I was recently asked to tell a bit about my story and the founding of CIKK Apparel for an amazing friend's blog. This is what poured out in an email I sent her:
I have only but thankfully been a Christ-follower for roughly 13 or 14 months but it really feels like I’ve been “saved” by God since before I knew it (predestination?) due to the ways I’ve come to understand and marvel at His intricate work in my life. His detailed plan eventually led to my humble acceptance of this insane gift of grace that has sooo radically wrecked my life in the best way(s) possible. In other words, it 100% feels like and is true that God knew me in the most complex ways long before I came to know Him. Do I look back and wish I would have chosen to follow Him all the sooner? Absolutely, but I feel I’ve been placed in a unique position and can’t help but trust that His timing was and is perfect in every way.
I went to Sunday school when I was in like 2nd/3rd grade and hated it. My sister’s and I’s begging eventually led to my parents giving up on forcing us to go since frankly they didn’t feel a real need for a bland Sunday morning Methodist church service to lead a healthy or successful life either. So, as I grew, my heart’s truest desires very quickly got suppressed by finding fleeting favor in the sight of my peers and adults based on my abilities to perform well above average in athletics and the classroom. And all the while my pride and sense of control over my life grew and grew.
(Side note: I used to pray habitually every night – mainly out of fear – for this God I didn’t really know to keep my family and loved ones free from serious injury or harm. No joke idk why – my mom is a worrier)
Did I have some worldly desires and sinful passions throughout middle school and high school? Uh you bet I did. God’s creation is beautiful and our (my) sinful ability to distort and abuse the things of this world will continue to make us stumble until the day He returns. Luckily (and I say this with a grain of salt) my parents are extremelyyyyy over protective and raised me very well (apart from Christ) which ultimately prevented me from being a complete dropout loser on the outside even though I was as spiritually dead as one can get on the inside. (I got busted for drinking once but that was the only time I even drank)
But then I came to Iowa State and it all instantly changed!! not. I chose a university based on what will perceivably provide the most benefit for me in regards to desired track success and career goals. However, God planted a hard core seed in the form of my freshman year roommate in the dorms. The two of us were eerilyyyyy similar on so many levels but with very different hearts and beliefs. We got along amazingly well and have been extremely close since but there was always this slight cause of friction between us titled “religion”. College was not about religion or Jesus for me in the slightest that entire first year.
I broke up with my gf of three years, went to any and every party I could find, met a new girl on the soccer team and instantly fell back into love…lust for a long time. My track success exceeded anyone’s goals or hopes for me going into college, classes were just as easy as high school for me, and I had a hot girlfriend that was more bad*ss than I was. What more could I want?! My competitive nature was constantly wanting more and more and coming up dissatisfied, yet I figured this dissatisfaction was actually a good thing because it kept pushing me further towards the things I desperately thought embodied a “life well lived”.
It turns out this “dissatisfaction” actually was good because it showed me that there actually was a greater purpose for my life that had nothing to do with worldly achievement. This realization became all too real when God used just one of my idols, my girlfriend, to finally show me how very much NOT in control I was. When she broke up with me out of the blue it hurt me in a pathetic way. It wrecked my pride which I frankly didn’t even know I had ssssooooo much of and seriously forced me to consider the point of this pitiful excuse I called “life”. All along I had been completely blind to the true life that I could only find in the One Man’s name that sounded like nails on a chalkboard to me for 19 years. I cried out and prayed for 3 straight nights and that’s ultimately when I feel like for the first time in my life I knocked and found door wide open (Matthew 7:7). Jesus was never a necessity in my life until that time of serious pain and questioning what I actually believed.
For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that while God was showing me humility, I was also simultaneously being thrust into multiple communities and learning ssssoooo much about my Savior.
This is when life really began for me. The details were as unclear as ever, BUT I now had a freaking purpose – that’s scary.
The more I get what I now call ‘myself’ out of the way, the more truly myself I become. – C.S. Lewwwww
^^ This could not be more true. God has only begun to slowly (and rapidly in some cases) rid me of my disgusting traits and highlight my godly ones. My innate personality is quite the same but the desires of my heart are drastically different.
For example, before I became a Christian, I was always a hard core nerd about money/personal finance. Although my intentions and motives are incredibly different now, my knowledge about all things finance didn’t simply disappear. Now I see the GOOD that my talents can be used for and have a desire to give heavily and wisely God-willing.
Another example? CIKK
Apparel. I’ve had a serious competitive drive and entrepreneurial spirit since before I can remember. However, now that I have the
Spirit I’m no longer afraid to pursue those interests. Early in life, I may have come across as a confident individual but that would have been a very lofty assumption on your part. Whatever confidence I did have was completely false being that it was only based on whatever worldly things I could accomplish on my own (i.e. nothing). Because of this, I don’t believe I ever would have had the balls to actually take some serious risks that are required to build something great. This life is fleeting no matter who you are (or think you are). Now my confidence comes from Christ, which has allowed me to plant seeds and do things I never ever had planned.
(Another example: buying a house this summer – ha – old Derek Jones would have had a real desire to do something wise like that but never followed through because he was so full of fear and had such an attachment to money)
has been an insane blessing to me and hopefully to others as the business continues to grow. The business world may be corrupt in many circumstances but there doesn’t mean there’s not a serious power for good there.
Okayyy but how’d CIKK
start? I’m extremely busy already with FCA/Salt leadership, track, school, etc. but I remember vividly sitting down on my bed one day and being like “hm, I should start a TV season on Netflix” and then instantly rebuking myself because I didn’t feel like God was calling me to mindlessly waste that kind of time (nothing against anyone that watches Netflix – I still do when I can – I’m just telling you my thoughts that particular day). So, this convinced me that I still had time to pursue something I’m passionate about in starting a business and that I didn’t need to wait until after college to do so (which is actually ideal cuz the resources in college are incredible). I started brainstorming a came up with the usual ideas that never seemed super enticing or feasible and then a couple days later I was riding in the car thinking of brand names like Nike, Windex, etc. and sick or cikk was conceived randomly. THEN I thought uhhh well that could stand for Christ Is King of Kings
and I was sold. On top of that, I realized I had a few shirts that I liked to wear over and over and over and over and over again purely because of their quality/fit and very little to do with the design. Thus, I immediately did a tonnnnn of research into how to start an apparel company, began building a website, began telling people about the vision and idea, began talking to suppliers and ordering samples, began researching charities that I felt passionate to give to…and over the process of a couple months or so I was ready to open up shop!! :/
On top of that, people NEED water! Why is that a thing? Almost a billion people can’t take a drink without worrying they are going to get sick and die and I take 3 showers a day sometimes? Come on world. If that isn’t proof for brokenness idk what is. Will I be able to fix it? no, but God will in time and that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t help. I did some in-depth research on different charities after I decided on the water issue. Understandably, it was preferred it be a Christian charity – but more than that one that intentionally spreads the Gospel to those in need as well. Living Water
is that charity. Not only do they take in millions in donations and have gotten extremely effective (from what I can tell) at aiding the world’s water supply, but everything about them screams JESUS is the only thing that will ever quench your thirst. (I may someday wish to take a more hands on approach with third-world countries physically and spiritually in need, but for now let me give my money to this amazing organization please – thanks.)
It started slow…pre-orders were difficult…the shirts were delayed…prayer was needed. but then that first batch of shirts got here and my expectations were surpassed – wow. The orders kinda blew up when people were able to see the quality and that this wasn’t just a fun joke. Fun? yes (most of the time). Joke? nah.
From the beginning I figured: absolute worst case scenario, I will scrap together the money to buy an initial batch of shirts and then spend all Spring/Summer practicing my sales skills and trying to break even. Thanks be to God that has not been the case. I am now completely out of every size of black shirt and only have 20some total of 150 and have barely had to do anything from a marketing standpoint! The people have just been incredible and are what will continue to keep this thing rolling!
Financial support in the form of buying a shirt is one thing, but Linnea I cannot tell you the insane amount of love I’ve felt from so many. Not only are people coming out of the freaking wood work to help in tangible ways (graphic design, advertising, photography, modeling, taxes, logistics, you name it), completely random people & customers are telling me they love what I’m doing and are equally as passionate about the Gospel as I am and blowingggggg. me. away. with words of wisdom and kindness. wow. THAT has been truly truly humbling I can’t even tell you.
I have no doubt that my eternity is forever changed and my spot up there forever reserved; however, I’m still here and discovering how God wants to use me in His new creation and growing kingdom.
I was set up so perfectly for the (false) American dream (lame). That is no longer even on my list of possibilities unless God shows me otherwise. That is something that is difficult to relay to people that care so deeply for my earthly success and comfort. Oh well. I’ll attempt to relay it. Send me, Lord.
-CIKK Apparel CEO/Founder
“He must increase, I must decrease.”
Christ Is King of Kings.
Loved reading your story Derek. God is good! We love you!
Ryan & Marcia
So excited to hear your testimony! You have truly found gold! Favor of God is with you! So great…will be praying for you!