Are you ready to stay fit and look good while doing it? Today I had a chance to chat with Jung Min Jackson, the founder ofan activewear brand, J-Min Collections centered around empowering women and helping the wider community with every checkout.
Jung Min grew up as a third culture kid as a Korean raised in Kenya, and immigrated to the US- Having lived on three different continents and also traveled to over 22 countries, she saw the extreme disparities of wealth. She created J-Min Collections because She wanted to create an organization with meaning and purpose, that is, to help bridge the gap.
Being a Fitness Professional and Personal Trainer as well, Jung Min wanted to promote the idea of fitness as not just being a workout. To her, fitness or our health and wellness is also how we live our lives, and the joy and fulfillment we experience. She felt like the fitness industry is mostly centered around traditional or conventional sports. Jung Min wanted to recognize those with athleticism through unconventional or unique sports. Ever since J-Min Collections collaborated with women who strive in what they do and stay on top of their game.J-Min Collections collaborated with hula hoop dancers, aerialists, dancers, acrobats, and many more.
J-Min Collections is also currently on an exciting journey to sustainability. With the fashion industry being a major contributor to environmental pollution, this year, we made new commitments to create an even bigger impact.
What’s it like growing up for you? What lessons did you learn from your childhood?
I grew up in a coastal city called Mombasa in Kenya. Mombasa is relatively smaller compared to its capital, Nairobi with the majority of its population being very diverse and international. Mombasa has a rich Arabic influence and being a coastal city, life moves at a slower and more relaxed pace. I grew up being told, “Hakuna Matata,” (a phrase we all always heard growing up but in Kiswahili or their language means ‘No Problem’) literally every day, everyone you walk by greets you, “Jambo” (Hello) or “Hakuna Matata,” if you seem like your in a rush. Growing up with a ‘Hakuna Matata’ mentality, I feel like the words have internalized and given so much meaning to me. Hakuna Matata has really taught me to let go of the smaller and petty things in life that don’t matter, especially the things we have no control over.
I also grew up with other Swahili proverbs, “Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka,” which means, ‘Hurry, hurry, has no blessings,’ that has also taught me to flow with life, at your pace and live in the present. Also with an overwhelming juxtaposition, despite most of the locals in Kenya having nothing – not even the very basics of things in life yet being the happiest people I know, has always given me a bigger appreciation for life and to take the opportunities I am given.
What was your first real job and what did it teach you?
My first job ever was teaching English as a Second Language in Seoul, South Korea. If it taught me anything, it definitely taught me that working for simply money is never the answer. While English teaching was a great opportunity for me at that time, I had no passion for it at all and because it was too comfortable I hung too long, and it led me to a phase in life where I started hating everything else in life- I
was very unhappy and generally being a naturally positive and optimistic person, my views on life started becoming more negative. Even though I loved that I was able to have taught students and left them with skills they will always be using.
It also taught me that being too comfortable will also keep you stagnant. If you’re naturally an ambitious person like me, learning to leave behind and going for the next chapter of life even if it means to sacrifice, restart or compromise a little, it is worth it all!
What was the problem you set out to solve when you started your company/venture?
I felt like the fitness industry is mostly centered around traditional or conventional sports. I wanted to recognize those with athleticism through unconventional or unique sports. I feel like there is so much talent, so many stories out there that are yet to be heard. I wanted to bring more recognition to these stories, put to light the challenging stories and how they were overcome.
As mentioned also, with the fashion industry being a major contributor to environmental pollution and degradation, I wanted to be part of the change. But, also being part of the change, I want to educate and bring awareness to the problems.
What was your biggest challenge when starting your business?
I think that the biggest challenge for me has been running the brand on my own in between everything else I do in life. Being in the early stages, there’s a lot to sacrifice and compromise with a new business. Having no team makes it also a lot more difficult. It’s a hustle day in day out. But, I believe it’s all part of the journey. Luckily, my artistic background and education, and past experiences have really helped with the day to day including marketing and designing and creating content.
What has been your biggest success or failure in recent memory? How did that make you feel?
My biggest success in recent years has been joining the Trojan Family- I will be a Graduate Student in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Southern California. Another huge success has been starting a Non-Profit Organization, Getaway Growth along with my other team members. Both of these major milestones have definitely made me feel not only very excited for my future but also the endless opportunities and the bigger impact I can create in the near future on those around me, my community, and those back home.
Honestly, growing up, and even just a few years ago I never knew any of these were ever possible. When I quit my job as a second language English instructor in 2019 in Korea to fly across oceans for an interview in Downtown, Los Angeles to become a trainer for Equinox Fitness Clubs- Everything was uncertain. I was intimidated by all the talented people out there. I didn’t want to go back to teaching English, I was even ready to wait tables or do anything other than teaching English.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a failure but more of an experiment that didn’t work of mine in recent times was a business strategy I missed because I had this gut feeling, it
would work. Needless to say, I made the most loss on that. I would definitely say it was a learning lesson and to keep emotions separate from business. Rather than relying on your intuition, you have to keep up with metrics and data.
What’re you most excited about for your company in the next few years?
I am most excited in going sustainable is not only providing durable and premium athletic wear made from landfills and ocean waste including old carpets, abandoned fishing nets, industrial waste, and fabric scraps (ECONYL) but also, growing more eco-conscious shoppers and just generally contributing towards the better not just socially but also environmentally.
I am also excited about my first sustainable collection, which will be uniquely created by myself. The patterns and design that will be implemented into the collection were personally designed with a combination of elements intertwined from my cultural experiences in Kenya, my Korean heritage, and inspirations. It will definitely be one of a kind!
In what ways do you give back to the community? Why is it important for you?
For every checkout through J-Min Collections, I donate a portion of $1.50 to organizations that work towards making positive changes or have meaning to me. Since launch, I have donated to Wakenya Watenda Wema – a non-profit organization based in Kenya that works to improve menstrual health and break the misconceptions around menstruation. In December 2020, we also donated over 200 Christmas Hygiene Gift Bags that included Sanitary towels, tampons, reusable sanitary towels, panty liners, and shower caps for girls in the villages of Kenya. We have also donated to other organizations including, the Young Survival Coalition, Food on Foot LA, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Women for Women.
I also recently started a Non-Profit Organization, Getaway Growth where we provide opportunities for underserved students to be able to experience International Travel. We provide all financial resources, guidance, and mentorships at all steps of the way including obtaining passports. Our trips are also
fully immersive, project-based, as well as collaborative as we hope to foster a mindset of possibility and open space for awareness of potential and paths for life and work among our students.
For me, I feel that we’ve reached far ahead in science and technology where there is actually enough, at least the basic necessities for all. There should be no reason why one should suffer in our world today. I just believe that our social system was designed to create such a division and the gap keeps growing. I know I can’t change the entire world, but I know I can help a few and it can mean the world to someone. I generally want to keep doing my best, take every opportunity and to my potential and capabilities because there are so many people who can’t even if they want to. I am just generally grateful for all my circumstances and would love the same for others.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Ask questions- question what you are always taught. There are no rules or rush to accomplishing things at a certain age. You don’t have to be married by 30 with a house, kids, and a nice car. Explore, experience all the great things life and earth give to us, and do what makes you happiest.
Anyone you want to thank through your journey as an entrepreneur?
I definitely want to thank my husband, my biggest support in everything I do and in life. My motivation and allowing me to live life purposefully. Also, being my other half and also being the more strategic and analytical part of our relationship, he definitely taught me incredibly throughout my journey as an entrepreneur.
I also thank my family, my closest friends who have also supported some of my initiatives with J-Min Collections. I thank all the organizations I’ve worked with, my customers for also their loyalty, support, and belief in what I do- my vision and mission for J-Min Collections also.