HOW JAC + JAE DESIGNS STARTED & WHERE IT’S HEADING
I started my business shortly after I started having my own children, which is why I initially had small children in mind for my brand. My first blankets that I made were swaddle blankets, because I needed them myself and I knew how useful they can be.
It all started when my mom gave me a 30-year-old sewing machine that I had no idea how to use. Every time we would see one in a store, I always used to tell my husband “Do you even know what I would do if I had one of those things?“ It’s kind of funny because what I would do is make blankets, and a lot of them.
I learned to sew by watching YouTube videos – and I chose to make blankets because they were fairly simple to do. One day my husband asked me “What are you going to do with all of these blankets you are making?” Because the truth is – I was just having so much fun making them that I didn’t even think of selling them. My husband really encouraged me to put them online to sell on Etsy, otherwise I would have a huge pile of blankets just for the sake of sewing them. So I did.
I started my Etsy business in 2016 – but only half heartedly. It started off as a hobby and one that I wasn’t willing to devote very much time to because what I really wanted to do was just sew blankets. I had very little interest in selling them at first. But one day I felt like I had come to a point where I realized that my hobby needed to either remain a hobby or become something more. I asked myself “Am I really going to do this?” And at that moment I decided yes. Yes I am.
In my first year of business I sold about 30 blankets total; and I honestly don’t know how I sold them — it seemed like such an accidental thing each time, because I had not yet learned how to market on social media. Fortunately, I watched a lot of YouTube, and I learned that to be successful I should market on social media, and specifically on Instagram. So I did just that.
It has been three years, and I am now in my fourth year of business and we currently have nearly 23,000 followers on Instagram, a small Facebook VIP group, and some sort of presence on Pinterest. In five years I really don’t know where my business will be because it has already come so far in the three and a half years that I’ve been running my business. I feel like it has grown beyond my imagination, considering I never intended to start a business in the first place. In five years I hope to grow my customer base to twice what it is now. I hope to provide jobs for more hard-working mothers. My craziest dream is to have my brand be carried in a retail store such as Target or even Anthropology — fingers crossed!
Did you ever consider giving up along the way?
I honestly never really considered giving up, although things did get hard along the way as my role changed here at home. There came a point where I had less time to do some of the things that I used to do around the house, and that became challenging because for a while I wasn’t sure if I was successful enough to justify not having time to do things at home. Also, we had our third daughter after I started my business and that made things interesting as well!
What was the progression of your business?
My business progressed rather slowly and gradually, which I appreciate because I feel that this is a healthy way to grow. I was able to acclimate with all of the changes as they came to me slowly. In the beginning I did a lot of giveaways with other online shops on social media. The idea behind that is to do a giveaway with a brand that is hopefully bigger than you are and have them share their customer base with you in exchange for giving a free product to a winner. I learned that I needed to invest in my business if I wanted to grow, and one great way to invest in your online business is to do giveaways by investing in shop credit or an actual item.
How did you personally grow your business to where it is today?
Behind the scenes of my business, I did all the sewing for the first year and a half. After a while I realized I couldn’t sew and do social media marketing and take care of all of my customers and respond to all the emails I was receiving so I decided it was time to delegate. The next year I hired contract sewers to do nearly all of my product for me. The ladies I brought on to my sewing team were local and that is something to be proud of.
I really love that I can say that I own a handmade business with a product that is locally made. We currently have three local seamstresses who work from their homes while taking care of their children, as well as a cut and sew facility that we utilize which is located in Indiana. I also have a website manager, and a social media assistant.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you started?
I can only honestly say that I learned everything as I went. I’m sure there is a lot that I know now that I didn’t know when I started out, and if I could go back I would probably utilize the current social media networking knowledge that I currently have.
Is there anything that you think people would be surprised to know about you or how you run your business?
I think people would be really surprised to know that I am actually not that experienced in sewing. I can sew straight lines and that about covers it. I personally think this is really funny because I learned how to delegate pretty early on in the game. It turns out that soon after I found out my love for sewing, I also found out that I love to run a business even more. The ladies who sew for me are incredibly talented and I could learn a lot from them. I do design everything myself and I really enjoy placing textures of different fabrics together and pairing colors with various design elements.
TO CUSTOMERS & MAKERS:
Is there anything people should know about why your products are special or your connection to Pullman? I am constantly striving to be unique. I feel like we live in a world of white noise when it comes to all of the products that are placed before us on a daily basis, specifically on social media. I have learned that I need to be unique to stand out. Sometimes this means being simple and choosing a simple design over something complicated. Sometimes this means finding something no one else has ever done by using trendy design elements in completely unrelated products.
Being unique means a lot to me and I will go through great lengths to maintain this quality of my brand. For example, I like to use materials that nobody else uses. I like to find colors that I have not seen my competitors use. I am even currently trying to mill my own fabric — fabric for the sake of calling it my own and for the sake of being truly different and unique.
Any words of encouragement or advice to someone who is on the fence about pursuing a creative endeavor?
For anyone out there who may be trying to pursue a creative endeavor, I would strongly suggest that they decide early on if they want this endeavor to remain a hobby or to become something more. Being sure of yourself and what you are doing is huge and I feel like it can really give you a leg up in the business world. It’s important to be confident in what you are able to do. Other people do this so why not you?
I would also encourage anyone taking the step to start a small business to learn to delegate when delegation is necessary. This means finding somebody else to do the things that you are not good at doing or the things that you do not enjoy doing. This step alone will help your business grow!
CONTACT JOSIE & STAY IN TOUCH
Our website is jacandjaedesigns.com
You can find us on instagram @jacandjae_designs. This is where a lot of my customers send me messages and I’m always happy to answer any questions that people have, either in Instagram stories or on post comments. We are a drop style shop, which means that we release items in batches as they become available. We usually to sell out quickly, but we always try to keep a few things in stock such as our simple swaddles. Follow us on Instagram to stay in the loop and to know when the next blanket drop will be!
Over the last six months or so we have started to branch out into offering adult blankets as well! We release several different styles of throw blankets and other blankets that aren’t designed for children. We currently carry a heavy faux fur blanket in a large size with a flannel plaid backing in WSU crimson and gray. We call it our luxe throw or man blanket and you can purchase one downtown Pullman at Monroe, the brand new men’s boutique that just opened right next to Rockstar Tan Bar and Salon.
BEYOND THE BUSINESS OF THINGS
What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school was always English. I ended up getting my degree in technical writing and rhetoric from Washington State University.
Have you traveled to any other countries? Where and when?
I traveled to Mexico when I was nine years old. We went just across the border to Tijuana on a family vacation — I’m not sure if that counts. My family has been to Canada various times. Also I was lucky enough to go to Poland when I was 19 for a Christian youth retreat. I can’t wait to take my kids to that.
Would you ever sky dive?
Definitely not. As an entrepreneur, I’m all about taking risks, just not that kind of risk!
If you could only eat one thing for a month what would it be?
Sweet potato fries and ice cream.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a professional inline skater in the Olympics. That didn’t end up happening!
ABOUT THE BRAND
I named my brand after my daughters. I have three daughters and their names are Jaela, Jaclyn and Jamie. Jamie wasn’t here yet when I opened my business, but Jac+Jae represents my daughter Jackie, who’s personality is quick and alert, very much like the jack rabbit in the logo I use. And Jaela, my oldest girl is very much like a shy little blue jay.