Wouldn’t you like to have a single bag stylish and functional enough to take you from workout to work to weekend? We (at JLEW) kept seeing all of these fashionable women irrespective of age or profession walking through the city carrying a designer bag on one arm and freebie canvas or cheap nylon bag on the other - it didn’t fit but we couldn’t find a solution. So our founder, Jamie Lewis (aka “JLEW”), went back to school at nights at Fashion Institute of Technology, after a full day’s work, to learn how to make just that.
How as being an entrepreneur affected your life? How did it change the way you think about it?
I tell people this is the hardest I’ve ever worked and they can’t fathom what that means because I’ve always worked so hard. I gave the speech at high school commencement, double majored with honors and studied abroad in college, went to business school simultaneously with my 90+ hour/week investment banking career, trained for boxing matches during my hedge fund career, etc. I used to go on surf trips once a month and I haven’t gone once this year. It truly requires 24-7 effort and attention, but I’m not complaining. I love every minute of it. No day is the same. Every day comes with a new surprise. Lots of highs and lows but never boredom. I get to use so many skills I’m always stimulated and challenged - from designing to negotiating to researching to competing. I don’t think it’s changed how I look at life per se but I definitely feel more myself than I ever have. I’m completely engaged, invigorated and enthused. I’m all in, always!!
What is failure?
I have a losing record in boxing but I refuse to stop fighting. Quite the opposite. I learn from my mistakes and continue to persevere. The same is true in other facets of life. Interview any successful entrepreneur and he/she will likely cite learning from failed attempts as contributing to success. Failure to me is quitting . . . resisting change . . . fearing risk-taking . . . falling short of a goal is not failure. Giving up on a dream, not re-setting or not even trying is failure.
I don’t leave my house without… a JLEW bag!
People would say that I am… always full throttle
The most important aspect of any business is… people
My favorite business book of all time is… Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss (yes, really)
My favorite entrepreneurial organization is… Martha Stewart’s American Made! I just attended the event in New York this past weekend and walked away wowed - by Martha, of course, but also by the event. She’s dedicated a lot of resources not only to showcasing but also supporting entrepreneurs here in the US. The people in attendance, variety of businesses present, insights shared and energy in the room inspired me.
Why do you think it is that women get less funding than men? What can we do to change that and close the gender gap?
Having worked so long on Wall Street you might think I would validate this view that men are out to preserve the old boy network at the expense of women. I won’t deny that an old boy network exists, it does; but I won’t accept that women are impeded structurally from succeeding . . . they’re not. I have had so many amazing male cheerleaders, champions and supporters in addition to wildly successful female friends that I tend to raise an eyebrow when anyone suggests women are treated unfairly relative to men. I think the only reason a statistic exists citing men receiving more funding than women relates to the fact that women haven’t tried to the same degree as men. Men and women are different and I don’t think that’s a negative. I think you’ll start to see differentiated performance out of companies run by women versus those run by men. Investors like differentiated returns. They will embrace investing in women when more women speak up, perform and reach out.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
I suspect most people would not disagree outright, but definitely not follow suit with my “dive head first” approach to life. I moved from the midwest to New York City on a dare, not knowing a soul, and lived in one YMCA after another initially. I left everything abruptly to follow a guy to London with no commitment other than the expectation of adventure. I’ve traveled solo to more third world countries than my mom would prefer. I’m getting in the boxing ring again at the age of 40. I just walked away from a 20-year career on Wall Street to start my own business in an entirely unrelated field. None easy, all invaluable; these experiences make me who I am. I believe every woman has these “gutsy” experiences which define her and make her stronger, hence our use of the hashtag #GirlsWithGuts for JLEW bags.