Student’s business promotes positivity

The 22-year-old budding entrepreneur hopes to inspire and empower others with his “bright side of life” clothing line.

Sarah Connor

Jacob Giebel, who sports long dreadlocks and a laid-back disposition, realizes he may come across as somewhat of a “hippie” at first glance.

But making snap judgments and stereotyping “just isn’t what it’s about,” says the business marketing education senior.

“Negativity is literally everywhere. You can’t get away from it,” Giebel said. “Positivity is something people need to start spreading around more.”

For the past two years, the student has worked to spread his beliefs about the power of a positive mindset across the University of Minnesota community and the nation through his clothing line, Above N’ Beyond.

The message is simple: positivity over everything.

The clothing line originally started as part of a project in his marketing promotions class, but Giebel said it quickly became more about spreading optimism than selling T-shirts and hats.

The clothing line — which currently consists of mostly screen-printed T-shirts, tank tops and snapback hats — is “a way of celebrating his own life and creating a future that he wants for himself and for others,” said Frank Plachecki, Giebel’s former University marketing professor.

Plachecki, who became Giebel’s mentor after Giebel took his course, said he and Giebel have a similar outlook on life and sees a younger version of himself in the 22-year-old student.

During their talks outside of class, the two “talked a lot about waking up every day and finding what’s wrong and looking for opportunities to create a positive energy in the world,” Plachecki said. “And that’s what his clothing line does,” adding that he considers the student a “visionary.”

Spreading the message

Giebel didn’t always have a positive outlook on life.

In his senior year of high school, Giebel said, his life took a dark turn after a series of life-changing events.

“But I had this huge epiphany,” he said. “I just needed to pick myself up. That’s when I started my positive mindset.”

Because of the challenges he has faced, Giebel said he’s able to help fans of his clothes who reach out to him for advice, which has inspired him to keep moving forward with his business.

“I’ve gotten probably 10 to 15 emails — suicidal emails — from people I don’t know who just want to talk,” he said. “Helping people and realizing that I could make a living out of that is when things started to change.”

Since first marketing his clothes to the public in summer 2012, Giebel said, the line’s popularity has ballooned.

The line’s initial release had a small order of about a dozen T-shirts. His most recent order, which he plans to release later this fall, includes 300 to 400 shirts, among an array of other items like beanies and bucket hats.

“It’s really blown up,” he said.

He’s also received clothing orders from more than 15 states, he said, and even a few from Europe.

Along with global customers, pre-teen skateboarders have also reached out to the budding entrepreneur after finding his line on social media.

The young skaters ask him to sponsor them by sending his merchandise, he said, and then Giebel sends them clothes and features their stories on his website.

While his passion has driven the business, Giebel credits a great deal of his line’s success to the support of volunteers who have helped him get its name out to the community.

Dan Loehmann, a 2014 University graphic design graduate, took on the task of branding and marketing the line free of charge.

“Above N’ Beyond for me is about pursuing passions,” he said. “I see the clothing as just a catalyst to start a conversation about pursuing your own passions and focusing on positivity.”

Trenton Kenney, a 19-year-old local photographer, signed on to take photos for the brand after being inspired by Giebel’s outlook.

The three, along with other volunteers, can be seen handing out merchandise around campus events, occasionally giving free clothes to homeless people in Dinkytown.

“His message is very powerful,” Kenney said. “It’s something that people tend to overlook in life and wonder why they’re feeling down in life, when really it’s just a matter of perspective and how you want to look at things.”

With the newest line release, customers will also have the option to donate to a number of charities when completing their purchase.

While Giebel said he wants the brand to keep expanding beyond the state, for now he’s focusing on spreading his message in a world he says is too quick to revert to pessimism.

“It’s all about just doing that one extra step,” he said. “It’s about going above and beyond.”