Like many entrepreneurs, Jennifer Perry started her company Jelt Belt out of pure necessity, which, in Jen's case was the need for a belt that had a grip to keep her expensive jeans from "showing her crack". Jen thought about the concept for years and recalled the elastic rainbow belts with a buckle that she wore as a kid in the '80's and thought, "where do those exist [now]? I need something like that." So as years passed, Jen decided to go for it, "I thought about it for years and thought, I'm going to do it and I'm going to make it amazing. I'm going to make it super strong and use recycled materials so I'm not contributing to landfill and I'm going to make it really user-friendly for jeans or ski pants or golf shorts or mountain bike shorts."
So in 2014 in a small Rocky Mountain town Jelt Belt, short for "Jen's Belt", was started. Jen's belt is a 100% recyclable belt that uses yarn that is created by the melting of water bottles, is metal free, has an inner gel that provides a grip for the pants – belt loop or not, and perhaps the most notable aspect of Jen's company is her devotion to giving back.
Today, Jelt Belt is a company of 5 employees and Jen describes her company's mission as "working to make a difference, enhancing lives with responsible and sustainable fashion, never being too serious, always ready for a good time" or, to put it simply – Jelting. Jelting is a term Jen trademarked to not only refer to wearing the stylish, grippy, comfortable belts but about living life to the fullest and caring and giving back for the planet and those who protect our freedom.
So in true #Jelting fashion, each year, Jen chooses an organization that supports combat-wounded veterans to donate $1 of every belt sold to (each belt averages $30 at retail). Currently, that organization is Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to healing America's injured veterans through fly-fishing in the serene waters of Montana.
In addition to donating to organizations that support American heroes, Jen has also focused her manufacturing efforts to giving back to her local community through her partnership with the Montana Correctional Enterprise (MCE) Program at the Montana Women's Prison. Last year, Jen decided to move her manufacturing for all new belt lines from China to Montana where incarcerated women can apply and interview to work to produce and manufacture Jelt Belts and ultimately develop a strong work ethic, confidence and responsibility – all traits that are typically diminished during an incarceration period.
Jen's commitment to sustainable, charitable products already make her distinctive but what really separates Jen from her competitors is that, unlike other active accessories companies, Jen is not a former male pro-skier or snowboarder. Rather, she is a devoted mom that started a successful, self-funded company that doubles as a charitable platform in a male dominated industry, all from the small town of Bozeman, Montana. But regardless, the entrepreneur sticks to her core values and does so with the most charming demeanor.
Still, being a generous female business owner based out of a small town in Montana was not something Jen referred to as a big business challenge, rather, she says that since her brand makes a belt for anyone and everyone, being so inclusive has proven to be challenging. Since the brand makes belts for all sizes, ages, activities, styles of pants and at an affordable price, Jen notes that "The challenge is how do we narrow it down, how do we figure out, what is our niche?"
While Jelt Belt's inclusivity may pose questions regarding marketing tactics, it has not had an effect at retail, the brand is sold in 20 stores within the U.S., one store in the Phillipines and on sites such as Amazon and Grommet in addition to Jelt Belt.com.
When asked about the future of Jelt Belt, Jen explains that she plans to continue producing the classic Jelt Belt collection on a demand basis and then plans to introduce an additional new collection – like Jelt Extreme - each year.
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
Monday Wednesday Friday tennis in the morning or skiing in the mornings.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
5. What is your spirit animal?
6. What is your life motto?
If not now, when?
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
Expired stuff in the fridge, Snyder's Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks
8. Every entrepreneur must be Confident to be successful.
9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?
10. Deserted Island. Three things, go.
Best friend Stacie, unlimited supply of wine, 2 fishing rods.
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.