Why Life is Good

By Stacey Soble | 03/31/2011 10:38:51 AM


Bert Jacobs, co-founder and chief executive optimist for Life is Good, plays with the audience at Matrix's Imagination 2011 event. CLICK HERE to hear an inspiring podcast with Bert.
When my daughter Rachel had her Bat Mitzvah a few years back, our party planner pushed us to come up with a theme. Rachel quickly rejected ideas the planner’s ideas of a disco, sports or 60s theme. Perplexed, we went to lunch with some friends. Filling them in on our quandary, the other mom looked at Rachel in her colorful T-shirt, and kiddingly suggested, “What about a ‘Life is Good’ theme? She’s a glass-always-full-kind-of girl.”

We embraced the idea wholeheartedly. The resulting party featured a DJ and dancers decked out like camp counselors in Life is Good T-shirts and hats, posters featuring Jake and his loyal dog buddy Rocket and some of their upbeat slogans, Life is Good beach balls and frisbees and a candy station housed in a canoe.

Now you can understand my excitement when I found out that Life is Good Co-Founder and Chief Executive Optimist Bert Jacobs was the keynote speaker at Matrix’s Imagination 2011 event earlier this year. And, why I was even more elated when he agreed to do a podcast for salontoday.com.

Fueled by PB&J

Jacobs’ story about how he and his brother John lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while they hocked their T-shirts out of the back of their van at college campuses the first several years was pure gold. “We didn’t intend to enter the clothing business, we were more about our message and our simple artwork,” he said. “We felt there was room in our culture for a positive message.”

After about five years of selling their T-shirt on the streets of Boston and in college dormitories along the East Coast, Bert’s brother first drew the character Jake on a wall of their apartment during a keg party, and the young men decided to slap him on a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Life is Good.’

“We were immediately drawn to the message, and we knew we were onto something when we tried to sell the first T-shirts. We found they appealed to a wide variety of people—one guy jumped off his Harley and bought one, a skateboarding punk kid bought another, then a passing schoolteacher picked one up.” At the time, the Jacobs brothers had $78 between them. Today, the Life is Good company has annual sales over $100 million.

But Jacobs says he wasn’t entirely surprised by the success. “We had big dreams and big thoughts and lots of ‘What If’ conversations over the years,” he says. “While we didn’t quite imagine all this, we talked about things like this. If you don’t talk about them, you won’t achieve them.”

A Life is Good T-shirt and book created specifically for the Matrix Imagination 2011 event.
Stand for Something

Today, Jacobs advises companies to be authentic and to have a bigger purpose than just a market- or product-point of difference. “From the beginning, our customers took ownership over Life is Good—they talk about the world and how to make it a better place, and they spread a message of positivity,” he says. “Treat your customers like a friend, find something interesting and make it about them. If you’re authentically trying to do something good, they’ll help you.”

That’s exactly what is happening in salons around the country. For many clients, the appointment is about much more than a great haircut or a gray-covering color service—it’s about her relationship with her stylist and the experience of her visit. And, for salon owners and stylists, it’s about creating a bit beauty in their own corner of the world.

"Our slogan doesn't say 'Life is Easy.' It doesn't even say 'Life is Great.' It says 'Life is Good' with a period. It's the people who face the most adversity who never take life for granted," says Bert Jacobs. CLICK HERE to listen to my podcast with Bert and find out who inspired this quote and what Bert was surprised to learn about hairdressers at Matrix's Imagination 2011 event.






Stacey Soble Stacey Soble, Editor in Chief of Salon Today

Stacey has been involved in the conversation of salon business for 14 years—as a reporter, a consultant and as the Editor in Chief of SALON TODAY.

Read Stacey Soble's Blogs You can e-mail Stacey at ssobley@vancepublishing.com.


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