"JLE: … Olympic dreams were dashed with the final cuts at the Princeton national training camp. I returned to the west coast to begin my life with Ken Mills, a national class Track & Field athlete--we were married at the end of that summer. JL Design continued as a side project for me. As my teammates retired from rowing and started coaching their own teams- demand for quality trou continued.
I moved JL into its own facility and slowly started hiring people. In time I quit my office job. Ken had opened his own bike shop which unfortunately went under after 2 years. This sucked-but it forced us to make JL our main focus. The company had been growing and when Ken came on board full time his managerial skills and business know-how took JL to the next level.
In the beginning, Ken and I did everything- the cutting, the sewing, customer service- all with our baby daughter, Alec asleep in her basket on the shop floor. We had to know every job, every machine inside and out. It wasn't easy, but these years established a thorough understanding of the business and created the sound foundation JL stands on today.
EL: So the company was a true family affair from day one!
JLE: Yup. Alec and then Kate grew up tottering through scraps of lycra and playing at regattas. As soon as they were human (athlete) sized, we have been using them shamelessly as models! They too learned the business. Alec, now with her own baby, is working back into JL through marketing. She's a fantastic communicator with a great design sense.
Kate works primarily with JL's cycling line. This year her biggest project is Monster Media, a master and U23 semi-pro team. We make their pro kit as well as the entire club and retail line. Kate is a great ambassador for the company--her understanding of the business from the inside out projects into her relationships with our cycling customers.
Note from Joline about the above photo: Ken is wearing the first pair of tights I sewed for him, made out of flesh-tone cotton lycra. Awesome.
"Remember the “…” from the beginning of this segment? Get the full scoop on the next installment of the JL Origins series.
the story continues...
Lou Kinder and Erin Landy