By Dan Chavez, Staff Reporter | Photos by Daniel Johnson and courtesy of popejoans.com
Liesse Jones, Business Administration major, founded her own business, Pope Joans, with a mission to make women feel confident and beautiful, and to challenge harmful standards of beauty, she said.
Jones sells handmade lingerie made of natural materials, including silk, bamboo, and cotton, which is treated with natural dyes, she said.
Jones only works with materials that are not harmful to the environment and designs her garments to be comfortable to wear and to boost self-esteem, she said.
In the creation of Pope Joans, she took the concept of natural beauty and rendered it to an idea incorporating personal health, confidence, self-esteem, and care for the environment, she said.
“To me it made sense that if you feel beautiful in your undergarment, then anything you put on top of that is just going to exude self-confidence,” she said.
Jones mainly sells her products through her website, popejoans.com, but she also has two stores that sell her clothing line: Headliners, a full service salon, and the Octopus and the Fox, a local store that supports local businesses, she said.
She also hosts private events, where five to ten women meet, are served champagne and chocolates, and purchase custom made lingerie, which are a lot of fun, she said.
“And a couple of times a year I do big shows for business events,” she said.
Jones hosted a show on Nov. 30 promoting her clothing line as well as some accessories and she said 15 to 20 friends, supporters and potential customers were in attendance at any given time, many of them leaving with their purchases, while others gleefully entered the front door.
Like all of her shows, there was a spread of refreshments and snack foods, and Jones’s products were displayed for sale on various tables and hangers, she said.
She said that these events are good for selling merchandise as well as spreading the word about her business, and that many people attend these events knowing they will be making a purchase and set aside finances for it.
“I had a great time and I think it’s been successful so far. People seem to be happy, enjoying the food and it’s a great time for me and other artists to mingle,” she said.
As she began her journey into design, Jones said she was accepted into a fashion show for Toronto Art and Fashion Week.
Although she was thrilled at the opportunity, she noticed that the fashion was to select only extremely thin models for the runway, she said.
She felt that it is harmful for women in society when being super skinny is trendy and popular as it promotes a negative body image, she said.
Since the Toronto Fashion show, Jones has endeavored to create lingerie that makes women feel better about themselves, she said.
“I love the fashion part of it but for me it’s really a tool to kind of make social change,” she said.
Jones said she operates her company while attending several classes at CNM, which is constantly a frantic effort at keeping pace with all her deadlines.
She usually works about 60 hours a week at her business on top of the hours she works as a student, she said.
“Right now, especially entering the Christmas season which is my busiest time of the year, it’s a huge time crunch to maintain my class work and prepare for the holiday season,” she said.
Despite her hectic schedule, Jones feels that attending business courses at CNM has helped her learn the details of managing her business, she said.
She has felt that the classes she has attended thus far have applied to her business quite nicely, she said.
In her entrepreneurial class, Jones has had lessons on developing a business concept, conducting market research, and feasibility tests to make sure this is a sound business idea, she said.
“I already did a lot of that stuff for the company I own, but I’m interested right now in kind of moving this company forward and changing the way I run it a little bit, so I have been able to do all that market research more in depth and apply it to where I want to be in my company,” she said.
Jones runs her business entirely as a sole proprietor with no employees or partners, and because she produces all the lingerie and accessories while managing the operations side of her business, her workload can become tremendous, she said.
Jones said she personally creates her clothing line from the design all the way to the finished product.
She has considered hiring a seamstress to take a large portion of the work off her own shoulders, she said.
“It’s a lot, especially right now I’m really busy with orders, which is great but I have to personally fill all of them,” she said.
Last year’s business caught Jones by surprise and she worked very hard to fill all the online orders as they came in, she said.
The holiday season is among her busiest times and she found herself unprepared for the number of orders from her clients, many of whom reside in Canada, Albuquerque, and various areas within the U.S., she said.
Despite the deadlines and heavy workload, Jones said she loves it when she receives more orders for her products.
“It feels pretty good. It’s pretty rewarding,” she said.
Jones encourages shoppers, especially during the Holiday season, to support and purchase from local business because they need local community members in order to keep their doors open, and shoppers can pick up some very unique gifts that cannot be found anywhere else, she said.
She also encourages future entrepreneurs to find their passion as they seek out a business idea, she said.
“Make sure you love it because it is a lot of work and you have to focus all your time and energy on what you do. If it’s not anything that you put your whole heart into, it won’t be successful and it won’t be worthwhile,” she said.
To check out Jones’ fashions go to popejoans.com.