In Conversation with Julia Hunter of Jenni Kayne

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Describe Jenni Kayne in a few words?

California based lifestyle brand.

What made you decide to join Jenni Kayne?

I joined when the company was still relatively small. I had always loved being part of startups because the challenges were so new and ever changing.  It was a risk to leave bigger companies in NYC and move to LA to join Jenni Kayne which was at the time a small business, but I was excited about the potential for the brand and wanted to be somewhere I could have a major impact.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I started my career in investment banking as an analyst working on M&A transactions in San Francisco in the technology space. After that I moved to NYC and spent many years working in the retail industry in buying, planning and strategy at a number of businesses including J. Crew, Louis Vuitton and Loeffler Randall.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

I think the hardest times at Jenni Kayne have always come when the team and culture were struggling. We run the company with a mostly flat hierarchy and initially there were too many cooks in the kitchen, with different opinions on what the business should be. It took too long for me to make decisions around personnel and I think we lost time and momentum trying to find ways to appease different people, and ultimately it just wasn’t possible to do so many things at once and to do them all well.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Our team is just incredible and I’m so thankful for everyone I work with every day. We have such a passionate and positive team who genuinely care about each other, and I’m constantly inspired by each of them in new ways.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We’re very fortunate that our business hasn’t suffered from COVID.  We had to close our retail stores for a few months, but overall we’ve been able to rely on the success of our e-commerce business to carry us through the year. 

What’s next for the business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Gearing up for even more growth in 2021, the brand is expanding into new categories like beauty and fine jewelry, and as well as existing categories like furniture, home decor, and wardrobe staples. We’re planning to double the size of the business again in 2021, primarily through growth in e-commerce with a couple new stores on the horizon.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Life is short, shorter than short! Being present and in the moment is more glaringly important than ever.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I have a toddler and a newborn, so I’m not sure grounded is a word I would use to describe myself this year.  It’s been such a wild ride, truly unforgettable to have so much change happen personally while so much change has been happening globally at the same time.  The best moments I’ve had this year are with my family and team just taking a walk on the beach or having a zoom coffee date. 

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I certainly believe that work/life balance is something we should strive for in the sense that both areas of life are so important and deserve attention and investment. I don’t think there will ever be a time when I feel that I’ve achieved some perfect version of balance though. Knowing myself, it’s likely I will always feel that I could be doing a better job at either work or personal life or both. My hope is that I will continue to have the freedom to give energy to both and not feel that I’ve had to sacrifice too much for either.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m the least educated person in my nuclear family.  My dad has a PhD in Physics, my mom has a PhD in Chinese Linguistics and my brother is finishing his PhD in Japanese History at UCLA right now.  I graduated from UCSD with a Bachelor’s in Economics and haven’t gone on to pursue any advanced degrees – in many ways I’m the black sheep in the family for being interested in business and not giving my life to academia.

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