Meet Studio 15 Founder + Humanitarian Jia Wertz

This week we’re thrilled to feature outstanding entrepreneur, fashionista and humanitarian Jia Wertz.  As she is founder of Studio 15, an online marketplace for trendy and affordable women’s apparel, one might suppose our interview would begin with a description of how Jia became interested in fashion and what prompted her company’s launch; instead, after a quick hello, Jia dives right into the good stuff and shares a personal gem about her passion and purpose.

“Fashion isn’t really what feeds my soul. But turning a hobby into a job has been amazing.”  This isn’t too surprising, considering her company’s manifesto reads, “We believe that everything should be done with a higher, more meaningful purpose – including fashion – and that everything counts, big or small.”  Reflecting this tenet, Studio 15 donates 5% of all online proceeds to Kleos Microfinance Group, an organization providing economic assistance to those in developing countries. More specifically, Jia points out, “all donations go directly to women and support them in launching their own businesses.”  Throughout our conversation it becomes increasingly clear that a desire to help those in need is an integral thread throughout Jia’s personal and professional life.

An Introduction to Fashion.  I’ve always been petite and, as a teenager most of my clothes didn’t fit properly. My mother would adjust pieces for me and eventually taught me how to sew. And I loved it.”  Several years later, Jia began her first full-time job as manager of a boutique in Calgary.  “At the time, I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. The boutique carried 100 different brands and I thought I was in the best place in the world (smile). The two boutique owners noticed that I was increasing their sales (most customers were around my age) and gave me a lot of responsibility. I’m very lucky to have had the best teachers and role models at an early age.”

A Career is Born.  Soon after, Jia moved to Toronto where she received a degree in Fashion Merchandising and Management; and over the next decade, she developed a reputation for excellence through her work at the corporate offices of powerhouse women’s retail companies Aldo and Bebe. The majority of her career has been spent in San Francisco, where she worked as Senior Manager of Communications, Sales Development and Operations for Bebe – until a defining moment several years ago inspired Jia to make a major career shift and move to New York.

Taking Power Into Her Own Hands.  Since managing a boutique in Calgary at 18, Jia has known she would like to “launch something” some day.  At the time, the industry was vastly different (online shopping was pretty nonexistent) and her business would have required a completely different setup; however, the seed had been planted.  Years later, a personal realization at work prompted Jia decided to step away from her corporate career and to begin building a business that unites her experience in the fashion industry with her desire to create positive impact. Jia had proposed to her employer that over the winter holidays the company donate the proceeds of an internal project to a nonprofit. “They were making a lot of money and this would not have meant a loss for business, as this was all internal — but the moment I proposed something that would benefit others, I received a cold response. This didn’t sit well with me and was a signal. Soon after, I quit – cold turkey.  No job, no nothing.” 

An Awakening Trip to Uganda.  Although Jia had always been interested in volunteer work, her hectic work schedule had largely prevented her; so when she left her job and suddenly had time, she jumped at the opportunity to volunteer.  Her brother is actually co-founder and Executive Director of a non-profit organization that does work in Uganda, and Jia eagerly signed up to volunteer there for one month (sweetly adding that this would also allow her to check up on her little brother – to see where he’d been staying and to ensure his safety). Witnessing the living conditions of many Ugandan women, who are single parents raising children without enough basic necessities like water and shoes, reconnected Jia with her mission to assist those in need.  Jia aims to continually develop her impact in this area in the upcoming years.

Baby Steps + Beta Test + Launching Studio 15.  Recalling what it was like to leave her corporate job without a back-up plan, Jia asked herself: “How can I take what I’m good at and use it to also help others?”  Combining her expertise in the fashion industry with her desire to give, Studio 15 was born.  “I would have loved to have had a physical store, but I saw the market was shifting to online, so this made a lot more sense business-wise.”  Jia worked on the website with a freelance designer and tested it in beta for 1 year prior to Studio 15’s official launch.

New York. Just Because (It’s New York).  Although on a personal note, I must admit that Jia’s vibe pretty much exudes ‘New York artist and entrepreneur’ (she happens to also be a gifted photographer), Jia has spent her pre-Studio 15 career elsewhere. A native of Alberta, Canada, Jia has lived and worked in Toronto, Houston and San Francisco, before moving to New York two and a half years ago.  “New York has always been my favorite city in the world. When I was 12, I said I was going to move to New York – I don’t even know why. (smile) And now, here I am.” 

Passionate Leader + Activist + Adnan Syed.  Some of you may be familiar with the name Adnan Syed (or the podcast Serial), who was wrongly convicted for the murder of his girlfriend in 1999 and currently remains in prison.  The story has been breaking headlines this summer since Syed’s petition for a re-trial was granted in July, thanks in great part to increased public awareness.  (How does this relate to Jia, you’re asking?)  After listening to the Serial podcast (long before the story was receiving much media attention), Jia decided she needed to do something to help Adnan’s family. “The fact that an innocent teenager lost 17 years of his life and is sitting in jail because of a faulty system bothers me so much.”  Soon after, she co-organized and launched a concert fundraiser in New York to help raise money for the Syed family and to increase public awareness.  The event was a tremendous success – so much so in fact, that Jia was later put in contact with Adnan’s close family friend, Rabia Chaudry, who has been extremely active in the fight for his release.  Jia Wertz’s courage, initiative, resilience and sincere need to do good in the world is truly inspiring. May we each tap into this part of ourselves, and work to be more active in initiating positive change while remaining true to ourselves.

* Song For This Moment: “Shine” by Lolo.

Patricia Moreno: Fitness, Spirituality and Self Concept

These days we’re inundated with information about wellness. Between our favorite health and fitness websites, apps, newsletters, instagram and twitter feeds — there’s no shortage of content.  However, it’s not always easy to find quality content that resonates, educates and empowers us on a real level.  So when someone’s words, class and vibe authentically inspire in a powerful way, it’s only natural we feel the urge to share it with others. This is how I felt when I took my first yogaSati class with founder Patricia Moreno several months ago.  And after learning more about her personal journey and how the intenSati method came to be, I’m even more convinced about the importance of Patricia’s role as a force for positive change.

With over 30 years of experience as a trainer, educator and mentor, and as founder of a fitness concept based on mindfulness (or sati), Patricia Moreno has earned a stellar reputation in the wellness industry. The testimonials on her website speak for themselves, and with 620 intenSati instructors around the globe, her impact on the fitness industry has already been outstanding.  However, through speaking with her it’s clear there’s much more Patricia aims to (and will) accomplish.

A Tough Beginning in Fitness.  Patricia Moreno’s introduction to the fitness world began at a young age and was tragically linked to feelings of shame regarding her body. Growing up in northern California as the 9th of 11 children, Patricia’s family owned Mexican restaurants; she recalls “conversations both in and out of the restaurants were always, always about food.”  Fast food was a significant part of her regular diet and every few months the family would go on diets and take diet pills or shots to increase metabolism.  These quick-fix methods never lasted and a cycle of deprivation followed by over-indulgence continued.

As an eight year old, Patricia recalls, “I will never forget the sound of my parents gasping when the doctor told them I was 130 pounds.  This is the first of many times I remember feeling ashamed and absolutely horrified about my weight and body.

Patricia Moreno fell in love with group fitness classes as a teenager, lost weight, became fit and began to inspire others to workout. She began teaching aerobics before graduating from high school and quickly became known as a kickass fitness instructor.  Sadly though, her body image issues persisted for years to come, even after she had become a renowned fitness instructor with a daily televised workout program.

2 Breakthroughs That Inspired IntenSati:  Years later during a particularly rough time in her private struggle, Patricia experienced two major revelations that led her to create IntenSati:

1/ Self-concept.  Patricia explains, “You have to live in accordance with your own self-concept.  When I was working out – no matter how thin I got, I would still believe I am fat and unlovable.  So ultimately, I would keep returning to however I believed I was. The truth is, being fat was never how I am or how I was; I am just a person and my weight is the result of my actions and thoughts.  This concept was revolutionary for me because even when I was physically thin – in my mind and in my heart I still believed I was a fat person.  This made total sense and was a major revelation.”

2/ Activating a State. The second breakthrough came shortly after during a Tony Robbins retreat, when Patricia was asked to repeat the words, ‘All I need is within me now.’  She was suddenly struck with the desire to create a workout that would change people’s self-concept by activating a state of being.

Intensati_0167Your state of being determines your results. You can activate a state of courage, love, acceptance or gratitude – and you can turn this on within yourself. I wanted to design a workout that would activate joy for no reason except that if it could be done during class, it could be done in life.  And I wanted people to turn up the volume of gratitude.  I decided to marry this information with my expertise in exercise.  I didn’t want to use exercise as a way to fix, punish and force — but as a way to change how we move and how we speak to ourselves. We have the ability to use the body to change our inner conversations.  This eventually became IntenSati.”

IntenSati beautifully uses fitness as a spiritual practice.  It reminds us to live consciously and with intention, and provides a solid workout for the mind, body and spirit.  Check out the Sati schedule  for more information on its range of classes, schedules and leadership courses.  (If you’re in New York, intenSati leader Natalia Petrzela is also an exceptional instructor.)

PMhr1Choosing Gratitude.  I’m not teaching something that people don’t know. We all know it’s better to be positive than negative. But how do you become positive? Through gratitude. It all begins with gratitude. This is a conscious choice. You need to constantly remind yourself that you need to create greatness from a state of consciousness.”

Living Your Vision.  “The most important part of class is the end, when we visualize our final goal and sit in it as though it’s already done.  It can be hard to let yourself dream however big you want to dream; we naturally downscale and worry. But the game is to really immerse yourself in your final vision — to breathe it and to feel it. This is the creative process. You need to have the vision to get there and life reveals itself based on your vision.”

Believing It In.  Ask yourself, ‘What do I really want? If there was a magic wand and someone said you can have it, and that whatever you pick is going to be a huge success – what would it be? ‘ Stay in that vision and believe it in.

Stay up-to-date and inspired by Patricia Moreno here.

* Song For This Moment: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Knowing When To Quit (A Personal Story)

This article is dedicated to anyone who’s ever had a dream, totally gone for it and failed. It may be true that there’s no such thing as failure, only lessons; but in the moment, when your dreams feel crushed, those words sting more than they are helpful. Especially when pursuing your passion often means that you’ve already taken a risk few will understand and/or support, including those closest to you. It takes courage, tenacity and fierce will to go beyond daydreaming and into the actual building process.  And the more time, effort and heart you pour in, the more you become emotionally and financially invested – so when it all comes crashing down, it can be devastating.

While on the plane to Los Angeles last night, I realized that even though sharing my story still feels a bit painfully raw, my experience might resonate with, inspire and hopefully empower some of you.  So here goes.  My inspiration to launch an indoor cycling studio (a la SoulCycle) came in 2012, when I moved to Paris and noticed there was nothing similar, and that this could positively change lives.  At the time, I was also hard at work on a few music projects and was focused on releasing a personal EP.  Music and fitness have always been connected for me; as a singer-songwriter, I’ve had an on/off “side hustle” as a running coach throughout my entire music career because: 1) sharing my passion with others makes me incredibly happy and 2) having an additional source of income in an unstable career has been important.

photo: Jia Wertz

Fast forward to early 2013, when some major disappointments prompted me to leave my music manager (based in New York), to consciously step back from music, and to be “all in” in bringing the indoor cycling studio to Paris.  I spent three months back in New York studying, became certified to teach in London, located and secured the best out-of-the-box coaching talent in Paris and searched for an ideal space. Over my next two and a half years in Paris, this project (full of highs and lows) consumed me until the mid-July afternoon when I decided to make a change.

Rather than bore you with the details, I’d like to focus on the moment when I decided – without a doubt – that this project was over.  Most of my journey I’d kept private, thankfully, aside from a few vague posts on social media about ‘something coming soon to Paris’. (When my initial co-founder, one of Paris’ most known fitness coaches and bloggers, literally stole my work and was working with another company preparing their launch simultaneously, I learned that being too open and trusting is not always a good thing!) So, sharing the news for me meant telling my investors, closest friends and family.  Some understood and most didn’t, but I didn’t doubt my decision. I knew I needed to step away to re-build myself and that I would ultimately launch something even more meaningful and powerful (even though at the time I wasn’t sure what it would be).

Like you, I’m no quitter. But there’s a tremendous difference between giving up and reaching a point of clarity. Not everyone needs to understand and surely they won’t, so don’t expect them to.  Walking away is so f*cking hard and doing it without support is even harder, but if this is what you feel deep in your gut – trust it. My hope in sharing this with you is to empower – or even just remind you – to give your instinct and self-awareness the credit they deserve.  Leaving something you love because it no longer fulfills you doesn’t mean your journey is over or that you’ve lost – in fact, it’s quite the opposite; freeing yourself from something that continually causes you more harm than good is incredibly liberating.  And when you’re ready to open yourself to new possibilities, new doors will open to you.  I guarantee it.

photo: Jia Wertz

For me, closing this door inspired the launch of NoBubblegum six weeks later and led me to create something even more connective and meaningfully awesome than I could have known a year ago (TBA). Most of us recognize gratitude is an essential key to happiness. Almost as important, I believe, is living in our truth and facing it head on (especially when it’s painfully difficult). You can live the life you dream of; it won’t be easy and it’s not supposed to be, but it’s always worth it.  And you are always worth it.  Trust your journey, trust yourself and never give up on going for what you want.  Even when it changes.


The Painful Truth We All Must Learn

I’m forcing myself to write this article before I begin second-guessing myself and before my mind wanders back to politics (both of these things will inevitably have happened by the time you read this).  This piece is dedicated to all the hustlers, artists, entrepreneurs and dream-builders out there who have experienced that exasperating feeling of, “WTF.  I know I’m exceptional at what I’m doing – or the concept I created is phenomenal (or something similar), so why am I not moving forward fast enough?”

No one wants to talk about or acknowledge the event you spent weeks preparing for, when only a few people showed up — or when a potentially life-changing opportunity that seemed like a sure thing suddenly doesn’t pan out.  As an artist, a rollercoaster ride of career highs and lows is pretty much expected; and when I read about and speak with entrepreneurs from many fields, there are clear similarities.  To makes matters worse, it’s during our most challenging times that many of us learn that some of our nearest and dearest aren’t able to provide the emotional support and assurance we need (and even worse: that look of pity).

The most important thing to remember is that most people just don’t get it.  And that’s okay.  As hard as it is to let yourself down and to be let down by those you love, we need to remind ourselves of the wise words of Anaïs Nin: “We don’t see the world as it is.  We see the world as we are.”  I’m willing to bet that the same friends and family members who aren’t able to be there for you the way you hoped have been less than courageous in their own lives, making it harder for them to relate.  Don’t take it personally because it’s no one’s fault (this took me years to learn).  Rest assured, you will find other sources of support that will broaden your life in new and exciting ways.  Meanwhile, remember that many of life’s greatest success stories begin with failure and heartbreak and overcoming obstacles is a surefire way to develop extraordinary resilience, grit and inner strength.

My personal belief is that in these situations it’s very important to allow yourself to feel that sh*t deeply and process it.  Do whatever you need to do to express yourself and to experience a sense of release and relief – whether it’s journaling, working out or spending time with friends and family.  Trust your instincts when it comes to self-care.  Then, when you’re ready, consciously decide to remove the negative cloud you felt hanging over you and clear it from your system.  Stand in your light and own it.  I realize these words may sound a bit hokey, but I’ve personally experienced the powerful result of consciously choosing to transform a let down into something positive and I know it works.  Owning your feelings, your successes and your failures is incredibly empowering.

You are your greatest asset.  When we experience any type of struggle, we are forced to deeply connect with our most authentic self (whether we want to or not).  We need to make sure that even while we’re feeling down, we are still fully aware of the fact that we are our greatest asset.  And our greatness can’t be measured or changed by the result of an event, a failure or a success – but by how we live each day, how we respond to challenges, how we treat other people and how we move forward.  When we lead with our hearts and trust ourselves at a core level, there is no limit to our happiness and success.

Song For This Moment: “Remember Me”  by Daley & Jessie J :: unrelated lyrics but this song has a kickass and empowering quality that just works.

Related Articles:

The 5 Best Ways To Build Resiliency, article in Experience Life.

Get Gritty and Win“, article in NoBubblegum.

62 Business Leaders Answer What Does Success Mean To You?“, article in Under 30 CEO.

How To Get Unstuck (featuring Dr. Laura Miranda)

I recently sat down with passionate fitness entrepreneur, physical therapist and coach Dr. Laura Miranda in New York to discuss strategies on how to get unstuck when we fall into negative patterns. Whether it’s losing motivation for your workout routine or neglecting some another aspect your self-care, Laura shares many insightful tips that will help you shift back to your strongest, most high-vibing self.

Among many other tips, we discussed the importance of positive connection, self-awareness and self-compassion.  Here is an inspiring excerpt from our conversation.

Connect on instagram: @drlauramiranda

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