#BlushBoss Series: Joanna from JEMMA Handbags


Hello, Gorgeous! Today’s post kicks off a new mini series called #BlushBoss. I love to get to know the readers of Blush & Camo and through talking to many of you I quickly found out all of you are a total #BlushBosses!

You are driven, follow your goals, and know how to #sidehustle like no ones business. You have dreams and aren’t afraid to work hard towards them. Each of you inspire me everyday and so this series is a celebration of  strong women who dared to follow their dream and make it a reality. I hope this mini series gives you a little inspiration to continue working towards your goals and never give up!

In this #BlushBoss series I’ve teamed up with CEO’s of amazing companies, asked them to share insight on their business, and give Blush & Camo readers insight what it takes to be your own boss.

Today’s #BlushBoss is the CEO of JEMMA Handbags Joanna (I first did a post in them here)! During her time working in finance Joanna couldn’t find a handbag meeting all her needs that she could confidently carry throughout the day. So, she left her career in finance and 6 months later launched JEMMA! I hope you enjoy Joanna’s interview below:).


Name: Joanna Lau

Age: 27

Current Title/Company: Founder & CEO of JEMMA Handbags

Past Education: NYU Stern School of Business, BSc. Finance & Statistics, Minor in Music

What was your first job out of college? I began my career in finance as an Emerging Markets Trader at JP Morgan (a very male dominated world if I might add).

What inspired you to start your own company JEMMA handbags? I’ve always had an interest in fashion – especially professional workwear – given that I came from a background in finance. My career clashed with my love for style when I realized I couldn’t find a chic, high-quality handbag that served the daily needs of modern women like myself.

I found myself having to constantly accommodate to the constraints of my handbag, instead of the other way around. My girlfriends and colleagues had similar experiences, so I knew this was a void that needed to be filled. JEMMA was created for the modern working woman who doesn’t want to sacrifice style, convenience or several months’ paychecks for the right handbag.

What advice would you give to Blush Babe readers thinking about starting their own business?

Starting a new business is no easy feat, you have got to have the determination to see it through with no regrets.  If you don’t, then don’t bother at all.

What was your biggest fear in starting your own business?

Running out of money. Starting a business requires a lot of money upfront! A lot of times, businesses fail not because of a poor idea but because they run out of cash to see it through. Hence, cashflow management is extremely important.

Take Blush Babe readers through your journey of developing your own handbag company. How did you ensure JEMMA was a success?

While I was working in finance I was pretty limited by how creative I could be with my clothing, but I still loved getting dressed up.  My accessories were an opportunity to be creative within the parameters of functionality, but bags in the market never seemed to have the right color, quality, or look of professionalism I was striving for. I found myself having to constantly accommodate to the constraints of my handbag, instead of the other way around. My girlfriends and colleagues had similar experiences, so I knew there was a void in the market that needed to be filled.

I considered all angles and forecasted what I would need to get the business up and running, then I went for it.  I think it’s important to believe in yourself, your vision and then just press “go”. There’s never a right time and you’ll never know, if you never try.

What were some of the biggest challenges and greatest rewards you faced while starting your business?

I think the biggest challenge I faced was bringing a company to success with limited resources. Financial management and cashflow allocation is extremely important, but when you do it right, it is a very rewarding experience. I measure my rewards through personal success and the satisfaction of my work that comes from doing something I love. I’m rewarded when I see other women share JEMMA’s vision and especially when they get excited about how JEMMA handbags will improve their work, life and balance between the two.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start my day at 6AM, which is sleeping in, from when I worked in finance. The first thing I do when I wake up is check emails because I like to be on top of everything throughout the day. Next, I hit the gym for half an hour while listening to Bloomberg TV. I like to stay up to date with the markets.

I always select my outfits the night before and place everything I need for the next day in my JEMMA work bag. This way I’m never scrambling to find things in the morning and only occasionally switch items in and out of my bag depending on what else I may need.

By 8:15 AM I’m out my door and on my way the office. Once I’m in, the first thing I do is respond to all urgent emails, from customer service to web development to marketing/social media/PR needs from my agencies and supply chain logistics.

Meetings and conference calls happen in the afternoon and recently I’ve been speaking at various colleges across the country with Women in Business students. These speaking panels are fun and rewarding for me and they keep me in touch with my target customers’ needs even though I’m an e-commerce only company. I’m always thinking about new designs, brand strategies and overall growth tactics for JEMMA.

Ideally I eat dinner at 7PM, that is if I’m lucky enough to be done with work. It’s hard to know when you’re done with work as an entrepreneur. I like to spend one or two nights a week out with friends for dinner/drinks and then the other nights at home cooking. It’s important to stay inspired and happiness really comes from surrounding yourself with the right energy. Thankfully, I have family and friends who lift me up and help push me forward.

At night, I try to sleep at least seven to eight hours to make sure I’m fully awake for the next day. Luckily I can fall asleep anywhere – and fast!

Give Blush Babe readers an idea of what goes into designing a handbag…

I started by asking my peers and colleagues what they were looking for in a handbag and what features mattered the most when it came to the accessory that goes with us everywhere we go. From there I hit the sketchbooks! There’s so many different factors to consider when designing a handbag, but my biggest priorities were developing a bag that blended functionality, style and quality at an affordable price point. It took me about 6 months from the time I left my finance job to having an actual product in hand.

What is the best moment of your career to date? Walking away from my old job in finance and starting JEMMA; I never felt so liberated!

What advice would you give your 22-year-old self? Don’t be afraid to look outside of your comfort zone and pursue something you actually, absolutely love and not what society is telling you that you should love.

Joanna is a total #BlushBoss…

What is your best entrepreneur advice? Life is too short. Do what you love and don’t be confined by social norms.

You wish you knew how tofigure skate!

What is your favorite way to unwind? I like to unwind by playing golf. Golf has been a part of my life since I was 10 and I enjoy being outdoors.

If you could pick one Sex and The City character, who would you be? Charlotte York for sure!

If you could have brunch with three women who would they be? Grace Kelly, Anne Hathaway and Amal Clooney.

Thank you SO much for stopping by Blush & Camo! I would love to hear from you in the comments below what your goals are and your #BlushBoss traits your using to make it happen:)!

xx Julianna



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9 thoughts on “#BlushBoss Series: Joanna from JEMMA Handbags

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! I will definitely check out your latest post! Thank you so much for the kind words!

      xx Julianna

    1. Thank you so much gorgeous! That truly means so much coming from you! Sending you tons of love!

      xx Julianna

  1. This was such a great interview, Julianna! Thanks for introducing us to Joanna, who seems to be both stylish and brilliant! I love that she attended NYU’s Stern, so did I! I love the advice she gave on not giving up, not conforming to social norms and being prepared beforehand when attempting a business venture, which is so important! I can see she’s a real class act, as shown in the photo you’ve shared here, as well as the 3 women she would choose to have brunch with. I’ll have to check out her purses, I’m sure they’re beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing and I hope you’re having a wonderful week so far!



    1. That’s so exciting you both went to the same school! Her purses are seriously stunning and I am completely obsessed with them! Sending you tons of good vibes babe!

      xx Julianna

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