How Jordan Roschwalb Went from Corporate Gig to Pushing Pins
PINTRILL’s founder on why you should quit your job, Instagram and the ultimate “fuck you.”
Welcome to Social Studies, a new Coveteur series where we investigate favorite social media finds IRL.
It’s every twenty and thirty-something’s dream: you quit the trappings of corporate life (a seemingly sweet gig at Mercedes) to do something entirely niche, entirely your own (that would be slingin’ pins) that actually ends up being wildly successful. And while we know it sounds like the plot of a 60%-on-Rotten-Tomatoes romantic comedy, it’s actually the yes-that-really-happened story of PINTRILL—a Brooklyn-based pin company that recently opened up retail digs in Williamsburg.
You’ve probably stumbled across PT’s offerings—crying Drake faces, “it’s lit” matches, Baron Von Fancy maxims, emojis—on Instagram, and co-founder Jordan Roschwalb is the first to acknowledge that. “That’s the way everything works,” he explains of the brand’s speedy rise to the top of the exploding maker community (the focus of a recent, very public design dispute). While PINTRIL is just the tip of the iceberg (seriously, it’s a social media shopping K-hole that requires vast discipline to emerge from with funds intact), there’s no denying they’re leading the way for indie pin brands. Here’s how they got there.
How he first up & left corporate life:
“I was working at Mercedes-Benz. It just wasn’t working out, and I had to move on. The day [after leaving], I went to California and drove back after that trip—it was the first time I’d ever driven across the country, and it just put things into perspective. While I was there, I was talking to a friend, and I told him that he should start a pin company, but he was like, ‘no, maybe you should do it.’”
That straw that broke the camel’s back (& lead to entrepreneurship) moment:
“At the time, I was in Florida and I had a phone interview with [a tech company]. The whole thing just came apart because the service was so terrible where I was. It didn’t work out and I was like, ‘what the fuck? I’m so much better than this, I can’t believe I’m letting people demean me.’ I know I’m qualified and I know that I can do anything if I really set my mind to it. I know I’m qualified and I know that I can do anything if I really set my mind to it. I already had put the pins in production, and it was going forward, so I was like, ‘okay let me just do this’. I lived on whatever I had saved to make this a full-time thing.
It took a while; I had to move out of my apartment, I had to get an office for the store, I moved in with my girlfriend who had a tiny studio in the East Village. But it would be worse to have to go to work for somebody, and get treated like shit, you know?”
Why he throws conventions to the wind:
“I don’t have a college degree, so that was a ‘qualification’ that I was missing. I thought I had all this work experience, which I did, but for some reason it was never enough. The truth is that what we lack in work experience or working knowledge, we gain in actual life experience.”
On feeling the fear & doing it any way:
“To say, ‘alright you’ve been doing this for five years,’ that's substance. We’re sitting in our store, we’ve built something, we have something to show for it, so we’re on the right track. There were times that I didn’t know if we were doing the right thing, or if it was absolutely the wrong thing, but now I can say, ‘alright, even the mistakes that we made got us here, so we did something right.’ It’s just a like a, ‘fuck you. I’m not qualified? That’s cool, but I did this.’”
The best part of running your own company:
“Being able to really provide. I’ve come into this full-time and I can do this full-time. My friend’s a lawyer in Florida, and he’s our attorney. Being able to work with my friends and make sure that he’s taken care of, that’s wealth for me. This is becoming a platform for us to effect change, so that’s the most amazing part. I never thought I’d have a platform for that. You see all these people that are on Instagram with literally tens of thousands of followers who don’t speak out; and it’s crazy. It’s important, and that’s really what I want.”
Social media’s impact on the design process:
“When people ask me what the design process is like, I say I could walk around and think of five ideas, you know? I’ll get turned on by this, or it’ll spark that. But [social media] is this huge faucet of images that are pouring out all the time, so it's hard not to let it influence you. I’m sure that the people that have reached out to us have seen us on Instagram. Not because our following is so big, but just because that’s the way everything works.”
What’s next for PINTRILL:
“I’m looking at our Japanese market, and looking for expansion. That’s really the next big thing. Getting through the holiday this year; we have no idea how that shit’s gonna go. Last year was insane, so building the infrastructure for that, and making the process better for the customer, so that as we grow we don’t run into issues that other companies have and upset [our customer].
You see all these people that are on Instagram with literally tens of thousands of followers and like, don’t speak out [about issues]. It’s crazy. And then there are obviously people that are on the complete opposite side. If you look at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Instagram all he does is speak out about change, it’s crazy. I think it’s such an important thing to be able to do that with a fully branded Instagram. That’s the best part [of this business], and that’s making me feel good. Just being able to effect change, that’s really what I want.”