The Women Behind Purse & Clutch: Meet Jen

The Women Behind Purse & Clutch: Meet Jen

Female Founder Ethical Fashion Brand in Austin TX

Photo Credit: Amber Kissner

Jen, tell us a bit about your role as Founder of Purse & Clutch. 

I get to do it all - but on the flip side, I have to do it all!

I dream up new designs, work closely with Maria & Eden who oversee our artisan groups in Mexico & Ethiopia on ethical production, coordinate photoshoots, take product photos, keep up with accounting, create content for social media, set up booths around Austin. 

How did you get started?

In 2011, a dear friend from grad school had moved to Northern India to help start an organization that worked with locals to make handbags designed with their Western customers in mind. The stories she would tell me of the transformation that employment could bring captivated me.  She told me there was essentially a line out the door of eager potential workers looking for a job, and that they just needed to sell more bags to be able to expand their workforce. I asked her to ship me a box of bags & as they were being made I researched everything I could about how to start an online shop.

Fast forward five years later & we’ve taken on designing & producing our own label, mainly in Mexico & Ethiopia. It really is incredible how much of an impact employment can have on an individual’s life as well as on her community.

Photo Credit: Lakhpreet Kaur

What challenges have you faced as a woman in leadership?

The challenge that I've noticed most has been juggling raising a family & running a business. I have a 2 ½ year old daughter & another on the way and honestly, it's a lot. We decided we wanted kids & since I'm a woman that means the effects of pregnancy are on me. I had to cancel trunk shows because of morning sickness, put in place a plan for breast-feeding once the baby comes & feel the emotional pull between my passions (running P&C & running around with my daughter / taking care of myself during pregnancy - and hopefully beyond!). 

On one hand I feel incredibly grateful to get to do both. Currently my toddler goes to a little day school in the mornings so I can work, then I get to spend my afternoons playing with her. Some days it feels like the perfect balance between the two things I feel called to do. Others it feels like I don't have enough resources to do either well. 

In what ways is the work you’re doing having a positive impact?

The direct impact I'm having is helping to create job opportunities, which I believe is the most impactful community development strategy. By changing the way manufacturing is done – from an exploitative industry to one that lifts its workers out of poverty – we can begin to unravel the cycle of poverty.

The indirect impact I'm having is showing my daughter what a woman entrepreneur looks like - the good, the bad & the ugly. Because we can't be what we can't see. 

March 06, 2020 by Jen Lewis
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