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Siblings Run Online Ugly Christmas Sweater Shop out of Parents' Basement

Nov. 20, 2011

McCarthy siblings Jack, 17, and Martha, 22, started reselling ugly Christmas sweaters online in 2008 after spotting a niche market opportunity. As competition drove down prices
and demand for unique sweaters grew, they knew that the next step was creating their own website. Jack, who had taken a UWM College for Kids web design course at 14, mocked up a site while Martha managed the writing and marketing. Last year they launched their site,, on Black Friday and had a busy holiday season, selling 88 sweaters.

While the McCarthys keep their sweater sources a secret (Hint: they search high and low year-round) they have amassed quite the collection this year – over 200 sweaters and growing.

Jack says, “This year we have really ramped up our product offerings – we opened our shop earlier and have lots of momentum built up from last year.” Not all of the sweaters they find are ready to be sold as they are deemed “not ugly enough” and are sent to the ‘uglification’ center. This is the craft table in their parent’s basement, or as they like to call it “Santa’s Workshop.”

When they aren’t out scouting for sweaters or uglifying, they spend their time cataloging their inventory, crafting clever descriptions and finding new avenues to market their products online. Martha, who runs a social media and digital marketing agency called The Social Lights, handles social media, PR, online marketing and advertising. Jack, a junior in high school, is in charge of inventory, shipping and handling.

“When we first started our parents thought we were crazy. Our dad wondered why anyone would purposefully buy a used ugly sweater. Once he saw how many we were selling he supported the business and really got into it. He likes to see us working together and following his entrepreneurial footsteps,” says Martha. is an online retail shop that exclusively sells unique Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Owners (and siblings) Jack and Martha McCarthy pride themselves on being seriously and satirically dedicated to the Ugly Christmas Sweater. Jack and Martha started the business as teenagers, and still run it out of their parent’s basement in Milwaukee, WI.

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