I got an email from Jesse Genet telling me that she reads my blog and is a long time entrepreneur. Started her first business at 16 and have been going ever since. Love that. It is in her DNA.
Jesse grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. Her Mom is a school teacher and her Dad is a local lawyer. Her parents got divorced and her Mom remarried a tech developer. She was 15 and that completely changed Jesse’s perspective of how you can lead your life. Her step-Dad never had a job, he was an entrepreneur who worked on research and development projects. He worked with universities and the military…and was completely independent.
When Jesse was a teenager she will tell you that she kind of had a young life crisis. She was playing sports and decided no more. Instead I am going to start a business. Jesse began printing t-shirts in her basement. She dug in with her hands and began silk-screening t-shirts. She called the company Genet Shirts. She was never thrilled with the level of printing.
Summer was approaching in her sophomore year of high school. Jesse told her parents she wanted to go to Los Angeles and learn more about her business. Her step-Dad hooked her up with his friend who was in the business. It was incredible that this woman let her come and stay with her. They were so supportive of Jesse’s desire to figure it out. She got a showroom to take on her t-shirts. Not much happened but it was a learning experience.
Jesse returned for her junior year in high school to Michigan and kept the business going. By her senior year she was done with school. She figured out how to graduate with out actually having to go to classes at her high school. She attended a junior college to take the classes needed to graduate high school and saved money working on her company.
She was always supposed to go to University of Michigan because her parents had paid in advance for the education. Lots of states give residents that opportunity. She went for orientation and thought these are not my people. Instead Jesse got in her car, drove to LA and enrolled in the Arts College Centre of Design in Pasadena.
She studied industrial design because she needed a major. The design center is a glorified trade school for the arts. It was there that she met her co-founder, Stephan Angoulvant. They began working on printing technology together. As I said, when Jesse started silk-screening in high school she was never thrilled with the results. She figured out the precursor to get the right results was Inkodye, a chemical used in the 1950’s. An engineer had owned the rights to that chemical years ago who happened to live near her in Michigan. She tracked him down and eventually wore him down and bought his rights and stock out to create Lumi.
Lumi produces an ultra-violet activated dye that can be exposed in lights like photography yet it sticks to fabrics. After purchasing the rights Jesse and Stephan moved to the Brewery Lofts in downtown LA and started experimenting with the dye process in the bathroom. It was the beginning of their business. Then in 2009, they posted a Kickstarter project that helped them raise $13k to produce this new textile printing technology.
In 2011 the business really started to take off. In 2012 they did another Kickstarter project to launch the national business. By 2013 they got into 1500 retail stores with their print kits. It has been a major transition moving from a 1200 square foot loft with the first Kickstarter project to now where they are located in downtown LA in a 12000 square foot space.
They were accepted into Y Combinator and decided it would be a great place to get a short lesson about the business end. It has helped them think about their business in a different way. People can now order custom tools, there is also the ability to up-load things to print and of course there is the retail arm. They are slowly moving into new directions based on what their customers are looking for. After all the customer knows best.
Really enjoyed talking with Jesse. She has incredible drive and is certainly ambitious. She obviously loves what she does. I definitely plan on staying in touch. You can see their story on the website and it is worth taking a look. The shift in her life at 15 when her Mom got remarried made an impact. Her passion for perfection around printing is a classic entrepreneurial move. How can I make this what I want it to be because I know it can be better. Impressive story.