How to Align Business, Passion, and Impact with Jordan Krouse, Owner of Clever Designs LA
With Earth Day approaching, what better time is there to learn about an eco-warrior that brings together fashion, travel, and impact. Jordan Krouse is from the Midwest but now lives in LA with her husband. The move to LA and her avid world traveler experience birthed her business Clever Designs LA.
Clever Designs LA’s key product is the blingsling, a travel bag that keeps jewelry tangle free and fights for female equality. Keep reading to learn more about this business and Jordan’s story.
Tell me about your business, and when you started? What inspired you to start Clever Designs LA?
I had the idea for a tangle-free jewelry carrier for a while. I absolutely love to travel and found that all my jewelry kept getting jumbled up on my trips. I would try to untangle them but would get too frustrated so I just never wore them again. I tried different carriers but couldn’t find anything that did everything I wanted. I wanted something that held my dainty, statement and long necklaces that would also keep them from tangling. It couldn’t be too bulky either because I’m a heavy packer! So I came up with the idea and after years of research and development, launched the blingsling® last year. In building my company, Clever Designs LA, I wanted to do things the most ethically way possible with respect to our environment, animals, and of course, people. I can proudly say we use eco-friendly materials and packaging and hand make each bag with fair wages in LA.
It was also very important to me to empower other women and girls to follow their dreams, so with each blingsling sold, a portion of proceeds goes to Step Up Women’s Network, an amazing mentoring organization that inspires women to inspire girls. I also get to mentor first-hand with Step Up and meet some pretty incredible future female leaders.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I’m still so new, so I’m always testing things. Whether it’s being active on social media, networking, trying out some pop-up shops and markets, I’m always looking for a new outlet. Next month I’ll be in a few vegan festivals that I’m really excited for. I like listening to entrepreneur-based podcasts and picking up tips from some of the big names, too. There are a lot of opportunities so I’m just jumping into them to see what works!
What do you love the most about working in LA?
I love how LA has access to everything. The industry resources, the eco-friendly and vegan events and community, conscious consumerism is something people actively discuss. My manufacturer is just a couple blocks from me, so that makes it easier to know exactly how the working conditions are and how everything's coming together. I can pop in at any time. Being from the midwest, I haven’t always had all of this at my fingertips. Now that I’m in LA, I feel like I have the responsibility to keep learning and growing to be better for myself and my business and pass that along to my network.
How do you find a balance between running your business and enjoying personal life?
It’s a work in progress. Luckily, my husband owns a business, too. So we can both have flexible schedules. When I had a normal schedule, there was only X amount of hours to do things in my personal life. Sometimes we can work remote or at night instead of the usual 9-5 if we need to. There is a little bit more freedom to move things around which is great.
How and why did you get into the design industry? Do you have an educational background in this industry?
I got my degree in marketing, so I haven’t had any formal training in design. I always had these ideas for new designs, but never fully committed. I used to say to myself, I’ll start when I know x, y, and z. Then there would be something else pop up and then something else would change and I found myself losing time. You just have to use what you have and get started. Starting is the hardest part. You’ll learn as you go and be able to figure things out, just start somewhere. We have so much information and technology at our fingertips. Your answer is out there, you just have to find it.
For many new business owners, financial resources is always a challenge. What cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
My husband and mom are both financial advisors, so they taught me about budgeting and planning for the future and all of that. I had saved up before I left my full-time job. Actually, I decided to leave before my business had launched, which I probably would advise against, but it’s what worked for me. It all comes down to having a detailed plan. I’ve heard some people have great results with crowd-funding, too.
Why is it important for businesses to become sustainable and eco-friendly?
I just really think that even the smallest changes make a big difference. I’ve seen so many documentaries, and what I take from each of them is that we all need to step up and take initiative to make our world better. Little changes like recycling, not using plastic water bottles, straws or plastic bags can make a difference. Making little changes gets you thinking about it more consistently and the small things can snowball into big results. I’m not here to say I’m doing everything perfectly, but I can say I put a lot of thought into all of my decisions. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
What challenges have you faced in running your own business and how do you deal with it?
It’s educating everyone on the things that I’ve learned. I’m constantly striving to be the most ethical and conscious business I can be, but that isn’t always the standard for other companies. Still, I believe that things can be done the right way. But I can relate. Sometimes we buy things without being concerned about what it took to make it. We just seek the cheapest thing out there without thinking about who that could be hurting. In building Clever Designs LA and the blingsling®, I’m really starting to examine my own personal behaviors, too. It’s something that will always be evolving.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs just getting started?
I’d tell them to get started and just keep going. It’s easy to compare yourself with other businesses, but everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own path that they are following, so you have to stay super focused on your path and trust that everything will work out.
What are your dreams and goals for your business?
Ultimately, I’d love to be on Oprah’s list of favorite things! For now, I’m just focused on getting the word out about the blingsling®. The more we can do that, the more women we can empower and start to see some changes in our world.
More about Jordan…
What is your favorite neighborhood to shop in?
I’d say in LA, it would be Melrose and Venice. They have so many unique mom and pop shops. The downtown area is being revitalized and it’s great. I love it here.
What color are you obsessed with?
Yellow. It makes me happy, inspired, and energetic. I naturally gravitate towards that color.
Favorite summer vacation spot?
I love to travel so much! I’m planning a girls trip near where I grew up outside of St. Louis soon. A lot of my vacations are back home to visit family and friends, but last summer, I went to London and Paris! This summer, we have a family vacation in Hawaii. My favorites are usually on the beach somewhere.
What’s your Life Mantra?
I was a quiet kid growing up, so I’ve always loved the quote “actions speak louder than words.” I try to surround myself with people who prove themselves through their actions.
My company culture is “Love. Inspire. Grow. Enjoy.” To spread love, kindness, and integrity, inspire others to be their best self, keep learning and growing, and never forget to enjoy life and have fun. What’s life if you aren’t enjoying it?