Meet Jen Walsh of Emerge-Designs by Jen in Gilbert
Today we’d like to introduce you to Jen Walsh.
Jen, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Well, I’ve been making clothes and jewelry for myself for years. I would sell things here and there but I never pursued it as a business. I was too nervous to really try, in case I failed. Most of the time, if people asked if they could buy something I made, I would say no. But, in August 2016, I decided to stop saying no and see what happened. Before I knew it, my business was born. Things took off pretty quickly and, within 6 months, I was in multiple retail locations, and had an 8-month wait for custom skirts. It was crazy. Within the past 4 months, I decided to scale back a bit. I closed most of my wholesale accounts and am selling 99% of my jewelry direct to customer. I’m getting caught off on my Waiting List and getting close to the point where I can start taking orders again. I’m also working on a website to streamline things a bit. Up until now, and until my website is finished, my entire order taking process is done through Instagram. It’s A LOT of work. But I’m SO THANKFUL! I LOVE that I get to sew and create every day. And I LOVE the women I get to make things for.
Has it been a smooth road?
Yes, and no. It was smooth, as far as it just kind of happened, organically, all on its own. But I’ve had struggles too. Working through fear is a big one. Everything I make is something I love. If I don’t love it, I don’t sell it. I feel like it’s all a part of me. So, the fear of putting that part of me out there, for people to accept or reject is kind of terrifying sometimes. But, when I take my focus off that and just on the love of creating, I forget to be afraid. Another hard part is the fact that I’m a stay-at-home Mom to 4 kids. So, trying to find the balance has been a struggle. I want to make ALL THE THINGS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE! But if did, I would have to take time away from my kids to do it. I’m still trying to find the perfect harmony between being a great mom AND a great business owner and creator.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I make jewelry and clothing. Mostly, leather earrings . . . lots of feathers and fringe . . . and necklaces . . . leather and macramé. But what I’m most known for, I would say, are my skirts. And within that, my “pocket messages.” I think that’s probably what makes what I do a little different. Again, it’s something that started organically. All the skirts I make are custom, and I like to make them very special and unique for each individual woman. When I’m working with a woman, I try to find out as much as I can about her. Then, I take that information to find the perfect fabric for her “pocket message.” It’s going to sound crazy, but as I’m working on her piece, I’m praying for her and over the things she shared. Praying for what, perhaps, they might need to hear, or a way they might need to be encouraged. Then, I take that and make it into a “pocket message,” that I post on my IG, showing her pocket fabric and why I picked it for her. It sounds weird to say. But, it’s become a really beautiful way to see each woman for who she is, to celebrate something unique about her, to find a way to encourage her, to put a little secret stash of love and respect into her skirt. It’s become a way to connect, uplift, and spread joy. So . . . I think that’s definitely what I’m most proud of.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I do! I think the Greater Phoenix area has a really wonderful maker community! One thing that’s really important, I feel, when starting a creative business, is to find other people on a similar path that you can share the journey with. I’ve found SUCH wonderful love and support within the creative community in PHX. I also love that there are a lot of markets that are specifically geared towards hand-making vendors and a lot of stores who still appreciate and carry hand-crafted items.