Jena Bautmans is the founder and managing director of Jenah St., a company led by the values of peace, respect, and harmony. Jena believes that aesthetics and consciousness can go hand in hand, and they design all Jena St. products in Berlin and 100% by European artisans with animal-free materials. This process forms part of their broader mission to making the fashion industry 100% plant-based and circular.
Over to Jena.
Hi, my name is Jena; I’m French. After my Law studies in Paris, I had the urge to spice things up, and I moved to Dhaka, where my life took another turn. I then continued my way to Yangon, Myanmar, and Karachi, Pakistan, for a total of 2 years. After co-founding my first company selling leather goods, my path and search for what truly matters to me, led to the creation of Jenah St., the goal being to lead a company with values of peace, respect, and harmony.
Jenah St. is a premium handbag brand designed in Berlin and 100% made by European craftsmen with animal-free materials.
Jenah St. advocates for a more mindful fashion industry and is on a journey to becoming 100% plant-based and circular. The brand won the 2020 PETA Fashion Awards for “Best accessory brand”.
What was your eureka moment?
Seeing the collections brought to life and the bags materialized for the first time. The latest collection in July results from months of research for new sustainable materials, and we have achieved to use up to 95% plant-based fabrics for these handbags. We are incredibly proud of our progress and have stuck to the values and mission of the brand through the covid crisis.
How did you validate your idea?
We have developed a feedback loop via our “Community Lab” that currently counts 500 active members. They are early adopters who we consult through mini-surveys to test ideas, price points, and designs. They allow us to make sure that our creations meet their desires to produce less but better. Anyone can join via our website.
Once the collection is out, we make sure that our customers leave us a review about their experience (packaging, material, bag usage) to constantly improve.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Founding a company is all about trial and error. No school or theory can prepare you fully for it. I can’t identify one big failure, but rather many different experiences, be it through finding the right investors, the right team, the right distribution strategy. It’s about being constantly in a mindset of assessment and adaptation, identifying what works and what needs to change.
What piece of industry advice do you often hear that you disagree with and why?
People recommended I look outside of Europe to reduce our manufacturing costs. I have always favoured European artisans and suppliers as I believe in a more local approach. It allows us to fix potential emergencies quickly and in person, to have more control over the respect of EU labour laws and certifications, and of course, to reduce our carbon emission footprint.
What role has social media played in your success?
As a native D2C brand, social media has been at the centre of our distribution and communication strategy since day one. It’s a powerful tool that allows testing out hypotheses and quickly adjusting (with audiences, for instance). In the last seven years that I’ve evolved around e-commerce, the landscape has changed tremendously. Algorithms have made it more challenging to ensure steady growth as competition rises. It forces brands to be more on point if they want to meet their target customers. I also noted that since covid, more brands have refocused on who they are; it’s been a time of cutting through the traditional marketing pitch to become more personal and direct with their community.
What are you most excited about for your company’s future?
Jenah St. is making significant progress towards becoming entirely plant-based and circular. The launch of the new collection shows it, and I’m excited to receive more customers’ feedbacks. On another level, we are currently fundraising. I’m excited to find investors who believe in the company’s vision and want to create a cleaner – and cruelty-free – future for the fashion industry. It will allow us to scale the vision and start making more significant volumes, which is the point we want to reach to impact the sector genuinely.
Jena, please share 3 of your best tips for starting a business:
- Take critics as your best tool to get better and learn. Don’t avoid them but instead, seek them. Exchange your ideas, get feedback from other founders who have been there before you.
- Make sure you indulge in a hobby that has nothing to do with your business, ideally offline – out in the real world – and block time for it as much as you can. It would help if you emptied your brain regularly. Otherwise, you’ll burn out quickly.
- Work on your self-confidence. Take the time to talk to a coach, read about it, look inside yourself and identify the beliefs which limit you from accessing your full potential. These take energy out of you and generate fear, typically the fear of failure.
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Jena Bautmans is a french native who after studying law in Paris set out on an adventure that took her to Dhaka, Myanmar, and Pakistan for a total of 2 years. During her time in these countries, she experienced an awakening of how the land and people are impacted by heavy industries like fashion, which changed the way she looks at the world. Upon her return to Europe, she co-founded a company selling leather goods but after seeing how tanneries process animal leather, she decided to found Jenah St. a company lead by the values of peace, respect, and harmony. Jena has the belief that aesthetics and consciousness can go hand in hand and all Jena St. products are designed in Berlin and 100% made by European craftsmen with animal-free materials. The brand is advocating for a more mindful fashion industry and is on a journey to becoming 100% plant-based and circular. The brand won the 2020 PETA Fashion Awards for "Best accessory brand".