In the Limelight: Interview with Jasmine Penna
In my recent interview with Jasmine Penna, Founder Conges’ Jewelry she explains her love of strong family bonds, overcome a debilitating bout of meningitis, and navigating diabetes all while becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Clarissa: Let's go back to the very beginning. I love this story and I love the image of you being in the room with your Grandmother, who was working fashion in L.A. at the time, and you learning from looking over her shoulder. Tell me a little more about that.
Jasmine: I basically grew up in my Grandmother's house. My memories are with my Grandma and my parents, working or taking a break with dinner and then getting back to work. It was pretty much me growing up with my Grandmother the majority of my life and watching her work. Just watching her was very inspiring to me.” She was always working on gowns for different celebrities and actresses for award shows.
Clarissa: You’re now at the beginning of entrepreneurship and you get sick, right? Do you want to talk about that?
Jasmine: I contracted meningitis and it was a huge setback. That was on my 21st birthday. Meningitis was definitely a huge change in my life because I really wanted to study nutrition and occupational therapy. That is actually the direction I was going in with my studies. I do have a major passion for nutrition and medicine and that was triggered by my diabetes. At a certain point I contracted meningitis. It set me back because I ended up having a relapse and I couldn't walk. I had to teach myself how to walk. It was a awkward time, to say the least. My dad did a transition on me and he's all about, “You got to go to college. You got to get your education.” He's an organic chemist to the highest of education that you can get. When he came to me and he said, “You got to take a step back. Just ease your mind. If you really care about fashion that much, why don't you switch schools? I don't want you going far away.” Then I went to FIDM. I got to continue staying with my Grandma, which was great because she was my best friend.
Clarissa: After some time, you get married and you go on your honeymoon. I don't know when you really get into the jewelry, was it on the Bora Bora honeymoon you went, “Okay, that's it!”
Jasmine: When I went on my honeymoon with my husband, we were in Bora Bora, the only thing that I saw I could get was Tahitian pearls. But two things: one, it was over my budget and pearls don't work with me. I'm talking about the energy of it doesn't work with me. That was my need and the solution was: “I am going to create a jewelry piece. It will become my signature collection, where I'm going to get a design patent on it, be in the form of utility as well – because it's got to be multi-functional – and it’s going to be a collectible. People are going to want to start collecting it, layering it, wearing it in different ways.” And that's how I came up with the signature collection and creating my own line.
Clarissa: Give me an idea as to the philosophy behind your brand, the way you choose the gems and the idea of it.
Jasmine: My first collection was the Signature Collection. It’s personalized with an original signature barrel. This is what I have my first design patents on with the jewelry collection and it's encapsulated. It's a little barrel. You can wear it horizontally or vertically as a bracelet, on a necklace, on a leather choker, however you want. The way I chose the crystals was through an analysis I did of adults, which to some may sound crazy. “What is it we as human beings feel we need or want to amplify in our lives? What's missing? What's there but needs to be a little more advanced or stronger, moved in a positive direction?” I found the crystals give you energy from their properties to help you.
Clarissa: So, now you have your creations in hand. What's the next move? Are you knocking on doors or are you selling online?
Jasmine: Right now, I'm online but I'm also knocking on doors. My biggest goal was something that I took from my Grandmother's time. It was about stylists. I had some experience with it myself when I went to the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising. That was where I was originally knocking on doors. I started there and progressed more into sales. It was primarily by word of mouth, which was amazing. From there it grew and now we're on Nordstrom.com and we're venturing out into other brick and mortar stores as well here and over seas.
Clarissa: Everything sounds extraordinary. I can’t imagine the hurdles you had to get over health-wise, to be as successful as you are. It's really quite a testimony to you and how extraordinary you are as a woman and entrepreneur. Why don't we let everybody know how they can find you and how can they find your gorgeous jewelry?
Clarissa: Which means?
Jasmine: To be on holiday. To be on leave. To separate yourself from everything and take some time for yourself. That's what it means in French. You can find us at Nordstrom.com and CongesLife.com. We're available in those two locations right now online. A lot of people have questions regarding crystals and their properties. I'm always available to answer those questions anytime.
Clarissa: I'm really thrilled that you took the time to tell your story. I think it's given a lot of people the idea that when you go the extra mile, and believe, you can achieve. You certainly have!
Jasmine: Thanks, Clarissa! I feel honored.