Being young, single and “out there” can sometimes leave a mark. In the New York Metropolitan area, an approach on the opposite sex might even scar the tissue. “We’re not Suzy Homemakers, we have a little kick,” says 24 year old Jillian Kelleher of the make up of northeastern women. Still, witty, intelligence should not be confused for sarcastic, indifference and demonstrates the line that separates a wise-ass from a jack-ass. Making the distinction between donkey and mule, provided her and like minded friend Eliza Kane the inspiration for a line of T-shirts that exudes confidence, attitude and approachability.
Wise-ass apparel was born on the roof of a Manhattan apartment building several years ago by these two young Westchester born entrepreneurs. Just kicking back with a few friends and trying to get a leg up on each other, Ms. Kelleher exhibited a little of that succinct spunk among some friendly banter and the New York City skyline. “I said, ‘all right prove it,'” she recalls the consummating part of the conversation. It sounded like a T-shirt, and today, after digesting what sounded like a good idea, it is
“We actually followed through,” says the Briarcliff resident. Now, “it’s not me, it’s you,” and “count it” join “prove it” for the women, while “Mantastic,” Alpha” and “I’ll Eat Your Carbs,” subsists for young men.
After her obvious affinity for the blunt retort that began wise-ass, she prefers being noticed in a T-shirt that boasts, “cougar in training.” Referring to women who date younger men, she knows the irony will get the attention of people…men who appreciate the edgy defiance of a wise-ass like herself and those willing to wear the colors.
“It’s saying we’re not there yet, but maybe we’re working at it,” says the Manhattan based Public Relations executive. But work is what wise-ass apparel avoids, as the attention getting nature of its introduction does the heavy lifting when it comes to meeting others. In fact, by definition, according to their website, a wise-ass avoids strangers by introducing themselves.
So a girls who gets it should get a chuckle and maybe the initiative to strike up a conversation with a wise-guy who’s T-shirt speaks an opening line like, “I don’t chase ’em, I replace ’em.” From the other side, a young man wise beyond the age of his backside, should eagerly approach a woman wearing the disclaimer, “it’s not me, it’s you.” Conversely, a jack-ass pretends the joke doesn’t apply to him and spills his drink on the bar before wondering why every Saturday night ends the same way.
Of course, owning Wise-ass goes even further – by design – toward perfecting the meeting of strangers. “That’s half the fun of it,” she says of photo shoots in L.A, where Ms. Kane now lives, and parties at Manhattan hot spots. That would be event marketing to those too “jack” to trace it back to business school but Ms. Kelleher and Ms. Kane have the wisdom to recognize how priceless learning is when the lesson comes out of real life as opposed to a textbook.
Finding a manufacturer, learning e-commerce and setting up a LLC, she says, “We are still learning.” That currently cushions the reality of just getting by right out of college and selling enough T-shirts to help pay the food bill. “We’re passionate about it but both of us have our lives,” she says.
In doing so, they like the idea of sharing a sense of themselves through a product that speaks a message that’s worth repeating. “Our motto is laugh a little more, live a little better. We stick by that,” she concludes.
Rich Monetti interview of Jillian Kelleher