Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Lewis.
Jessica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Island Gyal Fitness began as a concept several years before even launching my brand. My beloved grandmothers, Jean and Eileen, were the main motivators behind this company. When I was in my mid-20s, I lost them both to strokes back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. They both struggled for years with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other preventable illnesses.
Many people, especially women, from immigrant families can relate to the generations of rich cultural foods and massive festivals with lots of liquor, but not a huge emphasis on overall health and nutrition. I didn’t want to inherit the chronic illnesses that attacked other women in my family so I committed to improving my life.
When I began a serious fitness journey in 2014, I found myself inspired and motivated by female fitness competitors specifically from the Caribbean. Being from Trinidad and the US Virgin Islands myself, there was an instant connection! I remember thinking, Caribbean women can be fit. Caribbean women can be healthy. Caribbean women DO workout! From there, our motto “Island Gyals Workout” and Island Gyal Fitness was born! My concept had become my personal social movement: it is not just about dieting or being skinny or looking a certain way for Carnival. It’s about being healthy first and foremost. I wanted a brand that would intentionally encourage women to workout…any form of exercise! I also wanted a brand that would allow women to “rep their flag”! People from the Caribbean are proud to let you know exactly where they are from! If simply wearing your country flag puts a smile on your face before walking into the gym, mission accomplished! Lastly, I wanted a brand in which women would support each other. If I hadn’t seen other women in 2014 doing what I aspired to do, I may have quit before I even started. My brand is about cheering on our fellow Island Gyals regardless of race, ethnicity, or where you’re from. The Island Gyal Fitness brand now includes over 20 country flags and we’re continuing to expand our options.
Has it been a smooth road?
Starting a business is never easy, so of course I have hit numerous roadblocks along the way (and continue to!). I am a one-woman-show, literally! I handle all sales, marketing, social media, shipping, production, everything! I also work full-time as a high school college counselor and am a full-time grad student. Time has always been the biggest obstacle – there are never enough hours in the day! Producing my products locally can also be challenge. I’m very hands-on and want to ensure quality. I refuse to have my products mass-made overseas where I have no control or insight to the production process. It is important to me that everything is made here so I can also support other local businesses. I do believe in putting dollars back into the community.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
My business specializes in women’s activewear and workout apparel. The brand features a cute, sexy, curvy woman working out with dumbbells, and each dumbbell has a color image of your country flag of choice. Women feel inspired to exercise for their heath while having the option to wear their flag with pride. No other brand combines a comfy, breathable, functional workout shirt while allowing a women to show exactly where she’s from.
We have also released three volumes of workout mixes to provide energetic music to move to! The mixes are mostly music from the Caribbean (soca, dancehall, punta, etc.), and our Global Edition includes music from all over with world! Mixes are curated by DJ Willy Wonka from Belize.
We’re still a young business so it is mainly workout shirts for now but will be expanding to other products in early 2020. We’re excited about the other items to bring to the market!
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Because my business is online, it has its pros and cons. Anyone virtually anywhere in the word can shop and order from us. We offer worldwide shipping so that is a huge plus for accessibility. LA however while very diverse, does not have the largest population of Caribbean/West Indian people. Increasing brand awareness outside of LA is a large focus of mine, but at the same time, I want to encourage local women (Caribbean or not) in other ways. Each week I highlight various local workouts and classes. This gives Angelinos an opportunity to plan their workouts for the week (planning is key!), potentially try something new, and I also get to shout out some of my favorite classes and instructors. It’s a win-win for everyone! LA is FULL of so many amazing ways to stay active. I love being able to share them with others.
For someone just starting out with their own business, I would encourage them to not be afraid to have a target market. Don’t feel like you have to cater to everyone. It’s perfectly fine to have a specialization that you are known for and market your business accordingly. People like to feel like something is “for them”. Identify your market early, determine their needs, and cater to them specifically!
- Each shirt is $24.99 plus shipping
- Website: https://www.islandgyalfitness.com/
- Phone: 323-825-9319
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @islandgyalfitness https://
instagram.com/ islandgyalfitness?igshid= 1f7zms4gmrlxz
- Facebook: @islandgyalfitnesss https://
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