How many fifteen-year-olds do you know have a mid-life crisis and stop to ask themselves, What really matters in life? Jesse Genet was one of them, and today she’s the Designer, Founder, and CEO of Lumi, a company that lets you easily brand your own packaging. Her journey to entrepreneurship started in high school — she basically petitioned herself out of her senior year and drove across the country to L.A. with nothing but a dream and her 1969 Lincoln convertible.
Jesse is a perfect example of a perpetual learner, constantly putting herself in uncomfortable situations in order to grow. She offers great counterintuitive advice to women who are seeking to be more creative and take more risks, and as a bonus, she’s straight up hilarious.
If you’re afraid of not knowing, you won’t get very far.
— Jesse Genet
Majo: Tell me a little bit about how you got this idea for the silk printing, and that transition.
Jesse: I started printing tee shirts in my parents basement, and at that point I was definitely embracing my creative element. I would do these drawings, these awful drawings (laughs), and then I would screen-print them on tee shirts and sell them to my high school friends. But I always wanted to level up. So I convinced my parents in between my sophomore and junior year that I should go and live with a family friend in Los Angeles so I could sell my tee shirts. This was an actual pitch I made to my parents. I had been to Los Angeles only one other time, and we barely knew this family friend, but I pitched them on living on their couch so I could sell tee shirts. In hindsight, it’s insane, and I can’t believe they agreed.
I did sell some tee shirts that summer, but it put me on this whole trajectory of continually putting myself in very uncomfortable situations in order to learn. And in case anyone’s thinking that I’m some extrovert and that’s magical, it’s not true. I was so afraid. I would just walk the streets past these stores, going in each one and asking, “Do you want to buy my tee shirts?” (laughs)
Jesse: Yes, that was how I sold them. I didn’t know how else to sell things! I didn’t know anything!
Majo: And were you uncomfortable?
Jesse: Oh my gosh, yes. So uncomfortable. I had this clipboard, because I thought business people carried clipboards… (laughs)
Majo: And you’re sixteen at the time?
Jesse: Yes! So, I have an example of my tee shirt and my clipboard, and I’m walking up and down the street. And I would decide to go in a store… I would see it and decide to do it, but as I got closer to the door I would be like, “I can’t do it!” and just keep walking! (laughs) So then I’d turn around and say, “This time I’m gonna do it!” I would walk some blocks like, fifteen times, just mustering up the courage before going in and announcing, “I have these shirts, um… is there a manager here?” (laughs)
Majo: What happened?
Jesse: People were friendly, even if they didn’t want to buy anything. But one of the core insights I still carry with me to this day, is that, doing that wasn’t about selling those tee shirts. Just by putting yourself out there you can get introduced to things you would never have imagined or chosen for yourself.
At one point, someone in one of the stores told me, “Yeah, these tee shirts are cool, but, you’re walking store to store trying to sell them? Are you familiar with the showroom model? Have you been to the California Mart? Have you talked to reps? Maybe a rep would take on your tee shirt line….” All of these were completely foreign terms to me, I had never heard of any of that. So they told me about a showroom and scribbled down some information for me…. And all of the sudden, from nothing, from me just walking into that store knowing nothing about the industry, a couple weeks later I was in a showroom pitching my line, and someone picked it up!
It’s just a good example of: You don’t know what you don’t know and you’re never gonna know unless you’re out there talking to people. And if you’re afraid of being dumb, or sounding dumb, or not knowing what you’re going to do, you are burning daylight. Out of things I talk to women most about, and I don’t want to overgeneralize here, but… we plan too much.
Majo: Yeah, perfectionism.
Jesse: Yes! While we’re busy planning, some dude is out there spewing our dream with a half-cocked idea! (laughs) We need to get over it. I mean, it’s just as hard for me as it is for everyone else, but we need to get over it.
- Jesse Genet growing up — a serious girl who wanted to be taken seriously. [3:32]
- Going through life phases early and fast, plus the turning point for her creativity. [7:32]
- How Jesse deftly figured out a way to leave high school early, and other evidence of an independent spirit. [13:24]
- On the benefits of being flexible, and choosing to view life with an opportunistic lens. [19:12]
- “I always wanted to level up.” On constantly putting herself in uncomfortable situations in order to learn and grow. [21:34]
- From a low year of being lonely and poor to creating a new path for herself. [27:21]
- The ups and downs of being a CEO, plus Jesse’s insights on developing new skills. [34:18]
- Jesse shares about her inner critic and offers advice to other women who want to be creative leaders and take more risks. [39:55]
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