It was the year 2000 when Greg Selkoe started a street-wear clothing website called Karmaloop from his parents’ basement, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Thirteen years later, the once-fledgling company has become a retail powerhouse with several clothing labels to its name, and even has an online video channel called Karmaloop TV. All of it is built around what Selkoe calls the “Verge” culture, which encompasses “the multiracial, global, and tech savvy alpha-consumers made up from the first generation to grow up with the Internet.” Here Selkoe discusses how he is working to make Boston a hub of innovation.
My parents were always involved in helping the community. My mother was a city planner and my dad is a scientist researching the cure for Alzheimer’s, so being involved in charities and giving back to the community is something that runs in the family. I really want to make Boston a more desirable place to live so it has the opportunity to compete with other major cities considered meccas of innovation. I want to keep the young talent in Boston, which is part of the reason I started Future Boston Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving creativity and entrepreneurialism in Boston
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, but I had a vision and came to the realization that there was a niche that had to be filled. I knew I was on to something, and once I recognized the need that had to be filled, I gave it my all.
Early on it was pretty touch and go. We were scraping by and so many people told us to give up, but I wanted to keep moving forward. In the early days, there were some tough times when I couldn’t pay the bills, and there were concerns it would all fall apart, but I believed in the concept. We were very small and have grown tremendously in the last few years. It can sometimes be overwhelming because I want to be involved in every department, but I’m learning how to hand things over to the over 200 employees we have in Boston.
I experienced success at a young age, and though I was definitely ready for success and am very proud of how successful Karmaloop has become, I’m still shocked by the success we’ve experienced. I feel like we’re definitely in the spotlight, but I don’t feel too much pressure because I don’t have the time to. I’m too busy running Karmaloop.
When it comes to building a brand, a business, and marketing around the Verge culture, a demographic that’s continuously evolving, you have to keep up with the times. You have to stay on top of what’s going on in the culture in terms of art, music, and fashion. Most of our employees are young people that live and breathe the culture—and that helps a lot.
Branching out and taking a multifaced approach to the business isn’t something I think is specific to my generation. We focus on more than street wear; we encompass everything that’s involved in the Verge culture because it makes sense. The Verge culture is the term coined for the first generation to grow up on the Internet. They are multicultured, tech savvy, and fashionably independent—and so are we.