We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennet Chow and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennet, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
Most entrepreneurs will question this at different points of their career. I am an eternal optimist and I love working with people. However, there have definitely been moments of intense stress throughout my 22 years behind the scenes working and running a footwear company, especially between 2008-2012. These were some of the hardest years of my life personally and professionally. A plethora of challenges tested my strength including a financial crisis, loss of loved ones who represented my family’s business, and the combination of my race, age, and gender.
In 2008 there was an economic crash with the housing market which matriculated into a retail recession. My parents’ company, Prima Royale, struggled as revenue dropped over 80% within 5 years while maintaining the same fixed expenses. The company’s overhead exceeded $600,000/month with 70+ employees and a 95,000 sq. ft. warehouse.
The other major challenge that came the same year in 2008 was when my mother’s business partner passed away. This was excruciating because he was like family and the face of Prima Royale. He had an aggressive brain tumor that ended his life unexpectedly. It was painful to experience this loss for the company and for us personally. As we were recovering from this loss, within 2 years my very own father passed away from heart failure in front of my mother which left her traumatized. I was completely crushed inside, devastated by both losses. I witnessed my mother fall apart emotionally and become physically frail. The company spiraled downhill with the economic hardships due to the loss of our founders and the emotional trauma.
In the meantime, my mother, my husband, and I had to make one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make. Should we shut down the company or persevere? There was no perfect answer, and I was crushed emotionally when we realized that my parents’ company simply could not be saved. That was when I started Evolution Design Lab and chose to save a few employees rather than sacrificing everyone. Despite how painful it was to downsize, I had to shift my perspective to focus on moving forward rather than dwelling in the past. Being a younger Asian woman in the industry with three young kids under the age of ten was also not easy in the beginning. My mother and many others warned me how difficult it would be to continue within the shoe industry on my own. My husband had his own aspirations in software and had helped prepare the company for closure. My dreams as a girl continuing my family’s legacy in the footwear industry crumbled. I was oddly fueled by people who did not believe in me. The activist in me rebelled and I fought by continuing what I believed in. I wanted to keep as many salaried employees with benefits while providing the best and affordable shoes in America. There were too many people I cared about in the company who needed income and health insurance. Herein came the birth of Evolution Design Lab (EDL), my own company built on new ideologies with lessons learned from the past. We had to take all that was left and start completely anew.
I kept going because my small team gave me hope and perseverance to sustain my family’s legacy. Everything I did since I could remember growing up under my parent’s company revolved around work including our dinners, travels, and shopping trips. I saw myself continuing this tradition with my own children. It is the greater purpose of helping others. Work was and still is an extension of my family; that is one thing that is too important for me to give up on.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Evolution Design Lab is a footwear company that takes care of the whole supply chain process for large publicly traded companies. What sets our company apart from others is our software built in-house. We are really a technology company masked in a shoe company. We believe our technology can revolutionize retail and manufacturing. In the midst of Covid-19, the inability to travel has really brought to light how inadequate and archaic the footwear industry has been. Through 3D and digital merchandising, we have reduced our development costs by nearly 75% on the prototypes while increasing our product line and sku depth by over 300%. Not only does this promote sustainability, but with the excess resources, we were able to repurpose our sample room into light production turning a traditional cost center into a profit center.
We are excited in the process of spinning this technology off as a completely independent entity to be a service provider in the near future.
I also am working on a sustainable line with the team, launching in 2022.
It was definitely not an easy road to get to where we are today (the story is in another Voyage LA article).
I want the world to know many different things. To start, if you work hard and stay dedicated you can beat all odds. I was a young Asian American girl in a predominantly white man’s world at the time. This was the 90’s and meetings were intimidating at first and pride swallowing. However, today there are many women in the industry which I love to see. Evolution Design Lab is also considered a smaller company compared to our publicly traded competitors, but we are the hardest working team that loves to give back to communities. Our next endeavor is our e-commerce site that has now launched, you can find us at www.jellypop.la!!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Activities: Stroll at Huntington Library
Beach in Malibu and eat at Nobu
Santa Monica Pier
Newport Beach / Balboa Island, Fashion Island, South Coast Plaza
The Broad Museum
Urban Light at LACMA and walk around the area
Walk around Little Tokyo for some mochi from Fugetsu-Do and donuts and coffee from Donatsu and/or Cafe Dulce
Koreatown for Korean bbq! Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong, Oo-Kook Korean BBQ, Road to Seoul
Grand Central Market – eat at all the vendors!
Watch the sunrise or sunset on a hike
Hollywood Bowl – picnic outdoors and watch a concert
For more food:
Highly recommend following @jiafoodblog – it is an online publication highlighting a ton of noteworthy Asian owned eats around Los Angeles. https://www.jiafoodblog.com
Celestino Ristorante – my favorite truffle pasta, burrata, squid steak, and panna cotta for dessert!
Newport Seafood for delicious Asian seafood and cuisine. Namely crab, lobster, french black peppered beef, clam and basil
Cafe Santorini – delicious Mediterranean
La Grande Orange Cafe – I love this atmosphere and the food is delicious!
Houston’s – my favorite American food!
In N Out – delicious cheeseburgers!
Nick’s Pasadena – This is a nice atmosphere and food is very good.
Ave 26 Taco Stand is a must for tasty tacos and a fun LA experience!
Haidilao Hot Pot – for dancing noodles and yummy hot pot
Churros Don Abel
Any place with good chocolate
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shout-out to everyone on our Evolution Design Lab Team especially the ones that stuck with us from the very beginning, namely Alice Oung, Peter Yen, Annie Chu, Fanny Cheng, Sally Lin, Pauline Cheng, Katherine Nelson, Jacky Quach, Courtney Richardson, Tim Ly, Bailey Mushisky, Pai Huang and Steve Longworth (who just retired!). We also love all the newer members so much Tara K., Nola W., Jessica G, Ying C., Elizabeth B., Vicky, Sandra, Ivi, Wendy, Karen, Mark G., Kelley, Euri, Rachelle, Arianna, Kiki, the list goes on. We are so grateful for each and every one of you! I want to thank our team in China and Taiwan who make everything possible with production. I also want to thank my Mom who ended up supporting us at EDL and my kids, Kathleen, Marcus, and Jacob who have been troopers when we were at our busiest. We love all of you and can not imagine a better family. I also want to of course do a shout out to people and books I learn from: My Mom who leads by example, my husband Mike Chen who is very supportive, Oprah Winfrey (I’m an Oprah baby), Maya Angelou, Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, Sara Blakely, to name a few that inspire me.
Linkedin: Jennet Chow
Facebook: jennet chow