Jenny Lemons is a small-batch clothing company run by San Francisco-based artist Jennie Lennick. Born in Minnesota, Jennie moved to San Francisco in 2010 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied painting. She founded Jenny Lemons in 2015 as an extension of her art practice. The Mission-based storefront location features original work from more than 170 independent designers. All of the patterns are drafted, cut, and sewn in limited edition runs in collaboration with small factories in San Francisco and Oakland. Because of this, each of the locally made items is entirely unique.
When COVID-19 struck, Jennie had to act quickly to get her inventory online and to build out her online presence. Fortunately, she had just returned from a conference, called the Alt Summit, about digital marketing and ecommerce.
“That week was really insane,” she said. “My employees were scared, our classes were cancelled, and then, on March 15th, we got the executive order from Mayor Breed that everything had to shut down, but I had just attended a conference about digital marketing and ecommerce. That was really convenient.”
Jennie sent most of her team members home, and then she and her manager Sarah Ogden inventoried everything in the store.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘We have to get this stuff online, now.’”
Over the next week, Jennie and Sarah pivoted all of their products online, taking pictures and writing the descriptions. Now, they have nearly 2,000 products online.
“People need to have some sort of distraction.”
In addition to their retail store, Jenny Lemons is also known for its popular workshops with local designers and artists that take place in their physical location. Jennie had been thinking about moving the workshops online, and then—shortly after shelter-in-place announcement—she was invited to teach an online workshop to help people learn how to make their own face masks.
The workshop turned out to be a great opportunity for Jennie to practice teaching online in a safe environment. The workshop also got a lot of press.
“I was featured on KQED, and that was just from the first workshop I did!” said Jennie.
Jennie bought an overhead camera and, with help from her husband, started offering her own online workshops and classes.
“People need to have some sort of distraction,” she said. “They want to be creative, they want to keep learning things, and they want to do it with other people instead of watching a YouTube video. What’s amazing is that I can get teachers from Southern California or Minneapolis—where I’m from—to teach Jenny Lemon classes instead of having to come to the Mission. It’s been great.”
Another pivot, another revenue stream.
Earlier in the year, Jennie had been hired to participate in the Facebook Summit, a major event. The event was cancelled, which was disappointing, but she recognized a new opportunity—virtual team building activities for corporations.
“It was shocking. The Facebook Summit would have been the biggest job we ever had, and it was cancelled,” said Jennie. “But now we’ve started doing virtual team building workshops for corporations. That has been a surprising, amazing new revenue stream for us.”
Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.