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Technically speaking, JBW is just about 14 years old. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that the concept has been brewing for three generations.
Our founders, Amir and Shabeena Meghani, were far from the first in their family to break into the watch business. Their endeavors wouldn’t have been possible without their father, Akber, bringing the family from Pakistan to Texas in the ‘90s with a dream of opening a watch shop with his brother-in-law.
And that wouldn’t have happened if Akber’s father, Abdulali Meghani hadn’t taken a chance when a man offered him a side hustle selling watch straps in Bombay, India in 1952. That side hustle turned into a thriving business, which turned into a watch shop in Dubai, where Akber learned the ropes, built a successful career as a distributor for Casio, and consequently left it for the American dream.
Much of fatherhood, it seems, is about taking these kinds of calculated risks to move your family forward. So when Amir, at 22-years-old, decided to abandon his post-grad job offer to work full time at his father’s shop on Harry Hines in Dallas, Texas, he may not have realized where the decision would take him – but he had a feeling it was the natural next step.
“I think it has something to do with entrepreneurship and my family. From my grandfather taking a chance on selling watch bands, then moving the family from India to Dubai, and then raising a family that's all the way in Pakistan. It was always about providing a better opportunity for the family,” says Amir. “Then with my dad, it was the same thing. They were doing well, but he thought, ‘No, we can do even better.’ I think that whole instinctual thing inside of my family started with my grandfather, my dad. I almost feel like that took over me in that moment – take the risk.”
Naturally, Amir didn’t exactly plan to follow in his father’s footsteps. Growing up, working the watch shop on Harry Hines was just part of daily life. The whole family would spend time there after school or on Saturdays, sharing lunch or having tea together.
Once Amir was in college, he started working more closely with his father during the summers. While Akber didn’t suspect his son would take over the family business, he still kept him by his side at work. Amir observed his dad selling watches, noticing that he overeducated the customers while Amir was around so that he’d learn something, too.
“It was never like, ‘This is your thing,’ because it was him, and his brother, and brother-in-law, so it never felt like it belonged to one person. None of the kids felt like it was theirs to take…it was never a thing that we were going to come back and join the family business. It was more of a means to get us into America and get an education. Then from there, it's up to you to figure it out,” says Amir.
When Amir did graduate college, though, Akber was just getting a new watch shop of his own off the ground. Amir made the decision to pivot his post-grad plans and join the family business, and Akber was immediately supportive.
“His reaction was, ‘Cool, let’s get to work.’ There was no, ‘Let's celebrate,’ and he wasn’t worried at all either. It was, ‘I have another person, another two hands, two legs, and a brain to work for me.’ We just got to work. Probably the next week he had me traveling somewhere. There were constant discussions of what we’re doing next,” he says.
Akber’s forward-thinking mindset is what allowed JBW to be born when, a few years later, Amir and his sister, Shabeena, came up with the idea to start their own brand. They say their dad was as open minded as he could be considering he just started his own business and his kids proposed changing the entire business model. He not only entertained the ideas they brought to the table, he made sure that they followed through. Amir says that not being met with too much resistance is what helped himself and Shabeena take advantage of the opportunity that their family had created.
“My dad is the ultimate risk taker – a calculated risk taker, but he believes in experimentation. He believes failure is okay. You just won't know if you don’t try, and I think that has helped push things forward,” says Amir.
To this day, Amir says that his father is his most trusted advisor and the first call he makes when he needs a second opinion.
“My dad is the ultimate risk taker – a calculated risk taker, but he believes in experimentation. He believes failure is okay. You just won't know if you don’t try, and I think that has helped push things forward.”
“It doesn't feel like I'm asking for a favor, it almost feels like this should be the first step,” he says. “I think having that confidence, that’s the person who cares so much about your well being and your future, you know you're gonna get the right guidance.”
Now that Amir himself is a father, he’s applied many of the lessons Akber has taught him to raising his own children. He tries to be carefree like his father was, and to encourage his children’s curiosity and creativity.
“With my son and my daughter, I'm behind them getting involved in all different types of activities. Experimenting, and then always seeking out the best,” he says. “Investing the time and money into those fundamental things that help develop the child. I think I learned that from my dad, and it's something I've immediately utilized.
Even though I feel like I'm seeking out even better things than he sought out for us, I think it's more about means and access. We have more access now to information into a network that can help me progress my kids further than my parents brought me.”
In the end, we all want to honor the risks the generations before us took by taking future generations even further. Cheers to all the rocks who’ve gotten us this far.