When I began college at A&M in 2001 I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t passionate about anything specific, which wasn’t too concerning as a freshman. When I was a 5th year senior, I became a bit concerned. As a finance major, I would walk around the career fairs trying to find a company that I was interested in. Not a single company remotely interested me. I wondered if I would grow out of the phase of refusing the idea of an 8-to-5 job. I still had no idea what I wanted to do, but I loved traveling, international business, challenges, and learning about new cultures.
It was my 5th year, it was Christmas break, and I still had no jobs in mind. My roommate finally convinced me to go to Beijing, China and do manual labor on the U.S. embassy. If you had told me in high school that I would live overseas or even go overseas in college, I would have laughed. My experiences at A&M led me to a study abroad trip to Italy and internships in Singapore and El Salvador. I definitely developed a passion for traveling and living overseas, so going to China seemed exciting. Plus, it would give me more time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
Drew Jones (third from left) went to China with no definite plans, but by the time he left he had his own business selling custom-made suits.
I made the move to China in August 2006. My roommate, Jim Carlson, and I were out to accomplish the same thing; be adventurous, live overseas, and try to figure out what we wanted to do with our lives. I attained my goal much quicker than I anticipated. After six weeks of living in Beijing I met the woman I would eventually marry. I worked at the embassy for nine months, then started a business selling custom-made suits. I lived in Beijing for eight more months to establish this business before moving back to the states to begin marketing. Manual labor can be fun, but my brain must also be stimulated.
During breaks at the embassy I would write down ideas for my business. After the embassy job I committed to this idea full time. I trained with local tailors on how to take measurements. I started testing my business idea by taking measurements of embassy employees, having them choose from my fabric swatches, getting their suits made, then delivering it to them personally. I began doing this for almost nothing to see if the idea would work. And sure enough, after training to take measurements and some trial and error, I had some very pleased customers.
I knew I would need higher quality suits than what I was producing through a local market geared for expatriates. That’s when I began traveling around China with my Chinese business partner to visit different tailors and factories, and to do research on quality fabrics for my suits. My business partner had limited English capabilities, and no one else I was dealing with spoke any English. I had been learning Mandarin Chinese, which was extremely useful, but I would often revert to hand motions and occasionally made the mistake of talking extremely loud thinking they would suddenly understand me.
After traveling around China for 10 days, I had found the contacts and knowledge necessary to begin a business making and selling custom-made suits. I returned to Beijing and began making my new suits for the expatriate community. My goal when establishing this business was to be able to sell custom-made suits in the U.S. to college students and young professionals for an affordable price. I returned to the U.S. on Christmas Eve 2007 to begin marketing DJones Tailored Collection.
My priorities in college were always people, being involved in various organizations, and taking advantage of overseas opportunities in the summer. I always knew that I would end up doing something different, I just didn’t know what it was. I am so thankful for my experiences at Texas A&M which transformed me to become who I am now. I would have never thought that my experiences in China would lead me to where I am today.
For more information on Jones’ business, visit www.djonescollection.com.