Meet Jia Wertz…
Jia Wertz is the founder of Studio15, an online fashion boutique. I met her a few months ago at a fashion talk here in NYC. I was so impressed with how she built her online business starting from a simple blog. Even more impressive is the compassion and gratitude she demonstrates through her companies give back to the Uganda community by offering microloans to women businesses.
Ditching The Day Job…
I got started in retail as a student, simply as a part-time job, and that’s where I realized I loved working with fashion and wanted to continue a career in it. After graduating, I went to work in the corporate fashion world for over 15 years.
I have always found fashion to be an exciting and fun industry to work in, and I knew very early on that I wanted to start my own business one day. After spending so many years growing other companies, quitting my job and starting to build my own business was something I was getting ready to do in 2013.
And then I took a trip to Uganda to volunteer with a non-profit organization, Kleos Microfinance Group, which really pushed me to make the decision. After that trip, I not only made the decision to get started on my own business but to also donate a portion of proceeds to the women that Kleos was working within Uganda, so they too could start their own small businesses.
From Blog To Biz…
At first, I did start off with a personal blog because I knew I had to build a following and traffic before I could launch an e-commerce company. Once I hit the milestones I had set for myself on the blog, I launched my business.
Studio 15 is a women’s dress boutique headquartered in NYC with pop up events in Manhattan, San Francisco, and Calgary.
Our company is based on three principles: 1) to provide high-quality garments at prices that women from all walks of life can afford. 2) We carry clothes that are fully lined because they are more flattering on women, and as a result, make them feel more confident in their daily lives. 3) And lastly, helping women in developing countries start their own businesses through the donations we make.
Our inspiration is New York City. This city has an energy that is contagious. And the streets are filled with fashion-forward looks that dictate what is coming next. We can spend a day in Soho people-watching and get inspiration for our next line in one day, that’s what I love about living and working here.
For our Fall/Winter collection, it is all about soft-to-the-touch faux fur, long sleeve dresses that can be worn with tights or over-the-knee boots, plaid and denim are playing a big part, and the 90’s look is back this season.
The Highs And Lows Of Entrepreneurism…
There are so many extreme ups and downs in the startup world. That is the one thing I would warn every entrepreneur about. You are never ready for all the highs and lows that come your way, but the highs are wonderful and the lows pass. You just have to keep going, make tough decisions, and take calculated risks.
I wish I knew a little more about the technical side of the business [before I started]. Things such as the importance of SEO when launching an e-commerce business. That is something I’ve learned a great deal about now, but had I known from day one, I could’ve been more strategic about how our website was structured.
Our biggest challenge so far has been standing out in the ocean of the internet. There are so many companies out there, and not all reputable ones either, so it can be hard to differentiate yourself when you are new to the game and people aren’t yet familiar with your quality and standards.
Social media is such a great tool because you can reach people you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to reach. Which a great perk, and we use it every day, but honestly, it is also very, very saturated and unless you’re paying for ads, it can be tough to stand out.
The Big Give Back…
The partnership with Kleos has been fantastic, they do such important work and for us to be able to work alongside them is amazing. Helping people who need it most and don’t have the opportunities that we do, is what keeps us motivated every day. To date, we have been able to fund businesses for 30 women in Uganda which we are very proud of. Some of those women have shared their stories with us, which you can read here: Aciro Nighty, Arach Grace, Auma Julia
Next In The Studio….
Currently, we are working on our collections for 2017 and most of our time is spent on marketing and PR. Being a new business, we are in a position where we have the machine running, we just need more people to know it exists so we can grow, so that’s our main focus. Just this month we were featured in Inc.com and Huffington Post, and the story of Aciro Alice, who is one of the women that started her own business from the funds we donated, was featured in Forbes, which was very exciting!
Women who inspire…
I’ve met and become friends with quite a few female entrepreneurs since starting Studio 15, and I admire them both professionally and personally. It takes so much commitment and sacrifice to start a business and so many women I know are doing it while juggling full-time jobs or with kids. It is really admirable.
I’ve had a few people that I’ve worked for in the past that were great mentors throughout my career. The best advice I’ve ever received is to trust your gut and don’t do the things that “feel” wrong. If you stay true to this and are hyper-aware of your instincts, you will be a better businessperson.
I would tell [young creatives] that if they have a unique idea, and they’ve researched it and proven there is a market for it, to get it started. Don’t wait for it to be perfect, don’t doubt yourself or your idea, just go for it. There are so many people and so many reasons, that you can talk yourself out of starting your own business, but if you have done your due-diligence, research, and have a good revenue model, it’s all about hard work. If you’re willing to dedicate every day to make your business successful, and you’re willing to give up your nights and weekends for it, you can make it happen.
To follow Jia Wertz or find out more please check out www.ShopStudio15.com
Facebook Group: @Studio15nyc
Periscope: @Studio15nyc @JiaWertz