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.
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.