Too Young to Start a Business?

Podcast with Jess Helburg

Podcast: Too Young to Start a Business?

In this episode of the Banowetz Marketing Podcast, Jess Helburg talks with June and Sarah about starting her business, Bold Rize, as a young adult, and how you are never too young to start a business.


Welcome, Jess. This is Jess Helburg.

– Hi, thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

– [Sarah] It’s great to have you.

– [Jess] Thank you.

– And then we have June Schmidt.

– Hey guys, good to hear you. Good to see you. Good to be heard back and welcome Jess, who I’ve known for just a little while.

– [Jess] Yeah, just a couple years, yup.

– [Sarah] Why don’t you tell us who Jess is.

– I would be happy to. Jess is one of my former students. We did choir and show choir together. And as I indicated to everybody in the office, even back in the day, her stamp was well known because I liked to have nicknames for my students and my nickname for Jess was dress like Jess. And the days that we even looked halfway decent at school, we would say it must be the official dress like Jess because she was our role model.

– Thank you.

– [June] No, thank you. Thank you, and now we’re gonna get to hear about how our impression of that has manifested itself, has come about in what Jess is beginning to do.

– [Jess] Yeah.

– So Jess, what are you doing?

– I am actually in the process of starting an online fashion startup in feminist and sustainable fashion.

– [Sarah] Okay.

– Yeah.

– [Sarah] And what’s the name of your company?

– It’s called the Bold Rize. B-O-L-D R-I-Z-E. The Bold Rize.

– How did you come up with that, Jess? That’s really cool.

– Thank you. That name kind of did take me a while actually. It was inspired by the Capstone collection that I made my senior year of college actually. And that line was called, “We Are,” just to kind of symbolize unification and that whole idea behind the brand. But that name was taken when I went to go actually buy a URL website. The name was taken and every kind of version of the name was also taken. So I was kind of really trying to come up with a name that was unique in itself but also kind of showed really what the brand was about overall. So kind of like a bold statement in fashion and expressing who you are through clothing and also with the rise of the feminist movement, so that’s kind of where it came from, the Bold Rize.

– [June] Wow. So, define for us how you would say that your clothing line is sustainable?

– That’s a good question. So, actually, all of the initial launch of merchandise with graphic T-shirts and bags and hats is they’re all made from a company based in New Hampshire and they’re completely sustainable. They’re made of 100% recycled materials, which I think is really great because that’s a really important thing in this day and age especially with the fashion industry, there’s so much production. So many things are being made but most of it is not sustainable, unfortunately. That was kind of a way that I wanted to separate myself from the crowd and really make a positive impact on what I was making in the fashion industry to make it sustainable and then also what I’m hoping to do later in the Fall is launch a line of remade jackets from stores that I’ve thrifted myself and kind of remade into a very edgy street wear style that matches what the brand theme is.

– [June] Very cool.

– [Sarah] I love it.

– Thank you, thank you so much.

– Hey Jess, I have a question to ask you.

– [Jess] Yeah.

– Can I be one of your customers?

– [Jess] Oh, absolutely! Absolutely, I love customers for sure.

– Well, I have a couple more questions that I’m going to defer over here to Sarah. But having known you as long as I have, talk to me, begin to talk to us about how this dream, where this dream started, and then the process by which it’s beginning to become a reality for you?

– [Jess] Yeah, that’s a great question. Basically, I guess we all know this. I fell in love with fashion when I was probably six years old and that’s really when I decided to be a fashion designer. I just fell in love with how expressive and individualistic it was and I decided it was really beautiful how one day you can be someone else and the next day, you can be a totally different person. Kind of that self-expression through clothing is kind of why I decided to major in it in college and from there, as I started to get more involved in the industry and kind of understand what the industry actually was, on a realistic level. I was a little bit disappointed actually to see that most of it was just about sales and the bottom line which a business has to be to a certain extent but I wanted to find a way that I could create and express myself through fashion in a way that actually meant something and gave back to people. Which is kind of where this idea came from. It’s what inspired my capstone collection my senior year and kind of what led to me wanting to do my own thing and not just kind of conform and find a random design, assistant design position in the industry. After I graduated from college in December, I was looking for jobs and nothing really stuck. Nothing really felt like it was gonna be important enough to me to actually drive me everyday and want to go into work and do that everyday. Besides this idea that I had, and initially I was like, “Okay, you’re 21, you can’t just start a business.” I had no background in business whatsoever. My entire background is just design and I love it, but at the same time, you need both. I was very intimidated at first and I was nervous to tell people what I wanted to actually do with this. But, at the same time, in the back of my head I knew that I was holding on to something that was really cool. That would really stick with people a lot and would matter more than just making sales.

– [Sarah] What’s some examples then of how you want to run your company differently?

– [Jess] Basically, everything is gonna be sustainably and ethically made. Everything has that female empowerment, feminist fashion idea. But also with every, all the profits that we make, every purchase that’s made 10% of it is actually gonna be donated to Futures without Violence, which is a nonprofit social justice organization that provides resources and aid to victims of domestic abuse, victims of human trafficking, and sexual assault survivors, which is really an important issue for me and I think will be a really important issue for my customers as well.

– [June] Yeah.

– Yeah.

– That’s amazing.

– Thank you.

– So, do you do anything with your designs? Do you have like logo on tees and stuff that express the feministic and the giving back too?

– Yeah, so basically, the first launch is gonna be all graphics on T-shirts and hats and tote bags that have a feminist message and then following that, the jackets will be very similar to what I created in my senior line which was like very edgy kind of street style ready to wear that also incorporated those graphics of feminist messaging and feminist ideals and things like that.

– I am sitting here listening to you and I have a daughter in law who lives in LA and she has been in the entertainment industry, she’s been an agent. And I’m just hearing you and, I’ll make sure she doesn’t hear this before I do this. But I would love to buy something from you for her because that’s totally her mojo. She loves to dress like that.

– That’s awesome.

– Yeah, so hear this world. June Schmidt is purchasing something from Jessica. I can hardly wait. My little dress like Jess, I’m so excited.

– Thank you.

– So where are you at with your business then with setting up the business right now? Do you have a website?

– [Jess] Yeah, so it’s definitely been a work in process. I’ve had this idea since January but I’ve had kind of limited time to actually devote to it just because I’ve done other freelance projects with different companies. But right now, yes. There is a website that is set up. It’s still in the process. Everything that I’m purchasing for our launch, we’re hoping to launch the actual website and the line September 1st, with the first run of merchandise, and then hopefully the jackets will follow later in the Fall. Right now there is a website set up. We have an Instagram handle. I don’t have any content yet because I haven’t received my merchandise but once I do, I’m hoping to set up a couple launch video sessions and photo shoot sessions and styling things and really start to make it all come together and be a little bit more real.

– Very nice.

– [Jess] Thank you.

– I love it.

– [Jess] Thanks.

– So cool. So in the meantime as you are formulating all of that, you have some other things that you’re doing right now in Cedar Rapids. Tell us about that.

– Yeah, so right now, I’ve actually been doing a lot of freelance work with Theater Cedar Rapids downtown. Which is an organization that I love so much. I actually interned with them in their costuming department two summers ago after my sophomore year of college. That’s where I kind of met the costuming director over there and really started to work with the theater a lot and really fell in love with everyone who works there and their whole idea behind community theater and building this creative community of people within Cedar Rapids. I think it’s so awesome. And so, yeah, after I graduated from college, I reached out to her and I was like, “Hey, I think I’m gonna be sticking around “the Cedar Rapids area for the time being “because I want to start this brand. “Do you need any help?” From that I kind of just have been doing a lot spot work, different miscellaneous products around the costume department and different departments in the theater doing a lot of over hire work for the different stage shows which has been really fun. Just a great learning experience and really a lot of fun.

– Great, and you need to tell our listeners about your personal connection with the present show that you’re working on at TCR.

– Yeah, yeah, so actually, when I was in high school, it was I think my sophomore year probably.

– Junior year going into your senior.

– So yeah, my junior year of high school, we actually went to New York City, which was a really fun experience and we ended up seeing “Newsies” on Broadway, which was really cool because once they announced that they were doing “Newsies” at Theater Cedar Rapids, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve already seen that.” And it was really cool to just kind of see, I mean the show itself on Broadway professionally, but then come full circle and see it produced and set up and created at a community theatre. Yeah, it’s gonna be a really fun show I think.

– What a great opportunity for you.

– [Jess] It’s been really awesome.

– Theater Cedar Rapids does a really nice job.

– [Jess] They do incredible work. Oh my gosh, yeah. They’re so cool.

– [June] So now even take us back to because you haven’t done all this study and all this practicum in the states. You’ve been other places. Tell our listeners about that, Jess.

– Yeah, so my junior year, Fall semester, my junior year of college, I actually studied at London College of Fashion.

– [Sarah] Okay, wow!

– Yeah, which is a, oh my gosh, it was such an incredible experience. I was out there for four months and just kind of their whole idea behind fashion, how you should study it and how you should practice it was so different and innovative compared to what we see a lot in the United States just in that their main focus was so much on creative expression and how fashion I think should be. It’s just like a really beautiful form of how you should express yourself through your style and it’s a way to tell people who you are without having to speak. And, not so much, I’m gonna make this because it’s gonna sell for this much or I’m gonna make this for this company because it’s really gonna reach to their customers, it’s like, how does it reach on a human level. How is it like really, I don’t know, it was just really an incredible way to learn for four months and take a step back from the whole business aspect of fashion and just focus on creating at its root.

– So does that come about as a result of color, does it come about as far as cut? What plays into all that?

– [Jess] Really everything honestly. I mean, everything that I did create in London it came from something so random. I did a shoe collection that was inspired by cathedrals and I made a hat that was inspired by a building. It’s just like anything you see that you find beauty in, there’s a way to translate that into what you wear. It’s hard to find sometimes and it’s hard to actually create physically but it just turns into something that’s so beautiful because it has a story to go behind it. That’s kind of how the creative aspect backs it up is that it’s not necessarily for people that purchase it at a Target or something. It’s for people to enjoy in its art form. Which was a really interesting way to focus on fashion for a while.

– [June] Absolutely, absolutely.

– Do you have any siblings?

– [Jess] I do, yeah. I have an older sister who lives in Minneapolis, and I have two younger brothers.

– Okay, so you’re a middle child.

– [Jess] Yes, I am a middle child.

– [Sarah] You remind me a lot of my daughter. She’s also a middle child too.

– Oh, wow.

– [Sarah] Yeah, she reminds me of Abby.

– I can see that. You probably see that in a great way. In such a great way. So do you, can name, don’t have to name, do you have a prototype or do you have an idol in terms of fashion design, who you really have great appreciation for?

– Yeah, that’s a great question.

– [Jess] It is a great question.

– Throwback or present ’cause obviously those can be answered two very different ways.

– [Sarah] I bet there’s a throwback.

– [Jess] Yeah.

– I was gonna say the same thing.

– Kind of both.

– I was totally going to say that.

– There is kind of both. Present day, is actually a designer based out in LA. Mike Amiri. I was actually interviewing for a job at his company.

– What?

– [Jess] A couple months back. Just because he is so innovative in, not only design, but in production. Basically what he does is, it’s very high end street wear made for the modern millennial and every single piece is produced in a way that is so innovative and unique that every single jacket, like if it’s the exact same jacket design, he does distressing sweatshirts with a shotgun, but each one has a different shotgun.

– Oh my gosh.

– Yeah exactly, and so everything is just, even though it’s like the same it’s different, because they’re all produced in such a unique way and I just thought that was a really cool way to go about creating something. That inspired a lot of actually what I did for my senior line was that everything was hand painted or hand distressed or things like that, and it’s just so individual and it gives it kind of a cooler meaning. As far as throwback designers. I mean a lot. Really I think aesthetically, I love Dolce and Gabana so much just because they’re so vivid and colorful and beautiful. They’re really innovative with what they do every season and just watching their shows on YouTube is so fun. Yeah, I would say they’re probably my top in terms of aesthetic just because it’s so fun to watch what they come up with each season and everything that they’re inspired by.

– What are they doing on YouTube?

– Most designers actually these days will record their shows for fashion week and put them up.

– Oh, their fashion shows?

– Yeah, their fashion shows. Yeah, so that people like me can actually watch them and not have the invite to Paris but see your shows for real on YouTube.

– Maybe some day, right?

– [Jess] I know, a girl can dream.

– Could be looking for you on YouTube.

– Okay, so when the website finally comes out, do you know what the URL is going to be?

– Yeah, it’s

– [Sarah] Perfect, perfect. I wanna make sure our viewers have that information.

– Thank you, yeah.

– [Sarah] What’s the Twitter handle?

– No Twitter.

– [Sarah] I mean, no Twitter, the Instagram handle.

– Instagram. It’s @theboldrize.

– [Sarah] @theboldrize. Very nice.

– [June] So now, I’d like to know for you personally, you certainly have designed something for yourself. Have you not? Do you have a piece that you’ve made that just makes you smile every time you wear it or you look at it?

– Actually, yeah I’d say probably, this is kind of a weird one but when I was in London, I was taking a millinery class. Which was so fun ’cause I had never really worked with accessories before. But my advisor told me she was like, “The instructor’s incredible, you need to take this class. “Whether you’re interested in hats or not, “You need to take it.” And I’m so glad I listened because I actually ended up, I mean I’m still into costuming obviously, but I was really looking for a career in costuming at the time specifically and I had this idea that I wanted to recreate Maleficent’s headpiece from the movie and I thought it was really farfetched. When I first brought it to my instructor, I was like, “Hey, this is a little bit crazy but would it be possible, “do you know how to do this?” And he actually came back to me, Ian Bennett was his name. He came back to me and he as like, “Actually, the costume design for the movie Maleficent “was my student. “I taught him how to do that so I can teach you.”

– Oh my word.

– Oh my goodness. That is hilarious.

– It was so incredible and so yeah, he taught how to make the Maleficent hat and it was all done by hand. Took me forever ’cause it’s like, the horn were like covered in oil slick feathers and beading all around the sidepiece. It came down to the chin and it’s one of my most proud pieces that I’ve ever made.

– [Sarah] That is amazing that you had that experience. That is so cool.

– [Jess] Exactly and I couldn’t have gotten that besides at London College of Fashion because it was just so incredible to learn directly from him exactly how you make that headpiece.

– [June] That is a story you need to hold onto and you need to tell often because that’s relatable to anybody and to have had that happen, to actually get to work with that person as a mentor is unbelievable.

– He was an incredible person, teacher, everything. He worked with Madonna, made hats for the Queen. Incredible story.

– That is so amazing. That is so amazing. Well Jess, thank you for being on the podcast today.

– [Jess] Thank you so much for having me.

– [Sarah] And everyone, you can find it at and @theboldrize on Instagram.

– Yep, that’s correct.

– Well, thanks for being on.

– Thank you so much.

– And for everyone else, if you have any marketing questions, you can go to or find us at Banowetz Marketing and we will talk to you later. Bye.