December 28, 2017

Five Questions with Jesse Genet: CEO and Co-Founder of Lumi

Lumi CEO and Co-Founder Jesse Genet was just 16 years old when she started her first business, a T-shirt printing company, in her parents’ basement. She then went on to create her first brand, Inkodye, a sunlight-activated fabric dye. Today she runs Lumi, a packaging partner that has helped ecommerce brands (including MeUndies, Barkbox, and FabFitFun) manufacture over 20 million units of packaging since its launch.

Jesse, who studied Industrial Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, has a unique perspective on marrying the creative with the business sides of things. She has raised over a quarter million dollars on Kickstarter, pitched on Shark Tank, and participated in Y Combinator. Pick up some pointers and inspiration in this chat, then join her for more art-provoking conversation at the upcoming In/Visible Talks conference.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“Fraught with angst and fueled by trial and error. Honestly creating things, whether they are physical things or new ideas for my business, is a process that is so continual that I never pause to think ‘I’m entering the creative process now’. To me, it’s almost a state of mind. I always want to look around and soak in information throughout each day and put pieces together in my mind until creative solutions uncover themselves.”

How or where to you find inspiration?

“Life is, frankly, quite beautiful all on its own, so most of my inspiration comes from the little moments of joy I experience with my team at Lumi. In terms of inspiration for my career directly, I often remind myself how everything that powers our modern lives was created by someone. Nearly every object, technology, and idea that powers my daily life was someone else’s life’s work. That fact reminds me that contributing more of my own mental energy isn’t just a fun way to spend a career, it feels negligent to not try to contribute.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“Translating a mission into a functional business model. I think designing a business model isn’t very often discussed, but in every sense it is a true design process. The challenge is to design a business, a mechanism for growing a company that also gets you closer to a world you’re excited to live in. As CEO of Lumi, this is an exciting creative challenge, one that I’ve been working on for years already but still excites me.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“Growing up in suburban Detroit, I didn’t have any direct interaction with creatives who had made careers out of their crafts. I didn’t know any professional designers or artists, so it wasn’t easy to imagine myself as one either. I moved to Los Angeles at 19 and started researching schools. Honestly, I found the field of Industrial Design and then Art Center College of Design because I was fascinated by manufacturing and also loved being creative. Landing at Art Center then opened my eyes to an entire world I really didn’t know existed, and I realized that design would be a part of my career forever.”

Who is one of your heroes and why?

“My co-founder Stephan Ango, the person I’ve gotten to work side by side with everyday for the past eight years, is a hero. He is incredibly smart, a very talented designer, and also the type of person who can make slogging through tremendous challenges a joyful process.”

BONUS ROUND: Where do you call home?

“I live full-time in an Airstream trailer with my dog, Flexo.”