Welcome back to another Women in Business feature!
Today I am sharing my chat with Jenessa of Range Road 21. After having her first child Jenessa was searching for something to do with her spare time. When I asked her about how she began, she told me that leather was always something cool to her and as a hands on person she loved figuring out how to do things. It wasn’t long before Jenessa decided to take the jump and order some scrap leather off of Etsy and basic leather tools. Two and a half years ago Range Road 21 began with keychains, and now, well, I can’t wait to show you what she’s been making! I hope you enjoy our interview.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you started your business?
I grew up in South Western Manitoba on a farm with three brothers. When I left home, I went to college for Business Administration, but quickly decided that was boring and became an excavator operator instead. I did that for about 8 years and traveled all over the place. I spent 2 years in Australia and 6 months in New Zealand… turns out they needed excavator and equipment operators over there too!
When I came back to Canada, my now husband started messaging me. I initially told him to go away because I was sick of all the drama and games. He didn’t and that’s how I ended up in Northern Alberta with a bunch of cows, helping him run a concrete construction company! We had our first kid right away so going out on site with him every day wasn’t really a feasible option anymore. After a couple months of wasting way too much time on my phone, I decided I needed to find something productive I could do in the evenings.
Is there a story behind your business name?
My business name is actually where we live! Back when I had just made some online purchases and was waiting for the leather stuff to show up in the mail, I was driving on our road (probably to go pick them up) and saw the road sign. I said it out loud a couple of times and that’s what it’s been ever since.
What does a typical day in the life look like for you?
Tuesdays are my shop days so I’ve managed to find a babysitter for every Tuesday and it’s totally changed the game. I’ll usually head out to do chores and check animals in the morning before I head to the shop. The rest of the week is spent on kids, our construction company and just your typical every day life stuff! Every couple days I’ll go to town to pick up all my online purchases and ship every one else’s.
Can you describe your creative process for me?
My creative process starts with me sitting and staring at a photo/multiple photos of something I want to make (or staring into space picturing the thing in my head) for about 10 minutes and trying to figure out how to make it. What pieces I need to cut out and what sequence I need to put it together in so I don’t get myself in a corner.
I get out my sketch book and measuring tape, then draw out very average sketches of all the pieces I will need. Then I look at the measuring tape for 5 minutes deciding what the appropriate size for the pieces would be. My product designs are pulled out of thin air so I’m always looking for feedback on what could be improved! I’m 100% just winging it over here. (Aren’t we all!)
What was your introduction to leatherwork?
My introduction to leather work was just ordering some leather to see what I could do with it! Google, YouTube, Instagram Reels and a lot of trial and error is how I got to where I am! Ironically enough, turns out my great grandmother also did leather work so I guess it runs in the family.
Where do you find inspiration/ what inspires you?
I like to make things that people want and need. Almost all of my products have started out as custom products or casual suggestions.
Do you have any memorable moments or struggles that helped you become the entrepreneur you are today?
There are obviously days in every entrepreneurial journey that makes a person wonder why the heck they even bother. Those days are sometimes followed by a few days of me not doing anything at all, but then I’m reminded why I do it! The things that have made the biggest difference for me is my husband. He’s a very intelligent business man and entrepreneur himself and has taught me so much! Maybe some of the things I didn’t want to be taught, but I learned them anyway.
If you can remember, how did you sell your first piece?
From Instagram! It was a keychain I delivered to The Old Bistro in Fairview. About 3 days after I made my first post on Instagram I had my first official order and sale! A whopping $8!
What is your favourite product to make?
The latest idea! I have so many ideas it’s a struggle, but the bags and flower snip holsters are my current favourite!
Why do you do what you do?
It feeds my soul.
Which ultimately results in me having more patience with the people in my life! So, in a way, I also do it for the sake of my family, I think everyone can tell if I haven’t had a shop day for a while.
What is one tip you would like to share with other artists or entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship comes with serious growing pains. There is no easy way, no get rich quick formula, just hard work and not giving up on the hard days. But opportunities come with connections, so if you feel like your business is stagnant go make more connections.
Do you have any message you would like to share with other women in business or women who are thinking about starting their own business?
If you’re thinking about it more than 60% of the time, just go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You “fail” and wind up exactly where you are right now except you learned something. So adapt and try it again.
I think Jenessa is the perfect example of just going for it! I also think that I need to go run to her website and grab myself a flower snip holster because that is going to be handy in the garden! I’d like to say a special thank you to Jenessa for participating in this interview and Alicia Ross Photo for the pictures!
You can find Range Road 21 at the following links:
You can find Alicia Ross Photo at the following links: