Interview with Bethany Jensen and Tere Jensen of 42nd and Orange
Tell us about your company, it’s purpose, mission, target audience, goals, what makes it unique.
Our company is 42nd and Orange: a family creative. Currently we write about food for a national nutrition and health website called nutrimirror.com, we also have a clothing and accessories brand called m•o•m and we just opened our first studio/shop this past October.
42nd and Orange is intended to bridge our talents. My mother is a great seamstress and fabulous cook. I went to Art Center College of Design and received an art degree in photography, plus I got the “used car salesman” gene from my father’s side of the family. Between the two of us we can cater your party, design and sew the “look” and photograph the event. 42nd and Orange enables us to collaborate with different fields.
The brand m•o•m is currently all-handmade by us. Each piece is intended to last and be handed down. The new and vintage fabrics we use give a fun twist to classic designs with a decidedly laidback California ease. Just as my grandmother and great-grandmother did, we use every last bit of fabric. Scraps from clothing become ties, belts, and patchwork scarves. Leftovers are turned into beanbags to toss and dolls to love; remnants are given new lives as aprons, coasters, and rugs.
We strive to make cute, age appropriate clothes for kids. We have pledged to never produce rhinestone encrusted t-shirts that say Diva or Princess in Training. We feel kids should be kids.
Our color and pattern mixes aren’t for the faint; however, our use of vintage fabrics tugs at memories of childhood. Parents and grandparents that appreciate small run and one-of-a-kind pieces are intrigued by what we make. These families understand and seek out American made and especially locally made goods.
We look forward to the day we can produce our own line of fabric. We also have ideas for storybooks and coloring books based on a doll we make.
How did you come to work together in the first place?
I was living in Oakland working at Goodnight Room, a custom furniture shop for children, when the owner and I decided we needed aprons for little girls. I asked my mother if she would like to take on the job; she is the resident seamstress of the family, having made many of my childhood school clothes. A week later my mother sent us a dozen aprons (two styles). Within 1 week, they were gone. We reordered and reordered and reordered. After approximately 3 months of great sales, I phoned my mother and told her we were going into business together.
Please describe your respective roles in the company.
We say that my mother is the creative force and I am the driving force.
For m•o•m, we create the clothing line together, designing side by side. My mother has the best eye for color and pattern and she is the seamstress – I can only sew a straight line. I take care of the day-to-day business: web shop, blog, wholesale, paperwork, etc.
For nutrimirror.com we also divide duties according to ability. Together we research food, my mother does the testing and cooking, then I take the photographs and write everything up in a nice package for the website.
How has working together affected your relationship outside the “office.” In other words how do you keep family matters separate from work related issues?
We are able to move effortlessly between personal and business matters. Our relationship has become stronger, we believe, precisely because of the business. We communicate well and can easily laugh at ourselves. The key is to not take ourselves too seriously.
What are some of the challenges you have faced working together?
The division of responsibility is based on ability. We trust each other completely and understand that we both have full plates. We’re pretty tuned into one another and can tell if one of us is struggling. When that happens, we offer assistance, take up the slack in another area, and/or slow the pace for a bit.
The only struggle that comes to mind was when we were preparing for our very first clothing tradeshow a few years ago. It was a struggle for us simply because this was uncharted territory. We got through the long days of prep with a healthy dose good humor.
Showing our brand m•o•m at the Bubble New York trade show in 2007 (we were out of our league, but it was a great learning experience). Opening our studio/shop this past October 2008.
What do you like best about working together? Least?
We both appreciate the skills and talents of the other. We’ve created a very easy-going work environment that enables us to critique, offer solutions, and discuss new ideas openly.
What do we like least? That’s actually a hard question to answer. It’s probably the fact that we are always together.
I mean really… We. Are. Always. Together!
What, if any big challenges or little annoyances have occurred as a result of working together and how have you managed to overcome them?
The biggest challenge is that it’s just the two of us trying to do everything. It’s our personal shortcomings with regard to the business we’ve chosen that can prove frustrating. Why didn’t I get that degree in business? Why didn’t my mother learn to grade patterns? Ultimately these issues are but a blip in the bigger picture and there is no benefit to be had from dwelling on them.
What tips would you share with our readers for working with a member of the family?
Make sure you really like each other, not just as mother or daughter but for the people you are. Ask yourself if you would work with this person if they weren’t family? If you can’t answer, “Absolutely!” you might want to reconsider.
What’s been the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of working together (eg. unexpected publicity, obtaining an unexpected client/customer, an emotional moment, etc)?
The first mention m•o•m received in a national magazine was exciting; Country Living magazine 2003. And then in 2005, Country Home magazine asked us to design an apron for their Shop Girl character and to make it available to readers for purchase –that was a successful collaboration. One of our products is licensed with a national home décor catalog; that was a big triumph for us, as we had never dealt with contracts before.
We are overjoyed with our new studio, which we call 42nd and Orange. It’s been a dream of ours to have a space where we can work on all of our projects whether it’s photographing food and writing for nutrimirror.com, or putting the finishing touches on a new m•o•m piece. We get to do all that and have visits from friends and shoppers. Life is good.
What’s next for this mother daughter team?
It’s mainly more of the same with a few new ideas. We will continue to grow the m.o.m brand; 42nd and Orange has been approached to do collaborative design work -this is an area we are really interested in perusing, and perhaps a cookbook based on our writings for nutrimirror.com.
For more Information visit www.42ndandorange.com
This article can be read in the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of WE Magazine for Women