Meet the brilliant Joanna Lau, a former Trader on Wall Street, is one of the brave women who decided to follow her passion and create her own unique handbag brand. After realizing she could not find a work bag that she could confidently carry to work but was high also quality, professional, and in an appropriate color, she decided to create JEMMA. (Image by Jiyang Chen)
JEMMA launched as a self-funded startup in 2016, turning a profit in the first six months. The brand aims to give women on the go a chic and smart accessory to support their busy lifestyle, offering a high-quality product while maintaining a moderate price point. All JEMMA handbags have been thoughtfully engineered with inner compartments for everything from your laptop, makeup, phone, keys and more. Let’s learn more about this fashion icon’s journey to success.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
Joanna Lau: I strongly believe that being an entrepreneur is ingrained in one’s personality. It is the culmination of a certain set of characteristics: determination, creativity, the capacity to stomach risk, leadership and enthusiasm. I don’t think you can be an entrepreneur without these characteristics, and for me, it was ingrained in me very early on. An entrepreneur is part of the foundation of who I am, and who I strive to be.
Beverly Hills Magazine: When did you discover your passion for handbag design?
Joanna Lau: I have always been obsessed with handbags since I was a little girl. It’s so much part of a woman’s identity – she carries it every day front and center. As such, I knew if I was going to start any business it was going to be handbags first as that is a product I know extremely well and what the pain points are that I have to fix.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur/business owner?
Joanna Lau: A business owner will always be obsessed with the business’s success. Having bootstrapped the business only worsens the addiction. It’s passion, excitement and steroids all at once. I think about JEMMA all the time, it is hard to ever take a break. It can wear you down quickly because you’re always trying to be 110% all day, everyday – it’s your life. Hence, it is important to make a conscious effort to take breaks – exercise, go to spa, meditate to refresh your body and mind.
Beverly Hills Magazine: The most rewarding?
Joanna Lau: When you’ve worked so hard to come out with something that you think would improve the lives of others and then actually hear from customers that they absolutely love it and are obsessed with it. That’s when it all makes sense. The sense of fulfillment from making someone else happier is indescribable.
Joanna Lau: JEMMA aims to be more than just a handbag brand, we would like to build a community of like-minded women empowered to be fashion-forward and organized, while personifying ambition and the go-getter approach. We call them #JEMMAGirls. After all, a handbag is not just a bag. It’s a statement of who we are.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What have been major obstacles/stepping stones that you overcame to achieve your success?
Joanna Lau: Many! I would say for every entrepreneur you will face your fair share of doubters and haters out there. It is hard enough to start a business but even harder when you lack the support. From the beginning, I had to constantly remind myself to stay strong in the face of countless rejections and setbacks and pull through winning.
Joanna Lau: Balancing my professional and personal life has been my greatest challenge. It is something I work on every day. For me, it comes down to setting clear priorities — family comes first no matter what — time management and discipline is key. It helps that I am good at multitasking. I always say that I couldn’t be a good entrepreneur if I was terrible at multitasking.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is “success” to you? DEFINE success.
Joanna Lau: Success to me is about happiness and feeling good about what you’re contributing to the world.
Beverly Hills Magazine: If you had to give a piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
Joanna Lau: Do it only if you know you are cut out to make it happen. I think these days entrepreneurship has been glorified to a level where everyone wants to be one just because they think it is “cool”. But the reality is that its a hard grind and you should not dive into it unless you are absolutely convicted about your idea and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Joanna Lau: Everything I’ve done with JEMMA is out of a personal purpose to improve the lives of women like myself, one handbag at a time!
It’s no surprise that with the ease of the e-commerce platform and smart design, word of mouth has been the catalyst for her rapid and organic growth. JEMMA’s customer base has grown over 300% in the past six months and there is currently a 1,000-person waitlist for the signature Black & Vanilla EMMA Work Bag after selling out of all its stock last month. As an online direct to consumer business, JEMMA has customers from the US, Canada, UK, Asia and Australia.
We think it’s safe to say that JEMMA Handbags are officially the new “must have” IT bag. Get yours today!!!