American Furniture’s Jake Jabs presents to RRCC

More information: Kimberly Rein, 303-914-6260

November 29, 2015

American Furniture’s Jake Jabs presents to Red Rocks Community College
Entrepreneur inspires students with formula for business success

LAKEWOOD, CO – The Red Rocks Community College business program continued their hands-on, real-world learning approach last month by inviting entrepreneur Jake Jabs to the college to speak to students and enhance their studies of entrepreneurship and business.

The legendary furniture store owner shared his entrepreneurial tips with the audience of enthusiastic Red Rocks business students, driving home important lessons learned about starting, building, and maintaining a successful business. The message and points delivered by Jabs reinforced the current business coursework that the students are studying at the college: business strategy, integrity, negotiation, and creating a successful business model based on quality products and excellent customer service.

Jake Jabs started his story with his modest upbringing in rural Montana. After earning a degree in education and serving in the military, Jabs--who admits he knew nothing about business but loved playing guitar--opened a music store. Although he had a successful business, Jabs realized his first valuable business lesson: Find a need and fill it. As much as he loved music, he discovered there was a much greater need for affordable, quality furniture and opened his first furniture store. Buying in volume and always paying cash are other business principles that Jabs emphasized to the audience. 

Jabs shared his entrepreneurial sense with the enthusiastic business students, telling a story about his first sales promotion as a retailer living in Bozeman, Montana in the 1970s. The city is surrounded by mountains and the only TV signal available was through cable, which was prohibitively expensive.  Jabs negotiated with the cable company to get a discount on hook-ups by buying in large volume. He then asked the TV manufacturer for volume pricing, sweetening the deal by paying with cash. His retail offer of “Buy a TV, get a free cable hook-up,” had customers lining up out the door and around the block. 

Eventually Jabs moved to Colorado, where his furniture empire really took off. American Furniture Warehouse started with one Denver store in 1975. Under the leadership of Jabs, the company has expanded into a fourteen-store operation that has experienced remarkable growth over the years.  Today, American Furniture Warehouse is one of the top retail furniture companies in the U.S. and one of the largest privately-held businesses in Colorado. His recent expansion of two stores in Arizona has yielded annual sales of $100 million and $80 million. He credits American Furniture’s success to “the basic American philosophy of hard work, long hours, self-confidence, the courage to take risks, and the desire to give value and service to every customer.” 

Jabs is also a firm believer in advertising, describing to the students how he budgets three percent of annual sales revenue on media, which he said is lower than the national industry average of eight percent. He shared with the students how he uses social media to gain an edge in cyber space. 

Jabs shared many more business tips in his casual and humorous presentation. At one point, when a student expressed interest in starting a fashion business, Jabs—wearing a button-down shirt and jeans—tugged at the collar of his shirt and said, “I like fashion. In fact, I dressed up for you all today!”

Despite his huge success and staff of over 2,700 employees, Jabs remains hands-on in the business. In fact, he spends an entire day with new employees to teach them the company culture.  Jabs also believes in paying his staff well and offering good benefits. And he listens to his employees, stating that they are on the front lines and are in the best position to make decisions. He also knows when to trust other experts on product offerings. His daughter, one of the buyers for the company, has a design background and studies furniture trends. When she suggested offering furniture made from reclaimed wood, Jabs wasn’t sure if this would appeal to customers.  He trusted her expertise, and found that customers loved this furniture.

Jabs used his lessons of business to show students how they can create a foundation for building their own success:

• Always be honest – you will never have to worry about what you said before
• Maintain good credit
• Have a passion for what you do – entrepreneurs don’t do it for the money
• Work your way through college – don’t graduate with huge debt
• Stay physically fit; it helps with your mental attitude
• Enthusiasm is contagious – and people buy from enthusiastic people

More about Red Rocks Community College: Established in 1969, Red Rocks Community College delivers high-quality, affordable education programs leading to two-year degrees or professional certificates. The college serves over 14,000 students per year online and at campus locations in Lakewood and Arvada. The college has a strong business program, featuring a small business certificate and entrepreneurship coursework. For more information about entrepreneurship, leadership, business, and accounting programs at Red Rocks Community College, visit or contact

Jake Jabs poses with RRCC students and staff after delivering an inspirational talk to business students
Jake Jabs poses with RRCC students and staff after delivering an inspirational talk to business students

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015