Clever Designs LA + blingsling®
Los Angeles, US
Do you have problems losing your jewelry?
Jordan Krouse might have a solution for you. This creative female entrepreneur from Los Angeles and a founder of Clever Designs LA has designed an ethically made jewelry organizer that keeps your jewelry safe and tangle-free during travel.
Jordan’s products are all eco-friendly, vegan, handmade in LA and with each sale she gives back to organizations empowering women.
If you need a story to inspire you then read what she has to say below.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT BUSINESS DID YOU START.
I was born and raised in a small town in southern Illinois near St. Louis. After high school, I fulfilled my dream of living in a big city and got my bachelor’s in marketing with a minor in entrepreneurship from the University of Illinois at Chicago. After graduating a semester early, just as the recession hit, I found myself at a crossroads. With little options to use my new degree, I reluctantly had to move back home with my parents. I decided I had nothing to lose and moved across the country to Los Angeles to fulfill another dream of mine; being a professional dancer.
In LA, my motivation quickly changed from wanting to express myself creatively to desperately needing something to pay the bills. A few months after my move, I finally landed a job at Hyatt. With amazing work perks and coworkers, I enjoyed climbing the ladder with the company. Five years later, just before getting married to my high school sweetheart, I realized I wasn’t doing anything I set out to do. I still had a desire to be an artist and to start my own business.
So with the help of my husband, I was able to leave my career and risk it all with my new endeavors. I created Clever Designs LA to empower women to bring the world closer together by spreading kindness, sharing experiences through travel, and spending more time doing what we love. It’s been the most challenging few years of my life, but the most rewarding, as well.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?
I have always been extremely organized and love planning and setting goals. I actually do this freelance for individuals and companies on the side. A lot of my structure revolves around setting goals and getting them in my calendar to make sure everything has been time blocked.
I’ve never been a morning person so I like to keep the early hours for myself to ease into the day. The rest of the day varies between artistic endeavors, meetings, side projects, and business work. It’s hard to put an end to the day as an entrepreneur. Recently, I’ve been scheduling personal time into my calendar to make sure it happens.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.
I’ve always loved traveling. Between my study abroad trip in college and the many travels during my career as an event planning manager at Hyatt, I’ve been to over twelve different countries and counting. I came up with the blingsling® when I couldn’t find a jewelry organizer that would easily keep all of my jewelry organized and tangle-free on my trips. I especially wanted something that worked on those long necklaces, statement pieces and dainty chains that can be a nightmare to untangle.
When I started to bring Clever Designs LA and the blingsling® to life, I knew I wanted to do things the best way I knew how. To me, that meant ethical manufacturing in the U.S., eco-friendly methods, vegan materials and a give-back program for women and girls. I had no idea how much harder I was making it on myself, especially as a first-time self-funded entrepreneur! But I did it and am so proud that I can stand behind my company at 100%.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?
Last year was a real rollercoaster. It was super exciting when the blingsling® was featured on NBC in the spring. Here was my little idea from nearly ten years ago turned into a full-fledged product on TV. It was surreal! After years of sitting on the idea, I finally came up with a design, found a manufacturer, and created a patent-pending product without sacrificing any of the ethics that meant so much to me.
But along with the highs of entrepreneurship come the lows. Soon after the NBC spot aired I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve always been one to work better under pressure and thrive when I have a ton of things going on. I wanted to push through and keep up the momentum, but my body was telling me that it was time to slow down. I paused almost everything for my company over the summer to go through two lumpectomies and radiation. I continued to do freelance work but allowed for my schedule to have more personal time than ever and it was a struggle not to feel guilty.
A big part of the Clever Designs LA brand is empowering women and I wanted to show this through my actions, not just my words. As women, we feel the need to push and push no matter what comes in our way and pretend like everything’s fine. Sometimes it’s not. I knew that if a friend were in my position, I’d tell her to take a break. So why was I not allowing myself grace? What would I say to the girls I mentor through our give back partnership at Step Up Women’s Network?
It was extremely challenging to allow myself to step back and heal while my business was just picking up speed, but it was necessary. I’m happy to say I’m now healthy and have exciting new things in the works for the business. I’m also hoping to continue to use my experience to empower women to be self-advocates and help others going through similar challenges.
WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?
Being an avid planner, I had all of my goals broken down into small steps and planned out ahead of time. That being said, I’m learning as I go and everything is constantly changing. If certain ads, demographics, pricing, pop-up markets, or partnerships aren’t working I have to recognize it quickly and change course. Everything is a learning opportunity though.
Right now, I run the company entirely by myself, for the exception of working with our manufacturer and freelance photographers. It allows me the flexibility I need right now, but it’s a ton of work. Even though my degree is in marketing, a lot has changed since then.
For instance, the social media world does not come naturally to me and has been a love/hate relationship. It’s been important for me to recognize when some things aren’t working to step back and focus my energy on new ideas.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?
As I work my way back into the normal routine after my slow down last year, I have a few exciting things to look forward to for Clever Designs LA. Once we get through this pandemic, that is!
We’re launching a mini version of the blingsling® tangle-free jewelry bag and are hoping to get into the wholesale business. One of my ultimate goals is to eventually have the blingsling® as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. Fingers crossed!
RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS
PLEASE RECOMMEND ANY RESOURCES AND TOOLS THAT YOU USE TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS.
Early on, I started by googling and youtubing just about everything from patent research to website and graphic design.
I found Makers Row helpful for finding sample makers and manufacturers in the U.S. and Shopify made the website process much easier than the original platform I was using.
I taught myself a lot of the Adobe suite that has turned out to be extremely useful and Canva has been helpful for other graphic design projects.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BUSINESS BOOKS, PODCASTS OR BLOGS?
Shortly after leaving my career at Hyatt, I read “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero. It was basically life-changing. I also like listening to the How I Built This podcast, Masterclass with Oprah, and found Girlboss and everything by Brené Brown to be inspiring.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Start now. You’ll never feel ready, so just start. Dream it. Write it down. Google it. Do it. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS?
If someone can figure out a clothing company that sells basics in customizable shapes and sizes, that would be amazing!
Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!
If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.
By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.
If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!