Bailiwick, a clothing company owned by J.C. Smith and his brother Jeff, makes custom designed and DC-themed apparel that empowers and gives back to the community.
Bailiwick which is an old English word combining both the word “bailiff” (a local officer) and “wic” meaning village. In modern terms this word refers to the jurisdiction of a bailiff or sheriff. J.C. and his brother Jeff use this word as mantra pushing the brand’s patrons to the area that is their “bailiwick” i.e. their area of knowledge and authority. In their minds whatever you are good at that is your “bailiwick”. The goal is to embrace your expertise.
J.C. who moved from Cleveland Ohio to D.C. after college has a marketing and business background, however, he never really had the intention to start a family business. “I grew up and my parents were businesses owners,” he said. However, such endeavors never directly were in his purview. J.C. moved to the Capitol Riverfront about 6 years ago because he wanted to be in a better part of DC, a part that he felt was still growing and developing, but as he says “had a neighborhood vibe to it”.
The District of Columbia which was nicknamed “Chocolate City” boasted about, 15,772 black-owned businesses (making up for 28% of all businesses in DC). Among this vast sea of merchants was Bailwick’s owner James Charles (known affectionately as J.C.) Smith, who has lived in the community for about 12 years now.
Recently Smith had a pop-up shop this—past Saturday September 14th celebrating the neighborhood of Petworth. As one of the vendors, Smith, a man who is not a D.C. native, but wholeheartedly supports and gives within this community, interacted with his customer base hearing their questions and even asking some of his own. Smith said, when asked about the idea for the design, “I am self-taught in photoshop and illustrator”. Smith’s brother, Jeff attributes this drive to their grandparents, “they just didn’t take no for an answer,” he said.
Despite the many challenges he fills black business owners face which includes the lack of access to capital and funding, J.C. Smith continues to give back. He frequently speaks at elementary schools and supports Washington Builders (across the DMV), and worked in programming with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.
J.C. expects to expand soon and launch a location. While he has only been in business since January 2015 and has been online since March 2016 there has been tremendous growth. J.C. has found his area of authority and influence—and he is working his bailiwick.