By Kiley Krzyzek
JC Special T, LLC. sells customized promotional products out of their office in CCSU’s Institute of Technology & Business Development (ITBD) building in downtown New Britain, which also houses many other start-up companies.
The incubator program helps start up businesses get off the ground through training programs and by situating businesses in a professional environment. Training programs include technical, computer, business/advisory, soft skills, ISO-Quality and lean enterprise. The ITBD building is also shared with assorted university classes.
Jack Crowley graduated from Central’s Marketing program in 1983. He left his job after the company he was working for–Allied Office Products–was bought out by Office Depot partly because they wanted everyone to work from home. But Crowley and partner Tara Drost had other plans.
“My partner and I worked together in a previous company, it was so corporate and so big it got ridiculous. They were shutting down offices, we were going to work out of our houses and we wanted to work our own hours so we decided to start our own business seven years ago. Tara’s a phenomenal office manager,” said Crowley.
They started JC Special T, LLC. and came to the ITBD Business Incubator program per recommendation of Crowley’s brother-in-law. Coincidentally, Richard Mullins who runs ITBD, used to play little league with Crowley back in the day.
“I knew about this place because my brother in law started his business down the hall and he since moved to Bristol but he was like ‘you gotta go check this place out’ we looked all over the place and we realized this is a great place,” said Crowley.
Crowley does not plan on leaving any time soon and has immersed himself in the CCSU community.
” I love it. You’re supposed to be out of here in five years but they like us, we do a lot of work with Central so it’s really going to be like ten. We’re not really an incubator anymore. We do work with the bookstore, they sell some of the CCSU merchandise not all of it, but there’s probably four or five different things from us. Today we did work with CACE, they ordered these mints they’re going to give out look like business cards but they’re mints and we’re going to do trade show bags,” said Crowley of business with Central clients.
JC Special T caters to those looking to advertise through branded products. The choices range from clothing to car and computer accessories and more. The products price range peaks at a $7,600 Ladies Watch to an 11 cent pen.
“We do, in a nut shell, anything with a company logo. That could be a T-shirt, it could be a golf ball, a hat, a mug. Pens, pencils you name it. We do a lot of tote bags a lot of people are into the environmental shopping bags we do a lot of those,” said Crowley.
Even though Crowley lives close to the ITBD building, he prefers to work in an official office setting.
“I could work from home, I live right over there, but it’s so much better here,” said Crowley.
Crowley emphasized the importance of learning in a professional environment, but attributes his time at Central to getting him to where he is today.
“What I learned at Central is my people skills, I learned not to be afraid. But what you learn in the textbook, when you get out here it’s real. So they tell you everything but they don’t really make you understand. You know if I don’t make enough money, I could lose my business. They’ll tell you that you need a line of credit but what does that really mean?” said Crowley.
Those people skills have helped Crowley develop a loyal following of clientele who came with him when he made the move to his own company.
“I had an advantage because I had a network of clients who came with me. In my world you become friends with them. So what I do for a living, it’s a lot of fun stuff. I had a built-in, set clientele. We were ahead of the curve, when you start a business from scratch and you have to go out and find the customers that’s very difficult. But again, we didn’t have to go through that,” said Crowley.
To an outsider, JC Special T simply sells customized products, but Crowley believes it goes beyond that.
“We tell people we sell products, we sell pens; what we really sell is a method of advertising. We try to accomplish ‘who do you want to get your name in front of, and what do you want to spend.’ A lot of people go to a trade show and say ‘oh I want a thousand pens because everyone really gives out pens at a trade show’ and no one really looks at them. They walk by they take the pen and they keep going. So maybe it’s something more expensive than a pen, but you only give it to people that are real prospects. Somebody stops at your booth and you sell insurance, and they’re looking for insurance, you bring them by your booth and give them a five dollar water bottle. They remember that more than a pen,” said Crowley.
As a business school alumnus, Crowley offers advice to current students.
“My suggestion to anyone who wants to work in that business is to go work for somebody in that business and learn it. Just work for them, you know you want to work for an office supply company go work for an office supply company. Learn the ins and outs of a business. That’s what I would highly recommend. The reason so many businesses fail is because people think that it’s easy. Go learn the business and learn the ins and outs and learn the purchasing aspects, and the financing aspects, that stuffs very important,” said Crowley.
Crowley is very happy working at JC Special T, LLC. within the ITBD building.
“Every single day is different so I love it. It’s really like a family here,” said Crowley.