Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Walking into a creator’s space, you are never too sure what you will encounter. Everyone works a little different, organizes different, and has different inspiration surrounding them. It was an early Saturday morning that I went to meet Jessica and to learn about her company J & J Collections. I meet her just a couple weeks back at a women empowerment convention. We have a mutual friend that introduced us and of course followed each other on social media, since that is what people do these days. We had a few chats on Instagram and she seemed like a genuine girl. I reached out to her to see if she would like to do an interview and she accepted.
Walking into her work room showed me a few things. For one, this girl was organized and neat (complete opposite of all my creative spaces), and she surrounded herself with positivity. Things like inspirational quotes, items that represent her Mexican heritage, pictures of her family, and of course a Frida book. Then I saw her sewing machines, a Singer and a Janome overlock. I am a sewer myself so I always get happy when I see sewing machines. She has tubs of fabrics and baskets of thread. I was ecstatic to talk to Jessica and learn more about her company.
Jessica is a 31 year old Mexican America that grew up in Glendale, CA. Her and her two siblings, brother and sister, were raised by a single mother. Her mother immigrated from Mexico and always told her kids they must hustle to get what they want. At the age of 17, her mother passed away, and ever since then she still lives by what her mom told her, hustle and work to get what you want.
Juanita, who is Jessica’s mother in-law, is the other ‘J’ in J&J, came from El Salvador. She has been a seamstress for 30 plus years, and she loves it. Jessica describes her as a very hard-working lady that never misses work. She is always willing to put in her part even after she has a long work day and cooks for the family. Juanita was the one that bought the first fabric and said let’s do this.
Where did the idea come from to start sewing?
Well I quit my job in September 2017. I was going to school for child development certification and I got that in June. Then I started volunteering and I was like I don’t know if this is for me, the child development scene. So, then I was like I need money, so I asked my mother in-law “can you show me how to sew”.
That was my next question, have you always sewn or how did you learn?
My mother in-law showed me how to do the simple things.
I began working out, and during the workout I would wear headbands. But, then I would see other people not wearing headbands trying to get their sweat out of their eyes. It was kind of my husband’s idea but he didn’t jump on it, so I jumped on it.
I would sell to the ladies. I would tell them “oh you need headbands because the sweat gets in your eyes. The ladies would buy them, and then I just thought oh I can create an Instagram. So I created an Instagram. Then people started buying. My mother in-law started helping me with the more fancy fashion types. So she started doing those and people would order them. It all started with just working out and discovering the need in my surroundings.
You saw a market and you jumped on it
Yeah I did
So you didn’t know how to sew before, but did you ever think you would end up in sewing?
Never, till this day I am still learning a lot. But never did I think I would be selling head bands, or known for headbands.
Did your mom ever sew from what you could remember?
She sewed but it was those little hem machines that you just hold and go straight.
Ohhh yes those little handy machines..
Yes, verses my mother in law who is the other J, in J & J, Juanita. She has been doing this all her life.
Is this your only job?
This was my only job from May 2018 to January 2019. Then about a week ago I started a new job.
Do you feel like you will be a lot more pressed for time now?
Yeah, it will be a little more difficult. Because before I would wake up around 7, do things around the house. Then start working on my headbands. Or I would do research, see what store has better fabric or better designs. Now I work Monday through Friday and I only have Saturday and Sunday.
Anything a person puts out that is their craft, could receive feedback. Were you nervous to start selling your products? You never know you might get negative comments, and even positive but there is always a fear of that.
Oh yeah definitely, I was nervous. I want to put out a good product, so at first since I didn’t know how to sew it looked a little funky. So I was self-conscious about what I would put out. Till this day I would tell collectors if you don’t like it let me know. Let me know how I could do better so I could put out a better product. Tell me if it slips, tell me if it’s too tight, like just let me know so I can better the product.
So, you call your buyers collectors, I think I have noticed that.
Yes, instead of customers or clients, I like to call them Collectors
That is pretty cool, I like that they have a whole different name to them.
I want them to feel special. To me what J & J stands for, is to encourage woman to feel empowered with our product. J&J began with two Latinas, we started with a small idea and originally it was for the Latina community. Because originally that is who I was selling to the Latina community. I want them to feel special like I am collector and I hold something this girl made. I made it, I picked it out, I sewed, I made mistakes, I corrected them, and I put my heart and soul in it.
Did you find your family and friends supportive? From Personal experience and other friends personal experience there is that verbal support, but when it comes to buying the product everyone is just like oh that is cool.
To be honest I been very lucky with family and friends to purchase my items. I don’t think I got anything negative. When I found out I got hired for the job my mother in law and sister in law were like what about the business. I am not going to let it go, it’s going to be harder but I am going to keep going. This is my baby. I feel very blessed that people have been like don’t stop just keep going.
I know a lot of people who will say their friends will go out and buy like a celebrity $100 product, but they can’t buy their friends $10 product.
Well I had something like that. I did have one person, who I asked if they wanted to buy headbands. They said “oh let me get back to you”, they never got back to me. Then like a week later they’re at a designer store, and I was like oh you can’t spend $10 with me and you’ve known me forever. But you learn to let things go and move on.
Yeah I feel like people look past it when they do stuff like that. They don’t realize it’s about supporting local business and local women. Leading into that, do you think as women we can do a better job supporting each other’s businesses?
I think we can, like especially on social media. I like to share, even though I might not know you, But like you said our friends and family are buying from name brand places, but if I just met you and I know you are crafty or whatever you are selling. I want to share you and expose you, tell people you are talented. That you are trying to do something for yourself and get yourself known. I think Latina’s specially on social medias should share each other. Not hate on each other, because I see a lot of hate on each other when there is someone else doing the same thing they are doing. I think they should support each other, buy each other products, and introduce yourself.
Are you naturally an outgoing person or do you feel like this business pushed you out there?
This business pushed me out there. Like when I meet you, it was Jasmin who is more like a social butterfly, saying oh meet her and meet her. She kind of helped me, because the first time I meet her I saw her and I was like I want to be like her, because I’m not naturally, I am very shy.
That is the same with me, she provides me the same energy as well. I’ve known her since high school but she has always been like that. It always just pulls you in, but she has done the same with me. When we go to event she will be like “oh Amanda meet so and so”, but she has helped me come out of my shell as well. I am very similar to you, just more reserved.
But we aren’t going to always have a person like her with us. So now I push myself, like just go introduce yourself, shake their hand. I have to say Hi my name is Jessica, nice to meet you. I have this type of business, I admire what you do. Which I do it’s not lie, like at the women’s expo I was just wowed by everyone. Their hustle; I might not be as big as them but I know what it takes to get that. They had to wake up early, go buy merchandise, make merchandise; they had to pay a fee, all these things. I have respect for these people.
Do you hope that if they have another one you will be able to vend it.
The women’s expo, hopefully. That is one thing I need to break out of my shell, I need to vend. So I am lined up hopefully to vend at Latina Fest in August. So hopefully that pulls through. I want to break out of my little office and Instagram. I want to vend.
What advice would you give to a fellow women sitting on their craft not sure if they should start their own business?
Just do it. My husband is always like just do it. Even to this day there are times I am stuck. Like I don’t know where to begin, but if you don’t know where to begin just do something. So for me I will just cut fabric. Then once you start doing whatever craft it is, then it will motivate you to keep going and create something.
What does Fem Power mean to you?
FemPower is breaking out of your mold and knowing that as a woman you are capable of doing so many things, but you don’t know because you are so scared. Well I can only speak for myself. We are in this mold that we are only here for one purpose. I never knew I can sew, but I had to break that mold just like chip it. To find out that I can sew, but I never would of done that if I wasn’t put in a situation where I had to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable puts you in a situation that you have to grow. FemPower is just like breaking out of your mold little by little, it doesn’t have to be like broken at once. It’s like a butterfly, little by little you transform. Women can do anything, anyone can do anything. We forget that we are powerful women. People tell you all the time you can do this or you can do that, but women doubt themselves all time. Because we have family or friends who aren’t supportive, or we just doubt ourselves all the time. So FemPower for me is break out of your mold and show people what you are capable of.
I really like that explanation.
Do you see J&J expanding to other accessories, or will you just stay headbands?
I see myself doing a lot of things, but I am still chipping away on my mold. Right now, what J&J has planned is to make dogie bandannas to match with their owner.
That will be cute, people are totally obsessed with their dogs.
I want to thank Jessica for taking time out of her day to sit with me and talk. She was an inspiration for me to keep pushing on my path. I can’t wait to see how her company grows. And ladies if you need a headband be sure to check her out.
Here is how you can find her.
General price range $5-$15
Made to order, expect about a week or so for turnaround time.
*Below photos courtesy of @j_and_j_collection