An interview with Jamie Lewis (aka JLEW)

This week we've had the absolutely pleasure of chatting with Jamie Lewis, founder of JLEW bags. She went from a career in investment banking and private equity to starting her own business in fashion. We hope that you'll join us in thinking that she's an inspiration to women in all aspects of life.


1. What inspired you to start your own brand of bags?

I never set out to start a bag company, really.  When I couldn’t find a bag nice enough looking and big enough to carry everything a city girl does from morning until night I decided to make my own.   When I realized others recognized this gap in the market too and that I could make a business selling them, I put one foot in front of the other, and JLEW Bags was born. 

2. Have you always been into design and fashion?

Nope!  I never could have predicted I’d be in this industry, no; I first dipped my toe into this world through classes at Fashion Institute of Technology and we launched JLEW bags less than a year ago.

3. What was the greatest challenge you faced in moving from the corporate world to starting your own business?

I laugh because I thought a 20-year career advising and analyzing companies and an MBA from Columbia Business School would equip me well to run a business but I’m finding myself stretched for time and having to focus keenly on staying organized – time management, balancing proper oversight without micromanaging, getting up the learning curve and building relationships in an entirely new industry have all posed challenges, but I love it.


4. Did you know anything about designing and manufacturing bags before you started JLEW?

Truly I knew next to nothing.  I grew up with a mother who sews and did work at a fabric shop in high school but it would be a stretch to say I knew much of anything before starting JLEW Bags.  

5. What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? Having the guts to go “all in” and focus wholly on JLEW Bags.

6. How has fitness, or more specifically boxing, impacted your life?

As an investment banker one rarely sleeps, let alone exercises. I had been active leading up to that point in my life and after eight years of eating poorly, sleeping maybe 4 nights a week and not exercising, I finally woke up and made a change.

Got back into cardio and weight lifting before I found boxing. I’ve grown stronger not just physically, but also mentally through boxing; it’s my happy place. I get bored after running for too long. Spinning never hooked me. Boxing is my exercise of choice – I love learning, pushing myself and competing too, of course. Talent matters, clearly, but discipline and hard work count too. There’s no thinking about anything other than boxing when you’re in the ring.  Probably the most valuable takeaway from boxing for me so far is that you truly cannot judge an opponent by his/her looks. You cannot assume anything and have to be prepared for everything.   
7. Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years’ time? I would love to see us with a physical presence in both New York and Los Angeles, selling bags and inspiring and even larger community of #GirlsWithGuts!

8. How did the idea for #GWG1 come about? How long did it take you to put such a great event together?

The idea really came about while brainstorming the best way to garner visibility for an emerging brand.   Social media is saturated, traditional advertising and even selling through traditional channels poses challenges but the community of #GirlsWithGuts that we have built continues to grow.   These women are amazing.   We thought what better way to  celebrate our brand then to put together an event for our target customers.   Involve fellow fitness-oriented businesses, make it fun and inspirational.   Again, we just put one foot in front of the other and here we are. 

We’re so excited about #GWG1 and have had such an amazing response to it that we already have three more events planned . . . one again in NYC in February and our March event will likely take place in Denver followed by one in the Bahamas.  We‘ve had requests for San Diego and Los Angeles too, so stay tuned!
The women speaking this Saturday are all fearless females, that has set goals and smashed them. I am a bit awestruck at their potential and abilities.  Putting them all in the same room is amazing.


9. What is the most important thing you would like each attendee to take home from the event?
They’re remarkable, aren’t they?  Every woman is unique.  Each one is amazing.   All have suffered hardships, yet persevered.   Not one ever gave up on her dream, which is why each one is where she is today.   They’re all very human, real, honest and self-aware.   They’re also incredible role models for us all.  I want women to walk away inspired and energized to tackle whatever it is she wants to accomplish; to believe in herself.  
We make bags, but I call them our Bags with a Silver Lining.   We want women to smile when they grab their JLEW bags full of tools they carry on their way to achieve their dreams . . . in the airport, on the way to the gym, carpooling kids, or walking into a boardroom.

10. Do you have any advice for women looking to start their own company?

Stop looking and start already!


Jamie Lewis of JLEW bags