Even in just the year I've been blogging, I have met so many amazing women in Seattle who are doing their own thing; taking their dreams and running with them. Jen of JJ Caprices is no exception, and may even be leading the way. She travels to all corners of the globe finding amazing, one of a kind pieces (for the home, clothes, jewelry) so that we can all enjoy them and see pieces of the world we might not get to otherwise.
I had some major questions for Jen and she let me pick her brain about how she got the idea for her business, what her favorite places are in the world, she shared some struggles she's had along the way, and she gave me advice about how to turn dreams into reality, especially if one of those dreams is to travel this wonderful world!
1. What was your original inspiration to start JJ Caprices?
I was a technology consultant who always wanted to have my own small business. I put together business plans and went to incubators dreaming of the day I might have a retail business of my own. In 2011 I went through a life change (divorce) which prompted me to move to Paris for 2 years. It was during my time in the City of Light, between French classes and eating baguettes, that I honed the specifics of what my business would be. Travel and discovery are two of my core passions - caprices, if you will- , and I knew my business had to incorporate them. And voila, the concept of my online shop was born. The next step was taking the leap of faith to return home and launch it. (Just a note to you, I was suppose to be in Paris for 3 years…but ended up returning home a year early just to start making this crazy dream a reality :) )
2. What was your biggest challenge in starting your business?
I do not come from a family of entrepreneurs nor do I have entrepreneurship experience, so everything was completely new and unfamiliar. I started this brand from scratch, so in building it there was and continues to be lots hard work as well as trail and error…and then more errors :). But the process is brilliant and rewarding. It constantly pushes me to think better, perform better and be better every day.
3. Is it hard sometimes to let some of the beautiful things you find go?
I think it is always hard to let go of beauty, and there are definitely pieces in the shop that make my heart beat faster than others. But the pieces that I feature, weren’t made for me. They were made for me to share so that their rightful owner can find delight and happiness in them. I also would add that I grew up raising market lambs in 4-H in Montana. At the end of each summer I had to sell my adored lamb to buyers whose intentions weren’t as loving as mine. THAT was traumatizing…so what I do now, giving up a extraordinary bauble to a joyful home, is nothing :).
4. Do you have a favorite place you’ve traveled?
I have a blog post about this on my personal travel blog, One Girl’s Adventures, but here is the summary:
1. Jeruseleum, Israel
2. Djenne, Mali
3. Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
4. Udaipur, India
5. Machu Picchu, Peru
6. Paris (probably obvious :)
4a. Do you believe in repeating places you’ve been, or do you think there’s too much world to explore to see a place twice?
There is too much world to explore for sure (my list is ever growing), but that doesn’t seem to stop me from going back to favorite spots. I was just in Venice this past January for likely the fifth time. Sometimes a place can hold so much magic or memories or “je ne sais quoi” that I am happy to visit it over and over. I never like to think, “this will be my last time here,” nor do I like to set too many rules about my destinations. I go where my heart and internal compasses points….new locales or beloved, familiar ones.
5. Where have you found your most favorite pieces?
AH! Hard question :)…I found some ridiculously amazing and special Ottoman inspired necklaces in Turkey that combine silk, crochet work, semi-precious stones and beautiful bronze work that were made by one of Turkey’s most important designers, Hüseyin Sagtan. Then there are the dazzling, energetic flamenco inspired earrings by a high-fashion accessory design house, DUBLOS, that I fell in love with when I lived in Sevilla, Spain. And having lived in Paris, it is hard for me to not mention the brilliant artists I feature there. This may be cliche, but really they are all favorites…I wouldn’t showcase them if there wasn’t something unique or rare about each.
6. What’s at the top of your list to visit that you haven’t yet?
If someone said, “Jen, you are getting on a plane today. Tell us in what direction to point it.” I would probably have a hard time choosing between Iceland and Thailand…(clearly I would go to a place that ends in “land” however :)
7. What would you say to a young woman wanting to start a business of her own?
7a. What would you say to a young woman wanting to travel the world?
I think for both, I would say to follow your passions and your heart. Both take courage, tenacity, flexibility, an appetite for adventure, a passion for the unknown and an open spirit, and both will challenge you to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone to explore the upper limits of your emotional, intellectual and spiritual strength. So go be your best self!
One of my favorite quotes that I always use to wrap up an annual blog that I write summarizing the past year on my travel blog is applicable here too:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – (attributed to) Mark Twain
Thanks so much for sharing your story Jen! You are truly an inspiration. I can't wait to see where you go next.
Stay tuned for a feature on Jen's website of my trip to Germany last fall!