Who is she? Jordan Krouse, Founder of Clever Designs LA + blingsling®
Follow her on Instagram: @theblingsling + @jordannolankrouse
I recently met Jordan at the Biz Babez studio in Downtown Los Angeles. In chatting with her, I found that she is incredibly easy to talk to and her passion for work is as contagious as it is inspiring! Girl can also rock the hell out of a blazer, so considering the phrase “dress for success”, I know this babe is going to do big things!
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was a shy kid from a small, farming town in Southern Illinois outside of St. Louis, but I had this inner, secret Sasha Fierce that really wanted to be an actress living in a big city. Looking back though, I was always coming up with these crazy invention ideas that would never actually work, but in a weird way probably helped me create the blingsling®.
What inspired you to start your company?
The idea for the blingsling® came to me about ten years ago, but it wasn’t until almost two years ago that I finally got started on it. I was working as an event planning manager at a hotel and traveling a lot with the work perks when the idea for my tangle- free jewelry bag started showing up more often. I just couldn’t find a carrier that had everything; flexibility, a tangle-free solution and versatility to keep my bigger statement pieces and long necklaces untangled. I got to a point where I was tired of hearing myself make excuses as to why I wasn’t doing what I wanted. So I saved up, got my fiancé (now husband) on board, and left my awesome job in hotels to, at the very least, know that I did my best to make it work. In building Clever Designs LA as a company to introduce the blingsling®, I wanted to prove that businesses could be run with kindness, integrity and compassion, which is why I put all of my efforts into making it as ethical and sustainable as I knew how.
What's your favorite thing about what you do?
Getting to help other women has been an amazing perk of running CDLA. I set out to build a culture of female empowerment and support over competition and it’s wonderful to see the movement grow. The blingsling® is a product that helps women on its own, but being able to pay it forward to the next generation of female leaders through our donation program is extra special. Whether it’s a comment on Insta, a conversation at a market, or advice through volunteering and mentoring, I can feel women truly coming together to lift each other up and am thrilled to be a part of the mission.
What's the most challenging thing about what you do?
One of my biggest challenges is actually something I didn’t think about much until starting Clever Designs LA, which is conscious consumerism. In creating the company and the blingsling®, I knew I wanted to do it as ethical and sustainable as possible. What I didn’t think about was how much goes into each part of that. For us, that means eco-friendly and vegan methods and materials and hand-making the blingslings in LA. But the biggest challenge isn’t even figuring out these logistics, it’s educating our customers on the differences between ethical companies and not- so-ethical ones, big business versus small business, fair wages, sustainability, quality, the list goes on. As a consumer, I admittedly didn’t know too much about any of these things, but the more I learned in the process, the more I knew I wanted to do things right. Now, as a new small business, it’s that much harder to introduce the company, the product and the ethics behind it, especially when it comes to pricing. In the last two years, I’ve learned so much and continue to learn and share what I can. I think a lot of people are starting to make small changes to be more conscientious, which makes me optimistic for the future.
Why is it important to you to use sustainable materials?
Well, it kind of all started with a few documentaries and articles exposing the rapid changes in our environment and how our behaviors directly contribute to them. Now, it’s become a lifestyle change for me personally, but something that goes into every decision made for the business. It goes back to the conscious consumerism I was talking about; it’s the same from a business perspective. Even the smallest changes can make a big difference. There will continue to be new ways to be more sustainable, so I see it as something that will always be evolving as new materials and methods are being discovered.
I know a portion of proceeds from your blingsling sales goes to charity. Could you tell us a bit about those charities?
With our debut collection, we partnered with Step Up Women’s Network and give a portion of the proceeds from each bag sold to their organization. As the company grows, I hope to work with more organizations empowering and supporting women.
You also participate in a mentorship program here in LA. Care to elaborate on that?
In addition to donating through the company, I also mentor with Step Up Women’s Network. It’s a really wonderful group of women inspiring underprivileged high school girls to be confident, college-bound and career-driven. The girls are so intelligent and motivated. Every time I go to a mentoring session, I end up leaving inspired myself. I can’t say enough good things about the program.
Did you go to college? Would you recommend college to younger generations, like the girls you mentor? Why or why not?
I did. I went to University of Illinois at Chicago to fulfill that whole “live in a big city” dream. My views aren’t so black and white on college. Having a degree is a prerequisite for so many jobs nowadays that it seems necessary for most people. But I certainly don’t think you need a degree to be successful. What you want to do, if you want to go, your access to resources, and the amount of loans you need to take out should really be taken into consideration before going. The student debt crisis is serious and the loans can feel like a weight on your shoulders. But for the girls I mentor, it’s a ticket to change their and their families’ lives, so I definitely encourage it. After my journey into entrepreneurship though, I tell everyone, you’re never too old to do what you want or learn something new. You can learn anything on Google and YouTube!
Who inspires you?
Oh boy! I’m inspired by so many people! My husband is one of the most optimistic, driven and selfless people I know. My parents have built an amazing life for my family through hard work, consistency, and resilience. Then there are the awesome women and girls I’ve been meeting through Step Up and Biz Babez, each with their own inspirational story. And of course, there’s Oprah. There’s always Oprah, right?
Coffee or tea?
Coffee! I’m only a few years into drinking it and it hates me and
makes me so jittery, but I love it!
Cats or dogs?
Dogs! I want one so badly. I’m actually allergic to cats and have a bit of a fear of them. Okay, a pretty big fear. They always look like they’re going to attack!
What's your favorite Halloween costume you've ever dressed up as?
Definitely not my favorite, but one I’ll never forget is my third grade costume. My mom used to hand make my and my three siblings’ costumes and somehow talked us (forced us) into all being crayons. I think this followed the year she made us all M&Ms with my dad as the M&M bag, which in hindsight actually made for a cute photo. Anyway, I show up to class in this head- to-toe teal felt costume to find all of the girls in my class dressed in the cutest, girliest outfits...luau girl, Cleopatra, gypsy, 50’s dancer...then there was me in my stuffed, pointed hat looking a fool. Oh well, it builds character, right?
What do you think it means to have an invincible design?
An invincible design is bigger than yourself. It’s leaving a mark and being remembered. An invincible design makes me think of sustainability. If it’s going to last, you want it to have some value and bring some good to the world. To leave it in a better place than it was before. I think it can also be applied to your own personal design or brand. We’re all leaving some kind of impression behind, so we better make it good.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I hope to be even more settled into myself, my family, and my business. Hopefully, I’ve improved in new ways, learned new things, visited new places, met new people and am able to broaden my reach to empower more women and girls. And, of course, have the blingsling® featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things. Somehow, it always comes back to Oprah!
Be sure to check out Jordan’s website and Instagram! Also, to learn more about Biz Babez and Step Up Women’s Network, follow the links below:
Biz Babez- https://www.bizbabez.la/
Step Up Women’s Network- https://www.suwn.org/