Today in my networking challenge I am interviewing Jen Worman. Jen has a long career in the fashion industry with years of experience as a Merchandiser for big name brands. Jen and her sister started a jewelry design company called T+J designs. Jen also blogs at Red Soles and Red Wine. Thanks so much for sharing your tips, Jen!
(PS. Sorry about the pounding…apparently someone decided to work on my roof that day! 🙁
In case you are reading this at work and can’t watch the video, you can read all of the great advice below instead!
1) What is the best part of having your own business?
The best part of having my own business is the fact that everything I do I feel rewarded by and I love what I do. Part of loving what I do is that I work with my family. I love that I get to see what happens when I make decisions and I learn a ton every day. Owning your own business is definitely an adventure but so far it has been excellent.
Everything I have learned in my previous job I have been able to move forward with owning my own business. We launched in August and worked on the collections before that. We gave ourselves a timeline – 3-4 months to see how it went and it has been going so well. We are extremely happy with our supporters and our customers
2) How did you make the decision to leave your job as a Merchandiser and start your own business?
I think everything happens for a reason and I lived in New York and my husband got an opportunity to come back to Chicago. When I moved to Chicago, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. I loved being a merchandiser and I was a merchandiser for 8 years. But, I couldn’t find anything that was a perfect fit here. I think after working in several companies you know that you want a job that is a good fit for you and you won’t just take anything that comes to you.
A lot of the jobs were quite far away for traveling with the traffic and my dad is an entrepreneur. It was the best opportunity for me to think what do I really want to do. And I thought why don’t I do something on my own? My sister has had her own blog for three years and with my background in the fashion industry and her expertise in blogging we came together. Ww both love fashion and jewelry and it just all came together.
3) How can job searchers get into the fashion industry?
There are a lot of people in the fashion industry and, of course, people say that you need to move to New York or LA. There are a ton of retailers out there right now. I think a good education is important. I definitely think going to a University is important and having a good background.
Some people ask me, do I need to go to an art school? And you don’t necessarily have to go to an art school to learn design or merchandising. I think having a good background in business is fundamental if you want to get into merchandising. But, a big thing is networking. I think you see that in blogging.
Getting to know people and it is word of mouth. Same thing in fashion, there is a small fashion community. Taking opportunities and using them to the best that you can. I did a lot of internships where I didn’t get paid but I learned a ton. Having experience is important even from sales or doing PR or volunteering for fashion shows. Those things are out there. LinkedIn is an important community as well as a resource. A lot of recruiters find me from there. Really investigating what is out there instead of thinking it is just going to come to you.
4) How do you find the time to volunteer with a full-time job?
I think that even if you do have a job and you are looking for something else, you should look at the pursuit as a job in itself. If it is something that you are really passionate about, you should take the time and plan out when you do it. It is like blogging, blogging is a second job because you have to plan out your regular schedule and when you are going to post things. And you have to love what you do. I loved the fashion industry and merchandising and I think that is what really pushed me to succeed. Everything I did, didn’t feel like work.
5) How did your previous job experience prepare you to start your own business?
Being a merchandiser, you really control your own business. I worked on a $80 million business and I had to have quarterly plans. I worked with designers and traveled to Paris and London. It is very similar to owning your own business.
I presented my retail plan and designs and how I was purchasing them to the executive team four times a year. It really prepared me to plan out my production cycle as well as think about why you are buying something. You are not buying something because you love it, you are buying it because you see opportunity in where it can go and what your customer loves. We also look at our analytics and figure out what do people love and what they are not loving.
6) What are your tips for surviving work travel trips?
Have a plan. Plan what you are going to do every day. Sleeping is very important. I am a big fan of sleep because if you don’t sleep you are not going to be able to work. Also, plan out what you wear so that you can pack light because you don’t want to haul around a bunch of stuff.
7) How do you find work-life balance?
I think for life balance is important especially now that I am going to have a kid. I think even more planning and figuring out what my schedule is going to look like. Of course, there is going to be some changes.
But realizing that nothing is an emergency and things will always get done. Take time out of your day to do something for yourself. This is very important if you work for yourself since you could work 24 hours a day. ake time to do out and take a walk. Take a break like a lunch break. If you are sitting at your desk all day long sometimes you are less efficient. You get sidetracked or bogged down. I am also a huge list maker which also helps you time out your day because you can figure out your priorities.
8 ) How do you manage your time to fit everything you need to do in during the day?
I am the organizer. What I love about technology these days is you have Skype and Facebook and Twitter and the phone. We are easily accessible even if we aren’t next to each other. The best technology for us has been Skype because you can see the jewelry and each other.
9) What do you wish you would have known when you were a young professional woman just starting out in her career?
You need to promote yourself. You are going to have great bosses and bosses your don’t love but the only person that will speak to yourself and your goals and expectations and how well you are doing is you yourself. Really use your voice to show people that you know what you are doing and promoting yourself within the company and networking. Because no one else is going to do that for you. Have that confidence to say hey, I do a good job. I think sometimes people expect other people to do that for them but YOU need to push yourself.
10) If people want to learn more about you where can they find you online?
Our jewelry website is www.tplusjdesigns.com and my personal style blog is Red Soles and Red Wine.
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