Jenna Jackson is a mother of two boys, ages 5 and 2. She's also the founder of August Handbags, which she launched when she was pregnant with her first child. We sat down with Jenna to learn more about launching a new brand while about to have a baby (she worked right until she entered the delivery room!), as well as the changes she's seen in the past five years in business.
When did the concept of August Handbags come about?
I worked as a merchant at Gap Inc. in San Francisco for years before my husband and I decided to leave our jobs and our home to take a year off and travel around the world. August is inspired by the many places we visited and the types of bags I wish I had on the trip. I wanted things that were chic, versatile and packed well with thoughtful pockets.
What was the process of going from conception to launch like?
There were lot of bumps along the road. Any entrepreneur will tell you concept to launch is the toughest and most exciting part.
Finding leather sources, factories, hardware sources, etc., took about a year and I was pregnant! We launched basically from the delivery room!
As a mother, how do you make it all work?
I have an incredible support network of friends, especially other female mom founders, and I lean on them for ideas, help, concepts or just to lend a sympathetic ear. I'm blown away by them all daily and that is really inspiring. I'm also lucky to go to a school with incredibly supportive moms who pick the kids up, do playdates, remind me to grab snacks and are my support network.
I live 1.2 miles from my parents, and I have a great husband and a great nanny. It really does take a village.
What advice would you give to friends considering starting a business together?
I think you can definitely work with friends, but entrepreneurship is super hard. You need to really know how you handle stress and the best ways to support each other.
I have a partner in my business, my creative director. I respect her and she respects me completely. We argue but never in a mean or negative way. We also have very different skill sets and I think that's important. It makes us stronger.
When did you first feel successful?
I don't know if I ever do! Retail is always about what's next. It's hard to rest and step back and say, wow, right now, we are great!
I think our partnership with Banana Republic and their "The Company We Keep Concept" was a BIG moment for me and for my brand.
Has there been anything about creating August Handbags that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
The past five years have seen some HUGE industry shifts from the more traditional, wholesale model to e-commerce and DTC-focused brands, and the introduction of influencers as a major source of fashion inspiration. My biggest surprise has been all of the new skills I have had to learn along the way. The Gap prepared me incredibly well for a lot of my job, and I worked in e-commerce before it was as important as it is now, so I'm forever indebted. But the market has shifted so much that I'm teaching myself things, like digital marketing strategy, on the go!
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business?
Ideally, start it when you're kids are in school much more full-time. I brought August into the world alongside my babies. Launching, building and growing while nursing, raising toddlers and them being very reliant on me is not ideal.
If you could have lunch with any business person/mogul/entrepreneur/nonprofit founder living or dead, who would it be and why?
Jenna Lyons! I adore her style, her fashion eye and business sense.
Are there any new initiatives or products on the horizon for August Handbags?
My latest has been focusing on the needs of moms in launching our Brooklyn Baby Bag, which is an update to our Cartagena tote that all my friends were using as their baby bag anyway. We added a removable, washable liner with great mom pockets. The bag works with or without the insert, so when you move beyond the true diaper-bag stage, you can use the bag just like our Cartagena tote. We also added a waterproof, wipeable liner to our Portofino bags and turned it into the Kihei bags, which are named after a beach in Hawaii that's great for kids. The liners come in blue or pink. They are great for baby stuff but then can morph into a makeup bag or a bikini bag for after swimming on vacation.
What is your favorite time saving app or service you use regularly?
I get everything delivered—groceries from Thrive Market to fill the pantry and anything kid, dog and home-related from Amazon. I feel like we get daily Amazon boxes! I personally LOVE to shop in person but that's all going by the wayside.
My latest timesaving apps are health apps, like Asana Rebel for yoga, 7-Minute Workout for a quick sweat sesh (I literally do it in the morning with my kids, who love it) or Headspace for a few minutes of meditation. I listen to Audible & podcasts in the car (I do live in LA!) ... I don't know how I would live without my phone. So sad!