Jamie Lewis, amateur boxer and founder of JLEW Bags, was tired of carrying multiple bags between her boxing sessions and meetings but also couldn’t find an alternative that would allow her to carry everything she needed and still look stylish, which is when she decided to take matters into her own hands.
After going back to school at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Jaime found herself staring at her very own creation; the bag that would change it all.
Jaime now works with a team of strong, talented women who are helping her take the JLEW Bags brand to new heights.
We asked her a few questions to get to know her a bit better and find out more about her entrepreneurial journey to date.
What did you eat for breakfast?
Coffee and a granola bar.
What’s your workout?
I’m an amateur boxer so boxing 6 days a week, conditioning 3 days a week and some running.
What picture is on your phone’s home screen?
A photo of one of my bags in front of the spectacular view of Lake Atitlan earlier this year.
Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
Truly, I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I needed a bag big enough to hold all of my boxing gear and “former” work supplies that looked nice enough to carry to hedge fund meetings. I couldn’t find one so I made my own. We started in New York and remain here today.
What do you see for your future?
Retail is being turned upside down which creates both challenges and opportunities. Given we are new and have NO background in the fashion/accessories business whatsoever, I’m hopeful we will think creatively and strategically enough to navigate this unchartered territory successfully. In a dream world, we will have a physical space but will more than likely use it more for activation events than traditional merchandising and retailing.
How large is your business? How many employees do you have?
We’re four full-time people and we work with a number of other experts on retainer.
Tell us a success story about funding your business.
So far I’ve self-funded the business, so the success story is I’ve been able to do that for two years so far. I’m in the process of seeking funding at the moment so hopefully, I can give you a success story soon!
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
The shift toward experiences over product consumption presents challenges for an accessories company for sure. We’re trying to mitigate that by doing our own events and keeping the brand fresh with new products and experiences.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
Someone once told me that I’m always going to work hard so why not own my sweat equity? That really keeps me going. I had no idea what an emotional roller coaster this journey would be and how many ups and downs would accompany the journey but I love the highs so much that I tolerate the lows. Building something completely from scratch is so rewarding. I’m incredibly grateful I took the leap.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
We are deeply passionate about supporting other women. You’ll see a number of female fighters (boxers and MMA) sprinkled throughout our website, social media, etc. To us, they’re symbols of strength; mental strength achieved through physical discipline. They’re role models for women everywhere, women warriors pushing the boundaries to pave the way for all women.
Our bags were designed initially for a different kind of female fighter, one going to boardrooms on Wall Street who happened to box as a hobby. In the early stages of my career, I felt like I needed to “neuter my femininity” to fit in and be accepted in a predominantly male dominated environment. Slowly this has changed and barriers are being broken to broaden the opportunity set for female executives and athletes alike. We believe this process can unfold faster if women support other women along the way rather than feeling like each is fighting her own battle.
We also believe that these women will perform best when physically active and might need a little help fitting workout time into their busy schedules. Our bags were designed to carry everything this woman needs from sunup until sundown, without having to switch in and out of bags, and still, make her look and feel “put together” from one activity to the next.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
I’ve always been a connector, a networker. A former entrepreneurial boss of mine once said do what you love and expose yourself. That’s what I’m doing and it plays to my strengths!
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
I’m wowed by Sarah Kauss, the founder of S’well. Those bottles are EVERYWHERE and she’s remained self-funded. That’s quite a feat. I’m so happy to watch her succeed and love that she has a social mission
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
I don’t really think in terms of “as a woman” but if I must, I’d say even in 2017 women have to factor in considerations that men don’t, specifically as it relates to having a relationship and family. Women do have to factor timing and age into their choices more prominently than men do and it’s simple biology. After a certain age, having children becomes more difficult so if women don’t plan for it that chance can pass them by.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?
Men and women are different, no question about it. Truly I characterize myself as an alpha female. I believe I have strengths, some of which are traditionally characterized as masculine (leadership, risk taking, confidence, being decisive) and others as feminine (nurturing, listening, team building, multi-tasking, attention to detail, etc.).
Whereas men might focus wholly on attacking one goal and execute that incredibly successfully, I believe women can progress well on multiple fronts simultaneously. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. I have benefited and been burned by being too trusting and nurturing with relationships, suppliers, and employees. Men would have navigated these experiences vastly differently I suspect and achieved different outcomes.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
If being an entrepreneur were easy, then everyone would do it.
Visit the JLEW Bags website to find out more.