Meet the upcoming sunglass accessories designer Abaynesh Jembere.
EBONY: Your story of how you landed in NYC is a unique one. But where did you get your brand experience?
Abaynesh Jembere: I moved to New York with the dream of working in a big fashion house. But, I soon found out that it wasn’t that easy! Once I got in, I never looked back. I worked for two major Eyewear companies starting as an Assistant Product Development Manager and worked my way up to Senior Product Manager and Licensed Brands Manager. When I finally looked up, it had been 7 years and I really felt like I got to know a little something about eyewear.
EBONY: Why did you decide to blend an Ethiopian aesthetic into your designs? And what does that look like, design wise?
AJ: My culture is very important to me and there are so many beautiful things associated with it. I wanted to create something different, something unique. Sunglasses are accessories that allow you to play around with many different techniques, from colors to materials. Jewelry in Ethiopia is so beautiful. I took some of that aesthetic and added it to my collection, adding a traditional Meskel (cross) to one of the styles, as well as a beautiful chain to our cat eye.
EBONY: Have you found a way to not only include the Ethiopian aesthetic, while also giving back to people in your home country?
AJ: Absolutely. One of my goals is to also help bring economic growth to my country. I have a piece of the collection produced there. The lens cloth you receive with any pair of Jembere sunglasses is hand woven in Ethiopia.
EBONY: A lot of young people move here to work in fashion, only to realize they don’t really like the world of fashion. What was your initial experience when you moved here?
AJ: I started in retail, but I was able to land a job in the accessory industry within my first year moving to NYC. My first year was tough and I heard a lot of ‘nos’, but giving up wasn’t an option. This fashion world is a cutthroat industry and there are tons of other young fashion lovers who want to get in just as bad. I learned New York is not for the weak! Persistence was for sure key.
EBONY: This may be personal, but how soon after you began your business did you start to make a profit? A lot of young aspiring entrepreneurs would love an honest answer to this question.
AJ: Profit? Well the honest answer is: I haven’t. I launched Summer 2014, and so far it has been amazing. But, I know profit is on its way. Right now it’s about building the brand and getting that awareness out. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting amazing people along the way and have also gotten Jembere Eyewear on some influential people, but I know it takes a while to see a profit when you have a product.
EBONY: What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make owning your own company?
AJ: Time. Although for me it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice when you are doing what you love. When starting your own company your priorities change. There is a lot that comes with it and you are responsible for everything. But, it is well worth it in the end, especially when you watch your company grow and flourish.
EBONY: What keeps you motivated when things feel slow and the business throws curved balls your way?
AJ: I have a great support system. I’ve also had so many great things happen to let curve balls get me down. I truly believe this is where I am supposed to be and I absolutely love what I do. It wouldn’t be as rewarding without the curve balls. With success comes failure, but it is all about how you move forward. I read something today that said, “Try. Fail. Who Cares?” Who cares is right! Just move forward.
EBONY: What advice would you give young women aspiring to be an entrepreneur in fashion?
AJ: Go for it! I always knew being an entrepreneur was in my future and one day I finally realized I had to just go for it. It is a huge commitment, but if you know you are following a passion of yours then just go.