In 1994, brothers John and Bert Jacobs were hawking their T-shirt designs on college campuses and sleeping in their van when John, now 37, scrawled the beret-wearing smiley face, Jake, on a wall. When 48 T-shirts featuring Jake and the phrase Life is Good sold at a street fair in a matter of hours, they knew they had something great.
In the retail market, Jake's positive message reso-nated with merchants, who couldn't keep him on the shelves. Soon, the Boston business was fielding orders nationwide, catapulting Life is Good to more than $40 million in 2005 sales. Beyond a few trade shows and industry ads, word-of-mouth has been their sole marketing method. In 2002, the company also created a charitable division to stage fundraisers for children's charities and spread the good word.
"'Life is good' is the way we feel about the world," says Bert, 40. "Our customers feel that way, too."