A little more than a year ago, Xavier Jackson was working in the sales department of a Fortune 500 company and was laid off, leaving him at a crossroads.
Then, Jackson started selling his I Got Game socks out of the trunk of his car, using his first unemployment check as seed funding.
An international business major at the University of Baltimore, Jackson, 25, realized he had a viable product when customers started paying $20 for a pair of socks at a charity weekend event that former Lake Clifton basketball standout Josh Selby held in Baltimore July 27-29, 2012. Jackson officially trademarked the phrase "I Got Game" Jan. 1, 2013.
Speaking of Selby, he's one of a handful of professional athletes who have sported the socks, Jackson said. Among them are several local athletes, including the Ravens' Jacoby Jones, ex-Terrapin and -Raven LaQuan Williams, and former Dunbar High School great and current St. Louis Ram Tavon Austin.
Jackson estimated that I Got Game Brand had sold more than 10,000 pairs of socks, shipping socks to every state in America and six different countries.
The socks start at $15 per pair and can be purchased at IGotGameBrand.com, as well as Shoe City locations throughout the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Norfolk, Va.; and Richmond, Va., areas. Jackson credited his company's early success to what he called "the swagger factor."
"People wear I Got Game socks because they can relate," Jackson said. "It's I. It's me. When you look at Nike and Under Armour, they make a great product, but they don't feed your ego like our product does. We give you that extra it, which separates us from our competitors."
Jackson also acknowledged the role social media had played in his company's growth.
"Social media has really been what's made us huge so fast," Jackson said. "In a year, we've accomplished so much, so quickly because of social media. Right now, we're over 35,000 followers on Instagram, and we started from scratch. We've started a movement."
Although Jackson said he had plans of tapping into other areas of the sports-apparel industry in the near future, he remained adamant about I Got Game Brand's identity.
"We do have plans on expanding the brand, but not until 2014 or 2015," Jackson said. "Right now, we're just focused on socks, because that's the it commodity. We want to expand to other apparel, but when you think of I Got Game, we want you to look back 10 years from and say, 'Wow, those guys made one heck of a sock.' "