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Exploring Life & Business with J-Min of J-Min Collections

Today we’d like to introduce you to J-Min.

Hi J-Min, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I grew up as a third culture kid, a Korean raised in Kenya, and immigrated to the US. In between graduating high school in Kenya and college in the US, I was hopping back and forth between South Korea and the US (mostly in Florida).

Many times, I tried to reside in the US but at that time, or specifically in 2014, after graduating college at Academy of Art University, I was unable to find a job. So, I ended up teaching English as a Second Language in Seoul, as well as a Character Animator and Art Director. Living in Seoul was such a great opportunity as it was a place I was able to leverage my skills and was where I would say my entrepreneurial journey begun. I got to explore and try a few of my ideas. They all eventually failed or I was unable to balance an entrepreneurial life with a full-time job, as well as having a cultural and language barrier. It did give me the opportunity to also travel to over 20 countries.

However, English teaching was never a passion of mine. I also did not enjoy sitting infront of the screen for hours! Eventually it Seoul became too comfortable and I felt very stagnant. There was no longer any growth for me especially, with a personality that always loves a challenge and with a desire to always want to grow.

In mid-2017, I decided to set aside some time to focus on something I was most passion about. Health and fitness was always a part of me when growing up. My family loved to play golf and I was also in my high school swim team. My workout routine at that time also became more consistent and was integrating more of an active lifestyle, adding hiking into my weekends and generally taking weekend trips to explore different cities in Seoul. With a growing passion for working out, motivated and loving the results on how keeping my health helped with keeping a great routine in my own life, mental strength, overall confidence and generally having a positive impact in my life, it made me decide to get into personal training and learn the science behind exercise and nutrition.

In late 2017, I started studying for my personal training certification. (Side note, having traveled to LA in 2014 after graduating college and having been inspired by all the talented people, as well as being such a vibrant place with life- its diversity of people, culture, industries, LA was a dream of mine for a long time).

In 2018, I started applying to jobs in LA when I got contacted by Equinox Fitness Clubs and a Korean Broadcasting Company and decided to follow my heart in fitness and health. My journey begun in late December 2018 when I became a personal trainer for Equinox Downtown LA. I quit everything in South Korea and crossed oceans to try and live a life that I wanted. It’s been over three years since that I have been in California (I was also in Northern California for some time) however, now I am back in LA.

I am currently the founder of the start-up athleisure venture, J-Min Collections. With my entrepreneurial journey, it also led me to currently where I am a graduate school at the University of Southern California pursuing a MS in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
There have been countless of obstacles along the way to my journey and I’m sure there are a lot more challenges to come. I don’t even know where to start.

However, I think one of the biggest challenge for me currently is running the brand all 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.

I will say that life is never linear. You will always face new challenges in every phase of life – I think what has helped me the most that I would love to share and is also important to recognize, is that a lot of challenges that we face, we think we have control over. Many things in life are things we can’t really control, and when you learn to let go and focus on things you can actually control, life begins to change a lot. Focusing on what you can control, at least in my experience, has allowed me to focus and grow my own strengths, has definitely built my self-confidence, it has also allowed me to prioritize better on what’s important and what could be done later. It almost opens doors to even greater opportunities.

I feel that even having grown up in a coastal city in Mombasa, Kenya where 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.

Also, I wouldn’t even say practicing gratitude but living with gratitude is also key – Taking everything you have in life that is available to you and using them towards your utmost potential. I think for me, having seen poverty first hand in a different degree where many people didn’t even have their basics in life or even how difficult $1 would be for someone to earn for the day. Yet, they were the happiest people I had met until this day. It’s an overwhelming juxtaposition but, it has given me a bigger appreciation for life and taking every opportunity I am given.

We’ve been impressed with J-Min Collections, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
As a personal trainer, having traveled, lived in three different continents and seeing the huge disparities of wealth, I wanted to help bridge that gap that inspired me to create J-Min Collections. Being a Fitness Professional and Personal Trainer as well, I wanted to promote the idea of fitness as not just being a workout. To me, fitness or our health and wellness is also how we live our lives and the joy and fulfillment we experience. I felt like the fitness industry is mostly centered around traditional or conventional sports. I wanted to recognize those with also extraordinary athleticism through unconventional or unique sports. Ever since launch, I’ve collaborated with women who strive in not just staying on top of their game but with grit and passion in who they are becoming and working towards their potential. I have collaborated with hula hoop dancers, aerialists, dancers, acrobats, and many more.

I also donate a portion of $1,50 from every sale to organizations that work towards making positive changes. Ever since, I have donated to Wakenya Watenda Wema – a non-profit organization based in Kenya that works to improve menstrual health in Kenya. In December 2020, along with the help of some friends, together, we 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. I have also donated to other organizations including, the Young Survival Coalition, Food on Foot LA, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Women for Women.

Currently, I am on an exciting journey towards sustainability with my next athleisure collection. The sustainable collection will incorporate patterns that have personally been designed and inspired by my upbringing. I will be among the very few (in terms of smaller business) that will be using fabric made entirely from ocean waste (including abandoned fishing nets) and landfills (including old carpets, industrial waste and fabric scraps).

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
LA- A place where literally anyone can be, whoever they want, whatever they want. It takes work but it’s possible. It’s not for all – you definitely have to have the drive and the desire to want and create the life that you want to live.

I will say one of the things that I do dislike about the city is the infrastructure that causes all the long traffics etc. It can definitely be improved.

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Image Credits:

Ayu Logan Iliana Photography

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