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Life and Work with Jennifer Lehmkuhl

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Lehmkuhl.

Jennifer, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for style and fashion, especially for shoes and handbags and have always known that I wanted to have a career in the industry in one way or another. When I went to college, I knew that if I wanted to be successful, yes having knowledge in fashion was important, but so was having an education in business, so I got a degree in marketing. After college when it came time to decide where I wanted to go next, I was lucky enough to have an incredible support system that encouraged me to take on my biggest dream, starting my own brand and the idea of Jennifer Nicole Collection was created.

I knew there was a gap in the market in the handbag industry, I saw where that hole was and knew that there had to be a way to bridge the gap. Giving our customers a bag that was creating with them in mind, creating a reliable, quality bag instead of just another luxury brand that no one can afford. Consumers want Affordable Luxury and once I discovered that gap, I found a way to fill it. So I started creating designs, but the biggest hurdle once I knew what I wanted to create, was finding a reliable manufacturer in Italy.

Once I found a manufacture whom I work incredibly close with to create our product, it took a couple of years to make sure I had a solid plan and Jennifer Nicole Collection officially came to be in the summer of 2016. I taught myself a lot of the necessities and background to start my own company and made sure that I had a rock-solid infrastructure so that I knew we were ready to launch a successful brand. Since launching Jennifer Nicole Collection, I’ve focused on building a digital brand, with reliable high-quality product, our goal has been to give every woman in the US an Affordable Luxury bag; being able to have the luxury quality without the designer price point and building our core business model and reputation around that ideal.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I feel like any business owners will agree when I say that starting your own business is never a smooth road! There are always twists and turns that come up and a new hurdle every day to manage and overcome.

With that, I feel like my biggest struggle breaking into the fashion industry has been gaining brand exposure while navigating the digital space. Retail has gone through a lot of changes in the last few years and with a lot of the model shifting to e-commerce and finding your space online can be difficult trying to constantly keep up with changing algorithms and a system that feels like it’s constantly working against you. I think this has been our biggest obstacle is having a solid product that people love but not being able to find your audience and reach them online. Finding a customer base to support with a unique offering makes the difference and finding a way to reach them is always the number one goal.

My advice for other women would be to remain open-minded and be willing to adapt to change. Take the time to read and be knowledgable on changes in your industry and use that to adapt to the changes quickly so that you can stay ahead of the curve. Universities are still teaching last generations ideas, digital transformation is such a key learning focus in order to create a digital brand.

Reading and understanding what is happening around you so that you can be ready to make changes and adapt to your customers is so important and has been a huge reason I’ve been able to accomplish what I’ve been able to do over the last few years. Your customers should always be your top priority and reaching them with a unique product is key. Be willing to try new things and be malleable when it comes to your passion and what you’re trying to accomplish and you’ll be able to better reach your customers and understand your industry and ultimately make those obstacles and hurdles that come up that much easier to overcome.

Alright – so let’s talk business. What else should we know about your work?
Being the founder of a start-up means you have to learn to pretty much do it all. I wear a lot of hats when it comes to Jennifer Nicole Collection and I’ve had to learn a lot as I go along the way. The simple answer is the I am founder and designer but there is a lot more to it than just those titles. I create the designs for all of our bags and work directly with our manufacturer in Italy to make sure our designs come to life in the way that I imagined them. I created and maintain our e-commerce website, take care of packaging and shipping orders and run our social accounts along with executing all of our brand marketing. It’s been a lot of fun because I can now say that, in a way, I specialize in the entire process, from design, manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

Jennifer Nicole Collection is known for creating high quality, luxury bags, without the designer price tag. We offer bags that are more available to the every woman who wants a high-quality bag with that luxury feel and wants that feeling of Affordable Luxury. This ideal is something I’m incredibly proud of as well as something that sets us apart from other handbag brands. You see a lot of either incredibly high priced designer bags, or lower end trendy bags that a year from now, will be falling apart.

We are unique in we give you the perfect blend, that luxury bag that will last for years to come and get softer with age and that is something that will never change with a J Nicole bag. As a brand that is something I’ve very proud of and as a business owner, I’m proudest of everything I’ve had to learn and accomplish along the way to get where I am, a lot of which I taught myself to make the pieces fit which in my mind, is a great accomplishment in an of itself.

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well-positioned for?
I believe with all of the focus on challenges facing women today, that exposure to issues we’re facing is actually creating a lot of opportunities for us as women in the workforce. We’ve been given a platform to now inspire other women and encourage them to create their own opportunities, learning to use their voices and follow their passions. Especially with the rise of digital media, anyone can make a name for themselves without having to rely on others to create those opportunities for them.

For example, the fashion industry has always been primed for female opportunity, but now that digital media has come to be, we are now seeing an influx in “influencers” and women creating their own name in the industry through digital platforms such as Instagram or personal blogs and YouTube. As long as you’re willing to put in the time and energy and learn you can now create your own opportunity. Opportunities are everywhere, I just selected to build a brand in fashion.

Digital transformation is changing all industries just like it changed retail and fashion. The biggest challenge is education to the opportunities in digital transformation. Look at Reward Style, a new digital business, they use customer data analysis to better support customers and create new ways to market new business structures like ours without all the fixed costs. I’ve always been a supporter of building yourself up to create success and learning about these tools and taking it upon yourself to utilize them will only create and open up opportunities for you to take advantage of.

Pricing:

  • Bug Cross Body Bag – $350.00
  • Liv Cross Body Bag – $675.00
  • Nora Mini Backpack – $550.00
  • Ava Baby Bag – $675.00
  • Gracie Cross Body Bag – $675.00
  • Knotted Shoulder Bag – $875.00
  • Suki Woven Shoulder Bag – $975.00

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Sarah Morrel Photography, Kelly Williams Photography, Audrie Dollins Photography

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