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Even though Julianne Goldmark and Emily Matson are still high school seniors, these two could be teaching a class on running a successful business. Together they design Emi-Jay, a colorful, chic collection of handmade hair ties, headbands and other accessories that have been sported by stars like Michelle Williams and the Kardashians. We chatted with Julianne about how they got their start and managed to create a product with A-list appeal, along with the ways this dynamic duo is using their tress success to change the lives of girls and women across the nation:
How did you first get inspired to start Emi-Jay?
Julianne: Emily and I noticed a growing trend of hair accessories when we were in eighth grade. Most of the accessories were out of our price range, so our moms took us to the Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles to pick out materials—that way, we could make our own hair accessories. From there, we shared them with friends and family.
Your products have been worn by celebrities, and editors have written them up in magazines like O. How did you catch their attention?
Julianne: It is crazy! We got very lucky because Emily’s mom’s hair stylist, Chris McMillan (the stylist to many Hollywood celebrities) requested simple black satin hair ties to put on Jennifer Aniston for the movie premiere of He’s Just Not That Into You. Shortly after, an editor from Marie Claire magazine requested our press kit. And it all started from there!
My advice to other teen entrepreneurs would be to always stay ahead of the trends. A product that is visible in public is always a plus! Also, hire a good publicist—someone who will be the brand’s biggest supporter and constantly thinking of new ways to get the product in front of a lot of eyeballs. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a mom who is friends with Chris McMillan.
How much time do you dedicate to running your business?
Julianne: Emily and I are seniors in high school, so school always comes first. It can be hard to juggle everything sometimes! We are very lucky to have our moms handling the day-to-day operations, while Emily and I oversee all creative aspects of Emi-Jay including the creation and design of all of our products.
Which products are your best sellers?
Julianne: Our basic hair tie is definitely our most popular product. Customers tend to love the pearl pack and classic pack. Right now, the new ombre packs we just introduced on our website are doing very well, too! We are constantly coming up with new hair accessories that are on trend, and we are introducing some more upscale hair accessories in 2013, including our Spectator headband that will come in beautiful colors for spring and summer!
You’ve donated to charities, including Locks of Love. How does this portion of your business work?
Julianne: Since the beginning, social philanthropy has been part of our company’s DNA. Emily and I have always been taught to give back, and through our charity partnerships, we are able to do that. Not only does our social philanthropy set up apart, but it makes people feel good about wearing our products! We recently launched our 2013 partnership with Step Up Women’s Network, a non-profit that helps girls and women reach their potential. Emi-Jay is sponsoring its Young Luminaries program, which helps girls become confident, college-bound and career ready.
What makes the hard work worth it, and what success secrets can you share with teens wanting to start their own businesses?
Julianne: Seeing people on the street wearing our product! It truly is the best feeling. [Advice-wise], be passionate about your business ideas! Believe in your product or concept and always surround yourself with supportive people.
If you had a product, which star would you want to help promote it? Dream big in the comment section!