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Exploring Life & Business with Leslie Jackson-Bessent of Agnes Bethel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Jackson-Bessent.

Hi Leslie, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I have always been into fashion ever since I can remember. It was something about the way clothes could portray a certain mood or feeling once they were styled on the body. Even when I was in the Navy, we would be on deployment and I would style my friends for port visits in outfits that we had purchased online. But when I left the Navy, I took a full-time job at a government contracting company that I really didn’t like but the pay and benefits were great. I knew that a cubicle job was not for me and that I needed to be doing something that I was passionate about that wouldn’t bore me. So when my husband got sick and we needed to move back to California, after living in Tennessee for about a year and a half, I decided to leave my corporate job and step out on faith. I took us coming back to California as a sign to start looking at new career opportunities. Although we were dealing with some serious personal health issues, my husband continued to design and I enrolled in FIDM as a Merch Marketing major with a focus on fashion styling. From there, I worked as a freelance stylist. My clients were amazing and I was great at my job but I knew that there was more that I could do to really make an impact on the way that people feel about themselves. I started thinking about how could I take my creativity and love for transforming people and making them step outside their comfort zone and merge that into my husband’s creative eye for shoe design to make something magical. So in 2016, we started laying the foundation for our brand Agnes Bethel and never looked back.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has definitely not been a smooth road but I cannot complain. I chose this path and I am enjoying the ride every step of the way. But I will say that one of the biggest hurdles for our growth has been building a solid team who believes in our vision the way that we do. Our brand is completely self-funded so like most entrepreneurs with lack of capital, you have to pick and choose your priorities and focus on the things that will propel you to that next phase. In the end t’s worth it because it humbles you and makes you that much prouder of the journey knowing that you got to where you are all on your own.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Agnes Bethel pronounced Agnes Beth-Elle is a luxury heritage brand that I started with my husband. We are based in California and our shoes are hand-crafted in a small family-owned factory in Italy. My husband is the design director/president and I am the director of operations/vice president. I oversee our day to day operations. My priorities are making sure our social media is on brand, our photoshoots are capturing a vibrant compelling story and that our overall business is running efficiently and growing according to plan.

Our mission is to elevate our client’s closets and adorn their feet with unique limited footwear. We encourage our clients to live authentically regardless of societal norms and create the life they want to lead in luxury shoe art. Our designs complement and enhance the natural beauty of a woman in her everyday life giving her the extra confidence to know that she can take over the world. We deeply believe the right pair of shoes can change your day and even your destiny. Agnes Bethel is about creating memorable moments and remembering the shoes you were wearing when those memories were created.

Agnes Bethel is a real woman who left her family and everything she knew in her home of Grenada to start a new journey as a fashion designer in the United States in 1971. She arrived with her degree in hand only to have doors closed in her face. With no resources and no one willing to support a young immigrant woman she felt discouraged and her dreams were not materialized until now with the creation of Agnes Bethel. I say that because it is important for your readers to know Agnes Bethel is more than selling beautiful shoes. This brand is so much bigger than us. As veterans, we want to one day use our platform as a hub to encourage other veterans suffering from disabilities or PTSD to step out on faith and do what comes natural to them regardless of the lack of resources that are available to veterans venturing into the fashion industry after they are discharged.

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I’ve always loved shoes, nice coats, clothes and dressing up. All my Barbie dolls had an extravagant wardrobe and I would change their clothes twice a day. I would even make clothes for them and had no idea how to sew but I could drape my butt off and still can to this day. While the other girls in high school were wearing Jordan’s or Havana Joe booties, I was always in a pair of heels or a nice loafer with a coat or jacket to match. My auntie Arnetta is a true fashionista and I would spend a lot of time at her house when I was younger and every weekend she would take me shopping. She brought me my first pair of black biker shorts with the lace bottoms. I admired her closet and the way she could accessorize her outfits. I swear she probably has a thousand pairs of shoes with matching hats, coats, scarves, earrings and sunglasses. I used to tell myself I wanted to be as stylish and glamorous as my aunt when I was an adult. Looking back, I think this path was in my DNA. 🙂 My love for fashion especially shoes comes from her. I would be late for school in the mornings just to make sure I looked good and my outfit was hot. I grew up in Chicago so winters were very cold. My father would always tell me, “you’re going to get sick trying to be cute”. Lol, My love for shoes is how I started selling them when I was about 17. I used to work at Marshell Field’s in the Water Tower in downtown Chicago and spend my checks on shoes. So to now be the co-founder of a luxury footwear brand it was destiny.

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Image Credits:

Photographer Adrian Tapia Model Rohanna Greco

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