Emily Gimmell: From Interviewing Ashton Kutcher to Launching Her Own Business
The NextWomen September Food & Fashion Theme.
TV journalist Emily Gimmel, who used to travel weekly between Las Vegas and Kentucky to tape the docudrama, Southern Belles: Louisville, could not find a fashionable, functional and affordable computer bag. Flying with multiple bags was a hassle. One day in 2008, on one such journey, at Atlanta Airport Terminal B to be precise, Gimmel had an idea. GRACESHIP was born.
GRACESHIP offers a range of stylish, functional and affordable "computer purses"; laptop bags which also have enough space to fit the rest of life's essentials.
Emily has worked in TV since she was 15, including a stint as an entertainment reporter, interviewing celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Lebron James and Ashton Kutcher.
After 10 years in TV, when the idea for GRACESHIP struck, Gimmel decided to move back to her hometown Louisville, and start the business of her dreams. She designs all of the bags herself, and even traveled across China to find the best factory for her brand.
The bags come in three styles, London, New York and Chicago, all representing the style of the city they are named after. Each bag holds up to a 15.4" laptop or tablet, and all of life's other essentials. The bags are sold on GRACESHIP's website, major online retailers, luggage stores and specialty stores.
We spoke to Emily about the joys of travel; of a global economy; and of entrepreneurship.
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for GRACESHIP and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
EG: It all began when I was travelling for work as a TV Journalist. I needed a laptop bag and couldn't find one that I liked! Everything seemed too masculine or sporty, or just girly. I longed for a computer bag with high style appeal, that was just as fashionable as it was functional. When I couldn't find anything to meet my desires, I set out to create my own brand. Thus, GRACESHIP was born.
TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?
EG: Our products are designed for women, by women. We understand what women want and what their needs are as they go about their hectic lives. We have put tremendous effort into building products that enhance the lives of women. Not only do we truly value customer satisfaction, but we also strive to improve human welfare through technology. That is why every sale we make helps a special cause that makes a major difference in human life. GRACESHIP is partnered with One Economy, a global non-profit that brings the power of technology and immediate knowledge to poverty stricken communities and nations.
TNW: How did you choose the designs for the bags you have so far?
I love to travel, I think it is one of life's ultimate luxuries. I want our customers to feel as though they are going places, both figuratively and literally, each day they carry one of our bags.
Each bag is named after a world renowned city and each style encompasses the essence of the city its named after.
TNW: Who were your first customers and how hard was it to attract them?
EG: My first customer was actually my mom, Angie. She supported me through years of hard work and sacrifice as I developed the brand, and there was no way she was going to let anyone else be my first customer. Without my parents, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today. Today we have sold bags as far as France and Nova Scotia. We also sell bags around the country, to luggage stores, specialty stores and individual customers online. It’s great to know that people love GRACESHIP bags as much as I do.
TNW: Who is your target customer?
EG: GRACESHIP targets females who have the style and knowledge to look like a million bucks, but the sense not to spend it. We appeal to young, modern women who know that true luxury is not about high prices and excess, it’s about value and freedom. Specifically, we target professional women ages 25 - 44. They are college educated, employed, style conscious and usually have social personalities.
TNW: What is next for your company?
EG: We are continuing to grow the brand and expand our customer base, both online and in traditional retail stores. GRACESHIP strives to be the authority for womens computer bags.
TNW: Do you have plans to expand internationally? Which countries and when?
EG: Although we are a small company, we already consider ourselves a global one. We sell to customers across the world on our website. We want to continue to grow these sales and see where things take us.
The exciting thing about a global economy, is that the sky truly is the limit.
TNW: How has your experience as a journalist helped you to run a business?
EG: Spending ten years as a TV journalist taught me how to be excellent communicator. I often find myself thinking of our customers as an audience. I want our brand to enrich and enlighten their lives. We also use the blog on our website and social media to position ourselves as a source for "living well in a digital world." I am thankful for the strong writing and speaking skills that have been instilled within me through my previous career. It's very helpful when it comes to marketing GRACESHIP's message, telling the story of our product, and working with retail accounts. The ability to do these things clearly and concisely are a great advantage.
TNW: When did you first think about selling GRACESHIP bags?
EG: The concept literally came out of the sky. I was traveling around the country working as a TV reporter and was in dire need of a computer bag. When I couldn't find a bag I liked anywhere, I set out to build my own brand. I soon found myself quitting my career, moving from the West coast back to my hometown in Kentucky, and downsizing every aspect of my life to make this a reality. Two years later, the hard work and sacrifice is beginning to pay off. The feeling of meeting satisfied customers and women with the same computer bag issues I had makes everything worth it.
TNW: What is the best career or management decision you have made?
EG: The best career decision that I made was to give up my days as a journalist and start GRACESHIP.
As much as I loved being a TV journalist, I love what I am doing with GRACESHIP even more. It is an awesome feeling to wake up everyday and not feel like I have to go to “work” -- GRACESHIP has just become my everyday life.
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