Joline (left) with Annio
JL Founder Joline Esparza
EL: Chicken or the egg question: Which came first, rowing or sewing?
JLE: JL's roots can be traced back to, well, my roots. My grandfather was a tailor and my sister is a fine seamstress. The sartorial interest runs pretty deep. When I was a child, my aunt found an antique treadle sewing machine--together we broke it down and rebuilt it. This is the machine I learned on, and used until college.
At seven I started my first sewing related business venture: hand-stitched froggy bean bag door stops. I sold dozens of these must-have knickknacks to family and friends. I never had an allowance, so if I needed something I made it. I was always selling stuff. I realized I could make things other people valued... it's how I made pocket cash.
Growing up I made many of my own clothes. I thought, why buy it when I can make it? Despite all of these signs, I never supposed I would end up making my living in the garment business.
EL: So once supply exceeded demand in the frog shaped bean-bag market, how did you segue into athletic clothing manufacture ?
JLE: I was always an athlete. In high school it was all volleyball all the time. However, while recovering from a volleyball injury at Stanford, tough-as-nails rowers caught my eye. I saw that they worked hard at weights, and at stadiums. I said to myself, "think I'll hang with them for a while.'" My crazy wonderful roommate on the Stanford crew took me down to their boathouse which was, at the time, an old A-frame structure.
Seeing the wooden boats lining the boathouse walls was a "stars popping in my head" experience. That first row was in an old wherry with an experienced rower who dropped it on my head while carrying it to the dock. One bonk on the noggin and I was hooked.
My Stanford rowing experience filled my days with challenge, structure and life-long friendships--and shaped my future. I continued to sew--pulling out the old treadle machine out when I went home for breaks. Some kids get a car when they graduate from college, my parents gave me a sewing machine. I was now equipped to start bringing my two passions together...
the story continues...
Lou Kinder and Erin Landy