Joanna Lau Sets A New Handbag Standard For The Modern Day Woman Where Functionality Meets Luxury

Joanna Lau was frustrated after spending 4 years in the male-dominated finance industry that she couldn’t find a handbag for women that was both functional AND fashionable. So she created the JEMMAbag. Read our interview with the lovely Joanna below…


What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?

JEMMA was established after I experienced a void in women’s workwear throughout my four years in finance. Men had suitcases, whereas women’s accessories didn’t support their leadership and managerial roles, so I envisioned closing a small, but powerful fraction of the gender gap by eliminating intimidation from the workplace and offering opportunity – in the form of chic handbags. JEMMA empowers women of any profession to be fashion-forward and organized, while personifying ambition and the go-getter approach with its two inaugural collections, Work and Life.

Tell us about your business.

JEMMA aims to set a new handbag standard for the modern day woman.

  1. Designer quality – our bags are designed in New York and made of the finest materials from Italy.
  2. Modern Functionality – we believe handbags should be super bags, so we deliver what our customers want with attention to every detail (pockets for every need).
  3. #JEMMAGirl Community – we love to connect women who love handbags and JEMMA through our events and social media.

Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?

We’ve a few exciting things lined up in November… stay tuned!

Where is your business based?

Manhattan, New York.

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

I did a lot of market research and interviews with working women to find out exactly what their pain points were with the options that existed for work bags. And got down to sketching my designs and figuring out the manufacturing process, which was especially difficult!

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?

Word of mouth!


What have been your biggest challenges so far? How did you overcome these challenges?

Running a business is an emotional rollercoaster, from successful leaps forward to minor missteps. A lot of times, my challenges/mistakes happened simply because I’m new at this and forging my own way. I don’t see challenges as setbacks though, I learned something new each time and am able to make JEMMA better because of them.

How do you keep motivated through difficult times?

Having a bigger, grander vision is so important. I think about my vision every day, all the time to keep me motivated and determined to achieve a greater goal no matter what it takes.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

JEMMA fills a niche in the women’s handbag market for a well-designed, high quality handbag that serves the working woman’s daily needs. There are a lot of beautiful handbags available today, but I felt that fashion trumped function far too often. I had many bags that were pretty and cool, but when I needed to carry my laptop or an important folder or file, it was awkward – which is both unattractive and unprofessional. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a bag that addressed my needs for a functional accessory that was also gorgeous and appealed to all my senses like a luxury handbag.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

My all-time favorite advice is from Nelson Mandela, who once said “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Life is too short, do what you love and don’t be confined by social norms.

What is your favorite business tool or resource?

Instagram – you can learn so much about what’s going on in the industry/world by just browsing through it on a daily basis.


What social media outlets do you use? List them below.

Instagram @jemmagirlnyc
Twitter @jemmagirlnyc

What is a good article or book you have read recently?

“Black Box Thinking” by Matthew Syed.

What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?

JEMMA sets out to empower the working woman with everything we create. We want to equip her with the right tools to take on the world with full confidence however way she likes. Stay tuned, we’ve some exciting news to share in the next month!