Karmaloop founder keeps ear to street to sell cool clothes

Daniels says his total investment of about $45,000 is now worth about $1 million. Celeste, who once showed up with $10,000 in cash to cover a Karmaloop check that was about to bounce, says the "couple hundred thousand" he invested has increased "ten- or fifteenfold."

Moving on up

Selkoe didn't take a salary until early 2006, after he and his wife, Dina, each paid off about $80,000 in credit card debt. Before that, almost everything from Dina's salary as a lawyer at a Boston firm went into Karmaloop.

Their recent success has meant the Selkoes' standard of living is improving. Next year, they'll move into a three-bedroom apartment in a new luxury condominium building downtown where the 1,600-square-foot balcony is bigger than their current apartment.

Selkoe says the profits are being rolled back into the website, not the headquarters. Karmaloop's easy-to-miss offices are now in a run-down building across from the Boston Common. The office door is unmarked, and the hallway is filled with trash. The gray carpet is covered with stains, and T-shirts and other alternative apparel are scattered everywhere. Dozens of young workers line conference tables working on computers, one with a new kitten sleeping in front of her on a sweater. The resident long-haired Chihuahuas could be the carpet culprits. (The Selkoes own two of the four office dogs, but they weren't at work during a recent visit because one had just had surgery on a torn ACL.)

Still, there's the same unmistakable energy that Celeste saw seven years ago. General counsel Chris Mastrangelo buzzes in to explain that he left more reliably paying legal work to join Selkoe, in part because they "both like to party and play a little bit." He's far outpaced what he'd be making in other legal work. One floor up, Julian Wadsworth, Chelsea Wolf and Gabe Friedman are taping the MTV-like Daily Loop for Karmaloop TV, which gets 900,000 unique visitors a month after just one year.

Selkoe, Estey says, is "a very bright young man," but he shouldn't get carried away with success, even if it now also includes a store on posh Newbury Street here. "I'm concerned. He should never open another store," says Estey. "The brick-and-mortar business is going downhill."

Gerson let on that he knew success was coming to Karmaloop when Selkoe visited him weeks before he died of a brain tumor in 2003.

"It looks like you guys might actually make it," Selkoe recalls Gerson saying. "I can't believe it."

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