Business School Student Sells Handcrafted Aprons From Nicaragua

By Michael Hinkelman Philadelphia Daily News.

PHILADELPHIA

Jessica X. Simmons, 24, is founder and owner of Moiselle Jes, which makes and sells handcrafted aprons. She started the business in August as a way to provide sustainable jobs for Nicaraguan seamstresses. Simmons, daughter of a Nicaraguan-born woman, is a master's degree candidate at Temple University's Fox School of Business.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea?

A: I traveled with my mother at a young age back to Nicaragua. A lot of her brothers and sisters still live there, so she visits frequently. I was exposed early on to all the artisans there and we'd buy things you couldn't find here. This was in a small town called Matagalpa, where my mother was born. I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, and I always wear my apron and it makes me feel great. So the idea was to have really well-made aprons from Nicaragua. I made sketches and my cousin put me in touch with my aunt and she's been in the sewing business for more than 25 years. I work with her and she lives in Matagalpa.

Q: The startup money?

A: It came from my own pocket, about $1,500. Then I got accepted into Blackstone LaunchPad Temple (an entrepreneurship program) and they helped me get my website, register a trademark and get incorporated.

Q: What's the biz do?

A: We make handcrafted aprons in Nicaragua while we promote job creation. We want to showcase the craftsmanship of artisans and seamstresses in Nicaragua. The aprons are shipped here to me and I sell them.

Q: The biz model?

A: I sell from my website and on Etsy. I also sell aprons at craft shows and to friends. I use social media to drive traffic to my website. It went live in December and I've sold 15 aprons.

Q: What's special about the aprons?

A: They're retro, 1950s-style, kind of bringing back a tradition. They're well-made, 100 percent cotton, and the detailing and stitching are excellent. People are interested in where a product comes from, given the horrible working conditions in some countries. I wanted to help women in Nicaragua make a sustainable living. Generally, seamstresses make $8 to $12 a day in Nicaragua, but women who make my aprons are getting more like $10 to $15.

Q: Who's buying them?

A: When I started, I wanted to sell to people who like to cook and entertain, to look and feel good in the kitchen. I market to women who have little girls, because I have matching aprons for mothers and daughters. These women want to have memories of baking cookies with their girls.

Q: The cost?

A: The adult aprons are $40, a child's apron is $25, and half-aprons are $35.

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