Jonathan Koon: Young Jeezy’s International Connect
One glance at his 18-karat gold business card tells you Jonathan Koon isn’t your everyday 27-year-old. Owning apparel factories in China and being a partner in Young Jeezy’s clothing line is proof, as well. He made his first million at the age of 16, selling aftermarket auto parts, but stayed in school, eventually graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in international business and management (with a minor in art). Koon is a consultant, marketing guru, designer and apparel licensee, but, bottom line, he’s a businessman. So listen up when he talks about business, man.
How’d you become Jeezy’s partner in his line, 8732?
It was mutual, because I was inside. I’ve been a part the whole way through. I was already heavily involved with all the marketing, the PR, all the events, dressing artists, making sure people had product. [Jeezy and I] were side by side the whole way through. So when I knew there was an opportunity to get more of that, I jumped at it. [Rocawear, the previous owners of 8732,] built the brand, got it really hot. Jay-Z is a businessman. I bought it from him, and I’m trying to take it to the next level. Jeezy has really matured and flourished as an artist, and we feel it’s prime time now.
That’s a big step, becoming a full partner. What about 8732 made you want to invest in it?
[In fashion,] we like to say, if a brand “has some legs on it.” 8732 has huge legs on it. In 2007, we did 10 million in sales. [And] Jeezy hadn’t put out any music in almost two years. So, at first, it was kind of a generic feel, and what we’ve done to it is create the feeling that reflects Jeezy. It’s what we consider an 8732 culture. It’s more or less the culture of Atlanta, the feeling of the South in general. But there is no Southern fashion powerhouse. Why not? They have a cult following over there. So when you have a true following, it’s going to come. You just have to give the right product.
So, on the other hand, what makes you a good partner? What’s your competitive edge?
I have my own factories in China. I speak Cantonese and Mandarin fluently. I travel the world. A lot of times, we just see what we see in the U.S.—what’s in New York, L.A., Atlanta, Houston. To be more progressive, more competitive, in terms of fashion, you can only look at everyone else so much. You have to really come out of the box.
Being so successful so early, you must have built some strong relationships. How important have those been?
I think success is actually correlated to networking and relationships. In China, it’s one of the main things. We call it guanxi, which is like relationships. And if you don’t have guanxi, then you’re not gonna get your business done. I think I’ve been fairly lucky, because I have a lot of great mentors and have partnered with very powerful people. [I hang] out with 50-year-olds. They’ve been able to pass 30 years of experience over to me almost overnight. And I understand that it’s not just me, so I have to have great teams and great partners.
So your parents reached retirement a couple years ago. When do you think you’ll hang it up?
When I die. I love it too much. —Meaghan Dorman