This Founders' Story interview with Jackelyn Ho and Nick Smith of monopkt. is the perfect example of a brand that grew from solving their own problem. Jackelyn and Nick wanted climbing tees that suited their lifestyle and the way they felt about the sport. Read more about their motivations and inspirations (and checkout the picture of their adorable pup!).
How did you come up with the idea for your brand?
We are the founders of monopkt., a rock climbing and outdoor apparel company.
We have been rock climbers for several years and we’ve always loved the juxtaposition of this really difficult sport and the joy we felt from it. When you’re climbing, it’s scary. You’re far from the ground, slightly terrified of the heights, and as the nervousness kicks in, you’re hanging on and hoping that you trained hard enough to make it to the next hold. Yet, in hindsight, all you can remember is how you overcame a limiting mindset, trusted your strength, and ended on top of a mountain with views more breathtaking than your wildest dreams.
This feeling is like no other.
...And we couldn’t find any fun and lighthearted gear that captured this feeling. We initially wanted to create “punny” tops that we could wear, but decided that maybe more people out there felt what we felt. With sayings like, “Wanna take this outside?” and “Crimpin’ ain’t easy!”, our gear aims to capture the joy of the outdoors and climbing.
In addition, we’ve met so many amazing people from this incredible sport. With our newest line of tees that we hand tie-dyed with so much love, we really want our friends and customers to feel like we are right there with them and cheering them on during every moment of their climbing journey.
Who inspires you as a founder?
Jackelyn: My biggest inspiration is my sister, Cassey. She’s been an entrepreneur her entire life, starting from when we were kids! Watching her fearlessness of turning an idea into a product, a hustle, a business, and a life – that has been so amazing to watch. I feel so lucky to have her in my life to guide me and push me to try new ideas.
Nick: Okay this might sound funny, but my biggest inspiration is Jackelyn. Ever since I met Jackelyn, I have been fueled by her entrepreneurial spirit. We teased about starting a climbing clothing company and I am typically the one that says “yeah that sounds like a great idea” but without her it would never have come to life. She knows how to make the seemingly impossible feel attainable. I just have to watch out because she has a way of also making me feel very confident on those SKETCHY climbs! monopkt. would not be where it is today without Jackelyn and I am truly blessed to have such an awesome business partner, climbing partner and partner in life.
Jackelyn: I’m not crying. You’re crying.
What are you most proud of with your products?
We recently started posting some silly content on TikTok and this has really brought our community together. This sounds crazy, but even though it’s been fun to start this business, what we’ve loved even more is seeing people respond to our little videos and saying that it made them laugh or that they can relate.
At the end of the day, that’s what is important to us: to make people feel like they are not alone. Our goal is to make our customers feel like we understand them. If they can wear one of our tees or look at one of our stickers, we want them to remember that we are right there with them, laughing, crying, and sending right alongside them. If we can bring joy to the people who see or wear monopkt., then our job is done.
On a weekly basis, one thing that brings me the most joy is ______.
Can we only choose one word?!
As much as we love climbing and each other (haha)…. it would probably be our little puppy, Denali the Mountain Pup! We adopted her by chance about 2 years ago and she’s been the best little adventure pup ever. She is also a climber!
Do you employ any local designers/artists for the designs? How do you come up with new ideas?
For the most part, I (Jackelyn) design the shirts and my sister helps when I get stuck in a creative rut! We also have some designs that we worked with part designers-part climbers with, too! As we started, we were very open with who designed our shirts but we learned that most of the ideas came to us when we were out climbing. Although I'm not an artist by trade, I felt like the designs became more authentic when it came from our minds and hearts.
What kind of thought went into the actual tshirts you use?
We wanted to make sure we worked with a good blank shirt company that was aligned with our values. Our shirt manufacturer uses efficient dye machines, which reduces water usage by 24 million gallons a week and any water that is used is also recycled. They pride themselves in “virtually no waste”, where all extra fabric trimmings are recycled into stuffing. In addition, they manufacture their tees in the U.S. and internationally in a no-sweat-shop and humane environment. They also have a W.R.A.P. certification which means that their sustainability practices are up to standard (and beyond!). These little details about our commitment to being kinder to our Earth make us feel happy and we hope our customers feel it, too!
What’s the most important thing people should know about YOU when they buy your products?
We are both climbers. We met climbing, our first date was climbing, and we got engaged right after we went climbing. We’re not professional, but we climb hard (or as hard as we can) and we try to have as much fun as we can doing it. We’re obsessed with the history and the future of this sport and we want to create a community that loves it as much as we do.
When you support us, you’re supporting a local LA couple whose intentions are to bring a little more joy into your life. We hope that you can feel the love from your corner of the world!
Anything else we should know about starting up a clothing business?
It's a lot of work, but it's so rewarding! I own another business, Sweat Experience, where I bring fitness experiences to workplaces and events. Having a service company turned out to be very different from a products and goods company. We had to learn a lot of things on the fly, like sales tax, shipping, packaging, and so much more. It's been the best journey ever and it's helped us hone in some really great new skills!