Asking a person what they do for a living in Los Angeles is quite a complex inquiry – given not only the aspirational attitude that drives people to the city thanks to the allure of Hollywood – but also because making ends meet often relies on more than one hustle. Thus, you’re often introduced to someone who works in a coffee shop, says that they’re a screenwriter, but who really wants to be the main attraction in the circus. LA isn’t your resumé, it’s the lies you fudge on your taxes.
But there is the rare occasion when you come across a person like Jessie Andrews who is actually a thriving renaissance woman who excels in a multitude of different fashion-facing industries like jewelry design, swimwear, and skincare.
As the daughter of a Florida-based handyman, Andrews saw first-hand at a young age what an entrepreneurial hustle looked like. After school, she’d often join him as he cut down trees, welded metal pipes, changed electrical outlets, and invoiced his customers.
“He made me curious,” Andrews says of her father’s work ethic. “I wanted to learn how everything was made and why it worked.”
It’s difficult to illustrate how Andrews has gotten to this point without acknowledging her time spent in the adult film industry. It’s something she rightfully understands is a part of her past. But like with resumés, there comes a point where a person’s earliest jobs — which no longer reflect the work one’s interested in doing — need to be removed from the CV all together. Andrews has stated that her adult work was never about longevity, however, she still sees everlasting value in bringing organizational habits she honed while performing into her entrepreneurial ventures.
Andrews founded Bagatiba in 2012 with the goal of creating jewelry that was lavish yet affordable and helped her understand the intricacies of brand ownership. Basic Swim came in 2016 to challenge both the price and aesthetics of bikini designs. Jeu Illimité was next in 2017 as a ready-to-wear brand made with dead stock fabrics in low quantity runs to ensure exclusivity. And finally there is the forthcoming skincare line, Petiue, which she believes has licensing potential with major cosmetic brands thanks to a proprietary invention.
“For me, work is fun, so I don’t mind it being a 24-hour job,” she says of maintaining an overall infrastructure which sees her shipping out between 800-1200 orders a month. “I’m sure people think I’m running a cute Instagram brand that makes a couple orders a month, but it’s not.”
Her point is well taken. Andrews wants to be taken seriously, and lopsided numbers suggest that many likeminded women like herself are being disregarded in the marketplace as they attempt to grow.
According to Fortune, female entrepreneurs/founders only received two percent ($1.9 billion) of the staggering $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists last year. The grim statistic actually marks an upswing in capital invested in all-female-led teams when the number was just $1.4 billion in 2016.
Yet, Andrews’ outlook — not just for her own businesses, but other female entrepreneurs as well — is quite positive. She cites venture capitalists in 2018 being excited about the health and beauty segments which are traditionally female-driven. The numbers suggest that the demand is certainly there; the category accounts for $300 billion annually and trails only groceries as the largest retail category.
“Women are buying these products, and hopefully women will be making them, because women know women,” she reasons.
While many budding entrepreneurs find lack of funding, turning aspirations into action, and leveraging that action into positive cash flow as major hurdles to overcome, Andrews’ biggest challenges thus far has been allowing others to help her achieve each distinct vision.
“Letting go is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s been the most important part of my business growing,” she admits. “Once I let go of the more tedious everyday tasks – like fulfillment and customer service – I was able to focus more on designing, creative direction, and photography. I still do tedious things from time to time to stay connected. It’s scary trusting someone else to represent you and your brands.”
The implementation of a staff also prompted Andrews to consider that her burgeoning empire needed a tangible kingdom. For the first five years in business, her apartment was her natural base of operation. In 2017, she launched 1201 B Studios in Downtown Los Angeles in 2017 which has since become a one-stop-shop for design, marketing, and photography.
“1201 is a place where my ideas come to life,” she says. “I spent five years running my brands from my apartment, Instagram, and mind. [My ideas] had no physical reality, so they almost didn’t feel real.”
While an office space might suggest a classic stance on business, Andrews is decidedly against formulaic approaches in the fashion industry. She sees her success as being a byproduct of her own consumer behavior, rule breaking, and harnessing an outsider’s perspective (not unlike what Virgil Abloh is doing at Louis Vuitton).
Of course, going into business for oneself is not without risk or feelings of trepidation. As a result, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that two years ago, fewer than 2% of millennials were self-employed.
Andrews’ fashion ascent is not without its fair share of bumps along the way. There were runs that should have occurred in much smaller quantities to ensure quality, contractors who made off with money, and finished products from manufacturers that didn’t reflect the original sample. In order to manage each crisis, she found that the solution was often just finding the right people to work with.
But those are external problems. It’s easy to place the blame on fabrics or greed. Andrews is also wise to steer clear of internal feelings of envy and self-doubt which she sees as a paralyzing force for entrepreneurs.
“I’ve seen a lot of people get caught up obsessing over how well someone else is doing. It can put you in a stressful place where you’re constantly comparing yourself and your growth, when all the variables are different for everyone. If you truly give your mind freedom to think without influence, you can create honestly and organically.”