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Listen to Jen Perry & Her 5 Tips to Launch a Great Company

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Jen Perry is the founder of Jelt, which is short for Jen’s Belt. She launched the company in 2013.

With Jelt, Jen Perry offers another way for the world “to remove plastic from the planet, offer employment opportunities to underserved women, and to demonstrate to her two sons that there is more to business than just making money.”

As Jen Perry describes it, Jelt is a “social enterprise founded to give back to my community and to make a positive impact in society.”

Jen Perry was motivated to start Jelt after she survived a “near-death experience and months in the hospital.” At the time, she knew she had to make a positive impact.

At the same time, Jen Perry also saw the charity side of business as a volunteer at a local non-profit.

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Companies like Tom’s Shoes were “able to donate to charities” and were leaving a positive impact on the world. This impact inspired Jen Perry to start Jelt, with a “mission to give back.”

With Jelt, Jen Perry decided to reinvent the “common belt.” This time, she decided to improve upon the elastic rainbow belts in the eighties by “making the elastic out of sustainable materials.”

Jen Perry also added a “grippy inner gel to keep pants in place with or without belt loops and designing an ultra-slim profile buckle that won’t show a bulge under fitted shirts.”

With every sale, Jen Perry and Jelt donate a portion to “organizations supporting veterans, kids and the environment.”

Check out more interviews with sustainability leaders here.

Jelt is a social enterprise founded to give back to my community and to make a positive impact in society. Jen Perry, Jelt

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Jen Perry: Jelt is a social enterprise founded to give back to my community and to make a positive impact in society.

After surviving a near-death experience and months in the hospital, I knew I needed to do more with my life to make my mark in the world and to improve the lives of others.

As a volunteer at a local non-profit, I could see how much businesses were able donate to charities and also saw the impact brands like Tom’s Shoes were having on the world, which inspired me to start my own company with a mission to give back.

As an active, busy person who hated belts, but clearly need one, as my jeans where sliding down everywhere I went, I decided to reinvent the common belt.

I remembered the elastic rainbow belts I wore as a kid in the eighties, and improved upon that concept by making the elastic out of sustainable materials, adding a grippy inner gel to keep pants in place with or without belt loops and designing and ultra-slim profile buckle that won’t show a bulge under fitted shirts.

Jelt belts are not only made from recycled plastic bottles, but they are made in Montana, providing opportunities for women living on remote ranches to claim their power through job security and their ability to provide for themselves, as well as their families.

We also donate a portion of every sale to organizations supporting veterans, kids and the environment.

We are a 1% for the Planet member and are B Corp certified. Every aspect of our business is intended to be a force for good

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Jen Perry: When I first began Jelt, people asked me why the hell I wanted to make belts.

They told me it was an uninspired idea that would never take off.

However, I knew Jelt wasn’t just about the belts. Jelt is a social enterprise, which was a new concept seven years ago.

My mission was to create a sustainable lifestyle product that everyone needed, manufactured in a way that empowers underserved women and then donate a portion of all sales to charitable causes.

There will always be nay-sayers and devil’s advocates in life who try to hold you back from pursuing your dreams. The key is to trust yourself, believe in your ideas and follow your mission.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Jen Perry: The funniest mistake was a costly one.

Since I didn’t know anything about clothing manufacturing, I sort of “guessed” about sizes and colors.

Well, the first round of super-striped, extra-small Jelt belts did not sell out so quickly (which is an understatement).

Once I realized that most customers want plain black, simple belts in larger sizes, I started crushing my sales.

I’ve come to realize that most people are very literal and buy practical products in plain colors. In other words, I needed to learn my demographic.

Have a mission that your people will want to support.

Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

Jen Perry:

  1. Have a mission that your people will want to support.
  2. Build a team who also stands behind that mission.
  3. Constantly evolve your company towards growth and challenge. Adapt and don’t resist change.
  4. Listen to feedback in order to finetune and refine your product, but don’t listen to every single request or you will burn out and stray from your original mission.
  5. Don’t rush or put something out in the world until it’s the best version you can possibly offer at the time. Be proud of your products and the work you do. To the world, you are the brand.

Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Jen Perry: Being a social enterprise, or “purpose driven business” is not just a catchy phrase used by Millennials to feel good about business.

It is a mindset that every human is living and sharing this planet together. We have this gift of life on Earth, so how we choose to live it matters.

The world’s younger populations are realizing that and spending their money on businesses with a conscience.

They are teaching their parents and grandparents to think in different terms. What does that company stand for?

Why would you support a company that undervalues women and minorities? Why do you need more “plastic stuff” when the world’s oceans are being choked by plastic waste?

These just a few of the types of questions and discussions happening all over the world by educated consumers.

So, as a business leader, if you can’t embrace the mindset of living humanely and running a sustainable company, then you are antiquated, which by definition, is not sustainable.

Why would you support a company that undervalues women and minorities? Why do you need more “plastic stuff” when the world’s oceans are being choked by plastic waste?

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Jen Perry: At Jelt, we have worked with several e-commerce coaches and PPC companies, some with great success and some were just a waste of money.

What I’ve learned on this rollercoaster ride is that conversions come from:

1- A user-friendly, mobile-friendly website with fast load speed — Make sure your product is professionally photographed, with images that are sized/optimized for load speed, and highlight your best-selling products on the landing page.

Beautiful photography is useless if the user can’t immediately understand what you are selling.

2- Quality traffic which targets customers looking for your product — Make sure you understand the keywords you should be targeting and have strong, unique content on your website pages with those keywords imbedded.

Also, work on your meta-descriptions to make sure they contain your main keywords.

3- A checkout process that is quick, easy and trustworthy — Make sure your customers can use Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Paypal and other options other than their credit card.

The faster and simpler the checkout, the more likely a customer is to proceed with payment.

4- Offering free or simple exchanges and returns — Customers want the ability to change their minds, though you hope they won’t.

Unfortunately, platforms like Amazon, have forced all e-commerce websites to compete with their policies.

If a customer can buy your product cheaper and easier on Amazon, they will.

Beautiful photography is useless if the user can’t immediately understand what you are selling. Jen Perry

Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Jen Perry: It’s obviously helpful to get great PR and to be included in influential magazines, like Authority Magazine, but you cannot count on great PR exposure every day.

We have to make sure we offer a high quality product, delivered quickly in attractive, sustainable packaging, and offer the best customer service on the planet.

We also need to be true to our customer demographic and not change who we are because it’s cheaper, easier or trending.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Jen Perry: Check out Jelt on:

Website

Facebook: jeltbelt

Instagram: @jeltbelt

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

 

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