved.”
Jefferson eventually opened his store at NE 33rd Avenue and Sandy Blvd., but for safety issues and because of slow foot traffic, about a month ago he moved to the Lloyd Center. His 1,500 square foot store is on the second level next to Joe Brown’s Caramel Corn, which a childhood friend bought a few years ago. He also sells online through his website stackinkickz.com.
His success comes from hard work and belief in himself, he said. “I didn’t wait for things to happen, like loans or help, I just put all my energy into it and after a while the universe had to respond to it.”
Jefferson passes on his belief in self-help through talking with students and local schools and inmates at area prisons where explains his philosophy. He also has a podcast and radio show.
“I go around a problem and expand it,” he said. “I don’t let society define me, I defined myself and I call that the definition of success. Having a strong mind is the most important thing, and once that’s done, there’s nothing you can’t really do.”
Jefferson said he brings middle school kids to the store because that’s the age when a person starts to define who they will be.
“I bring them in the store so they can see the inspiration about what I’m teaching them, and how important individually it has done for me,” he said. “In the store they can see this is real. It’s teaching as someone doing things in his life right now, and you can see it. It gives me leverage so they can really understand.
Jefferson came up with the name Stackin’ Kickz because when you have a lot of sneakers, you have to stack them up, just like poker chips.
Jefferson said his customer base covers a wide range, from 12 months to 70 years.
“I believe it’s because of all the aspects of it,” he said. “I’m not just trying to sell clothes, but I also support community events and I want to move everybody forward. I want people to find out who they are, the light they envision.”