Hajjar has been involved in online retail since 2001, when he was a student at Michigan State University. After trying and failing to get several sites off the ground, he made a go of it with TV Store Online, selling t-shirts that referenced popular shows and movies.
“I was pursuing a job in engineering and doing this on the side, and it ended up doing quite well,” Hajjar says. So well that, after college, he moved into his parents’ basement and set up shop. “They were a little bit disappointed, thinking, ‘How is this going to be your career?'” Hajjar recalls with a laugh.
But just six months later, he was doing enough business that he knew he’d never search for another job in engineering again.
Over the years, TV Store Online earned enough business to start expanding. In 2011, Fred and his brother Mark started a costume-manufacturing arm of the business, selling costumes to major retailers such as Spirit Halloween and Party City. “We really started understanding manufacturing,” Hajjar says.
Then, in 2012, he and his brother Mark noticed some old, ugly Christmas sweaters selling for upwards of $500 on eBay. They bought the domain UglyChristmasSweater.com and, within a few months, designed several sweater styles in time to sell for the holidays.