On March 1st, Joanna Lau, the founder of JEMMA, a designer handbag company, came to speak to Women in Business. She began by asking “how many women here don’t like handbags?” to which she received complete silence. She then asked for everyone in the room to raise their hands if they wished for a handbag that could fit everything they needed inside while still looking chic, to which everyone said yes. Joanna told us how she began her career in sales and trading. She soon realized that in the world of finance women’s bags were such a mess because they were either too small or empty holes with no functionality. With her everlasting passion for fashion, she decided to launch her own line of bags in January catered towards the working woman. She was able to answer several important questions that WIB had:
What lead you to leave the stable world of finance and transition to starting your own company?
Sometimes we all need to think whether what we are doing for a living is really enjoyable or something we want to do forever. Money is always one thing, but it is important to ask yourself “If I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy?” Finance did not give me the happiness that I get from being an entrepreneur.
What was the biggest challenge you had starting JEMMA?
It was a learning curve because it was not the structured environment that I was used to where I knew my path and exactly what to expect next. As an entrepreneur, you need to find your own path and connect the dots accordingly because it is different for everyone.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a company?
Sometimes people say that they don’t know if their idea would be good enough to actually happen. However, you don’t know that unless you launch the product and try to actually make it happen. Failure is not an obstacle; it should be a motivating factor. You also learn so much from the process even if everything else fails.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Creating bags that people love.
What are your hopes for the future of JEMMA?
I want to create a community of people who like JEMMA because of similar tastes or interests they all share. I wish to hold networking and social events in order to create a synergy between working women everywhere.
Any advice for WIB?
I wish that I was told in college that there are options other than finance if you are interested in business or economics. Sometimes when you are surrounded by people all going through on one path, you make yourself believe that it what you want to do too which is not necessarily true. My advice is to find something you are passionate about.
To learn more about JEMMA visit http://www.jemmabag.com/
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