Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview: Julianne Goldmark and Emily Matson founders of Emi-Jay Inc.

Prepare to be truly inspired as I kick off my February interview with a dynamic duo of fashionable entrepreneurs who have taken the accessories world to a whole new level with their must-have, addicting and oh so colorful hair ties! Introducing Miss Emily Matson and Miss Juliane Goldmark, co-founders of the celebrity coveted Emi-Jay Inc. These two beauties are not only brilliant and extremely driven, but are pros at running a multi-million dollar company while still in college. These ambitious teens are said to be influenced by the sophisticated style and entrepreneurial spirit of the Olsen Twins, the popular headbands on the show Gossip Girl, choose Starbucks over Coffee Bean, and their favorite movie is, of course.... The Devil Wears Prada! While these besties have a lot in common, read on and discover what differentiates them from each other.

KYMBERLY MARCIANO: Lets start with who is Emi-Jay?
EMILY MATSON: Emi-Jay is the business that we started when we were in middle school that began from our shared passion for fashion and the name is our two nicknames combined.

KM: You two were pretty sophisticated gals to start a company at the young age of 13, so what sparked the concept behind fashion-forward hair ties? Why hair accessories?
EM: We began to notice a growing trend of hair accessories among our friends at school and on TV shows such as Gossip Girl. However, everything on the market was far beyond our price range and too impractical or extravagant for girls our age. With that, we decided to try creating pieces of our own and went to Downtown LA's Garment District to buy materials. We then sat on Julianne's bedroom floor experimenting with our findings, a hot glue gun - and that's where it all began!

KM: Where does your love for fashion come from? Any big influencers?
EM: We have always been bonded by our mutual love for fashion; ever since middle school we would spend our weekends looking through Teen Vogue and shopping together, which is where a lot of our inspiration originally came from. I think we have always been influenced by the Olsen Twins for their entrepreneurial spirit and sophisticated style.

KM: Who are your favorite designers?
EM: We have always been inspired by the classic designs of Chanel, but for everyday wear, we love Zara, Rag & Bone, Vince, J Crew, Topshop, Iro and Isabel Marant to name a few.

KM: What kind of girls are wearing your designs?
EM: Initially, we made our products to be worn by ourselves and our friends at school. However, 5 years later, it's amazing to see that our hair ties have become such a versatile accessory; anyone can wear them, not just girls!

KM: Do you pay a lot of attention to your own personal style on a daily basis?
EM: Absolutely! Our passion for fashion is still a huge part of our lives, and therefore we always make sure we present ourselves in a presentable and put together way on a daily basis.

KM: Can you describe the process of taking your inspiration and turning it into a tangible fashionable accessory?
EM: The accessories we originally made on Julianne's bedroom floor were far more elaborate than the simple hair ties that we sell today - we had to consider how much time and money were going into these beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces and adjust that to make something more versatile and affordable, resulting in the products we sell today.

KM: You have collaborated with a lot of cool lines. What was one of your favorite projects to work on so far?
EM: We have been so lucky to have done such amazing collaborations - one of our favorites to work with is definitely Splendid. As another LA-based company, we share a lot of the same principles behind our brands, which makes collaborating with them so enjoyable! We had the opportunity to visit and tour their headquarters in Downtown LA and pick out color combinations for upcoming seasons, which was so much fun.

KM: What were some of your biggest obstacles when you first got started?
EM: The biggest obstacle when we first got started was our age. As teenagers, it was difficult to be taken seriously when trying to pitch and sell our products. Although we're still young, we've built a brand that gives us credibility, and people now recognize us for being young entrepreneurs, which is an amazing feeling and a compliment in itself!

KM: Would you say one of you is more creative and the other more business?
JULIANNE GOLDMARK: I think we’re both creative in the sense that we equally come up with new ideas, but Emily definitely has a thing for editorials and with pieces we may have to write and I’m more interested in marketing. We both love design and fashion but at the end of the day my favorite part is definitely on the business side.

KM: One of you lives on the west coast and the other the east coast, how does that work?
JG: A lot of emails! We definitely make a lot of phone calls and have emails going back and forth daily…But I’m also in New York a lot and Emily comes home for breaks often so it works out pretty well. I’ve already gone to NYC 8 times in the past year so it’s definitely been a ton of traveling on both of our parts to make it all happen!

KM: How do you balance studying and normal life with design? 
JG: In high school it was much harder to juggle all of it since we were in school for long hours, where now in college we get to pick our schedules. I made it so I only have classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which leaves me Thursday and Friday for work days. Even on school days though we’re usually always working on something! School has always come first for us, but right now I’m personally trying to focus a lot more on work.

KM: I see you have a Spring 14' launch coming soon! What is the next collection you are working on?  How far in advance do you and Emily design and create?
JG: We’re launching our new “Skinny” hair ties. They’re basically mini versions of what we have now in great colors. To set our brand apart from competitors we try and stick with trends for seasons…So different prints, colors, etc. are planned pretty similarly to regular fashion labels. Right now it’s January and we’re working on Fall/Winter which is so fun!

KM: You have so many collections that are themed, and I'm sure inspired by trends, seasons, etc., can you give us an idea about what's next for Emi-Jay? Any desire to go global?
JG: We actually also just launched an Emi-Jay site in Asia which is pretty cool. We’re also working on more collaborations like we’ve done with Splendid and SPANX, really trying to expand as much as possible. In addition to all of this we’re in the midst of completely re-doing our website, so that will be a nice change!

KM: What was the most exciting moment for you two as designers so far? 
JG: I honestly can’t think of just one moment! We’ve gotten to do some really fun things. We did a shoot with Oprah Magazine and Seventeen Magazine, which comes out in March! The best part is definitely all of the relationships we’ve built over the past several years and getting to work with such successful people along the way and gaining so much from them.

KM: The fashion industry is fiercely competitive - how do you stand out from other brands?
JG: As the original hair tie company, we keep our quality at the best we possibly can. While most of our competitors use inexpensive materials from out of the country, all of our collections are produced here in the US from the best materials out there. We also keep up with trends and forecasting for each season, which is not too standard for a hair tie company. Our most prized characteristic though is definitely the collaborations we’ve done with well-known brands and being sold in stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, etc.

KM: Your collaborations are with very specific brands, do you have a specific criteria for partnerships?, Who's next or is there a brand you are dying to do a collaboration with?
JG: We typically like to collaborate with brands that use similar aesthetic to ours! SPANX and Splendid are two brands that we’ve both owned apparel from and have a strong presence in parts of the fashion world. I can’t say too much but we’re in the midst of actually working on some stuff with GUESS and some other really awesome companies!

KM: What's after college for you two?
JG: I honestly couldn’t tell you…! I hope to be doing something related to lifestyle, fashion and business once I graduate college. You never know, maybe I’ll start another label one day or just ditch fashion all together! I have no idea, we’ll see. But I definitely hope that by then my company has grown even more than it has already!

KM: It's hard not to notice since we first worked together how much you have expanded and now have Doodle and Spirit! I'm guessing you two are in sororities now? WOW. Tell us about that? 
JG: We’ve added a few divisions to the brand, which were essential! Doodle is our kids line, and SPIRIT is our high school/college/greek life/team division. We also have a lot more to come with our new website! I’m actually not in a sorority and Emily isn’t either but most of my friends who go to big football schools are and the hair ties are a huge hit for tailgate attire and sororities as well!

KM: Emi-Jay has partnered with Step Up Women's Network Young Luminaries program. Tell us about that. Is it exclusive?
JG: Our partnership with Step Up Women’s Network just ended because the sponsorship was for the 2013 school year. We’ve worked closely with the organization for the past year and had great experiences, but now that the partnership has finished we’re working with other charities. We think its important to build relationships with great organizations such as Step Up and others we’ve worked with like Operation Smile, but being able to get a taste of a bunch of different charities and programs is something important to us, so that we get to help an array of causes.

KM: Your brand donates 20% of profits to charity, which other ones are you tied to? What made you choose these types of causes?
JG: We’ve worked with many different charities! Everything from Susan G Komen to Operation Smile and Project Knapsack which benefits children in Africa, and Step Up as well. 20% of our profits go to whatever charity we’re working with at that moment in time. Operation Smile was an organization my parents had worked with closely in the past so I wanted to be a part of it too. Project Knapsack is a great organization started by a family friend that helps children in Africa to obtain the necessary tools like pens, backpacks, and paper to attend school. All of these were causes not only close to my heart but things I found very interesting and important.

KM: What advice do you give to young girls who also have big dreams like you?
JG: Surround yourself with good people! Besides all the cliché “stick with your dream” stuff that’s actually true, I’d honestly say to surround yourself with positive and supportive people and by that I mean both family AND friends! This whole process has really taught me the value of a friendship based on who supports you and who doesn’t.  Having such positive influences in your life can make so much of a difference. If it wasn’t for my supportive parents and friends I doubt that I would’ve stayed as motivated!

KM: Now, A few favorites please! 
Emily’s Favorites
Place: Paris, France
Song: Can't pick just one! 
Actor crush: James Franco   

Julianne’s Favorites:
Place: Tough one…My family has a place in Mexico
that is absolutely gorgeous and definitely one of my favorite
places to be with friends and family. But I’m also a homebody
and have a weird obsession with LA right now. With
all my friends missing home in college it makes
me really happy to live in such an incredible city!
Song: Whatever is current! I can’t pick just one. I love 
everything from Kanye to Avicii, Miley, the list can go on…
Actor crush: Liam Hemsworth 

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