This and other features stories appeared in the “Pride & Promise” section in Tuesday’s Hollister Free Lance. Pick up a copy today.
For the past year, Hollister resident Todd Sondgroth has waited for the right time to start his web-based apparel business, which strives to inspire readers and customers while helping to feed hungry people all over the world.
Sondgroth recently talked about the self-revelations that led to the “You Should Quit” brand, based at youshouldquit.com. Launched in February, the business name is meant to conjure self-reflection from customers or readers of his site – which carries an inspirational theme – and encourage them to, according to the website, “RISE UP, defy the odds, challenge traditional thinking, fight for your dreams, love harder, open doors, pull out chairs, stop to smell the roses, treat others as you wish to be treated, and DARE to live the life of your dreams.”
Ultimately, the business is centered on more than words and calls to action. You Should Quit – a reminder for Sondgroth of what he called a “dark, dark time” for him not long ago – is a way for customers to buy any of the 50-plus products and donate to causes that assist the needy. To emphasize the impact, and personalize the charity, the business tells people how many children are fed with each purchase.
As Sondgroth said, people are usually amazed when they find out, for instance, that buying a $25.95 hat can feed 100 people – or 25 people for a $24.95 T-shirt, or 10 for a $12.95 bracelet.
He said the business is “all about helping others.”
“I tell people all the time, it’s apparel with a purpose,” said Sondgroth, who has done almost all the design for the company and does all of the marketing as well.
The realization of his life
He found that purpose after going through some difficult times a little more than a year ago. Sondgroth said from the age of 17 through 21, his life was “all about money.” While attending San Jose State University for business, he recalled waking up at 5:30 a.m. and trading on the stock market, a habit Sondgroth rode to profitable investments. While he was “greedy” at the time, as he said, he had grown his earnings to around $60,000.
He had been preparing to buy an expensive car and purchase a home, and happened to back out of those ideas. Then one morning, he lost about $37,000 before also losing his job.
That is how he came onto the idea for the slogan and business. He notes on his website that he had looked in the mirror and told himself he should quit.
“That right there was enough,” Sondgroth said in the interview for this story.
After allowing himself to come to the right place mentally, Sondgroth started the brand-based company – he also has a trademark for the “Ms. Amazing” line he sells as a motivational tool to empower women – in early February of this year.
“Basically, I just decided to go 150 percent on it,” said Sondgroth, who also works at Ridgemark Golf & Country Club just outside of Hollister.
The You Should Quit business continues to expand its offerings, while Sondgroth has a goal of feeding 100,000 people annually. He stressed that the purchases go a long way, considering that 20,000 children die of starvation every day.
His motives now are a long way from just two years ago, when he said he would try to “squeeze every bit of profit” from people. Now, he said, he is “happiest when he is helping others.”
“One of the big things I always say is, ‘Be the change,’” he said.
The online journal
Sondgroth continually strives to spread his message and does so daily on his website, particularly in the blog journal section. He called it his favorite part of the website – and referenced the recent activism surrounding wanted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony – and said he wants to inspire others to take on such efforts as well. Sondgroth has a goal of eventually getting to Africa to do work there, he said.
“My hope is that it’s a daily type of thing (for readers),” he said.
On the blog, he said, there is something for all ages. He pointed to one in particular that struck a chord with readers titled, “Letter to My Future Son,” which he called his “favorite journal yet” on the site.
In it he writes: “Your daddy loves you and will have your back until the day I die. After that, I will live through you. I will be a part of you every single day. I’ll be right next to you in every picture taken. I’ll be that little voice that urges you to continue to push forward. I’ll be that reminder to live life. Other than that, you got it.”
Sondgroth hopes to continue spreading his positive messages. He plans to do so at a May 19 event at The Vault restaurant in downtown Hollister. While the time of the event is unclear, he expects to involve motivational speaking and party, along with a display of his products. He hopes to get the attention of younger people with his message.
“I want to inspire that generation of people to think in a different way,” he said.