As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary this October, it’s humbling to realize just how vulnerable this idea was in the beginning. Buffalo Jackson quite possibly could have just stayed as an idea and a dream.
The business, early on, really struggled. While I had the passion, I did not have the working capital and cash, nor any experience in the clothing or leather goods industry. Up to this point, my wife and I had given our lives to a start-up non-profit I began called Training Ground — an outdoor leadership program with spiritual components based in Colorado. Those were great times, as I got to build a program to help young men grow into adults with one of my best friends, Cory.
This venture demanded a lot. It took every hour of every day to raise funds, serve the young men, and build a program from the ground up. By the time I had this new passion for Buffalo Jackson, we had drained all of our savings into the Training Ground program. As I tried to figure out how we would pay for both our mortgage and launch a new business venture, I saw that it was going to take a 110% commitment. It was clear that if we were to grow the business, we would need to take the financial risk on our own. That meant selling our house and taking the little proceeds we received and reinvest it into the business. There was no golden egg or rescue plan outside of the choice we had to make to proceed or not.
If I was doing this alone, I would’ve been fine. I can go without. But I was including my wife, Jayne, into this… again. She had already taken some pretty big risks and sacrifices allowing me to start a non-profit. And to go and do it again? Let’s be honest, that was asking a lot. On top of that, we were expecting our first child. This is the time when you start thinking about stability, not more risk.
I once heard a talk from a minister, Craig McConnell, in Colorado about decisions. He said if you make a decision that goes against the direction of your spouse—whether it goes well or backfires—it will divide you. You either prove them wrong or they prove you wrong, it’s just a lose-lose situation.
After thinking about Craig’s comments, I felt prompted one night to talk with my wife and unite with her on our future. We had to be together on this or I wouldn’t pursue it.
There was a lot on the line here, and if you ask any man, providing for his family is one of his top priorities. I had to release this dream to my wife, to hear her voice and have her make the final call. I remember the discussion as I laid it all before her — the pros and cons, the realities, the risks, and just an honest picture of the years to come.
We could sell the house and be in a season of major uncertainty, or—if she felt too uncomfortable—I would be willing to get a stable job and take the t-shirts, ties, and hats sitting on plastic shelves in our basement somewhere else.
This was probably the most vulnerable moment for me in the business over the last decade. Nothing in me wanted to look for another job. I loved building on ideas and creating new things, but I knew I had to give her this choice. I could not move forward without us being together.
I remember the moment of pause. Jayne digging into her thoughts, surely thinking about how we’ve spent the last four years. I was curious which decision she would make with our daughter on the way. She thought and thought and paused. Then she said the words that took me back…
“Xan, we moved to Colorado to pursue dreams. We have never had a normal life, why would we now? I trust you with this and the direction.”
It was probably one of the most defining moments of my life. She had every reason to tell me to find a job and take this uncertainty out of our lives. But she did the opposite. She blessed the pursuit and the risk. She trusted me. I was floored.
That was almost ten years ago, and as I look back, I am humbled at my wife’s willingness to risk it all and believe in me, and the dream of this brand. I have always been grateful for Jayne, in that moment—and in many moments since—that she was willing to give her blessing, her trust in me, and ultimately in the path we are on.
I am grateful that what has come to be over the last decade boils down to a marriage that was rooted in commitment and trust, even with plenty of questions, and uncertainty.
Thank you, Jayne.