Green Is the New Chic

This business owner learned the ropes of a start-up while at the same time, benefitting causes close to her heart.

BUSINESS NAME: Jemsera Eco-Friendly Bags

OWNER: Josie Fuentabella

LOCATION: Westmont, Ill.


Josie Fuentabella is hoping to save the world, one purse at a time. At the urging of her aunt, Rebecca Molina, Fuentabella decided to open her business, Jemsera, in July of this year. Jemsera takes its name from each member of her family. J is for Josie; E is for son Eric; M is for son Mark; S is for husband Sonny and ERA is for her maiden name. Jemsera offers a line of fashion accessories that make a unique, quirky fashion statement. Made of recycled juice pouches and rice sacks, the line is pleasing to both environmentalists and fashionistas.

Eureka Moment

Molina is a California handbag designer and was looking for something different to offer her clients. At the same time, she wanted to do something good for the women in her native Philippines. While on a trip to the Philippines, she noticed an overwhelming amount of items that were just being tossed into landfills, things she felt could be easily reused to create purses with colorful designs and patterns.

The bags are produced by a women’s co-op in the Philippines that is a certified fair trade organization. When people purchase the products, they are not only helping the environment: They are also helping the women of the Philippines have a chance at a better life. In honor of Molina’s late husband, Ray Molina, a percentage of Jemsera’s proceeds are also donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Keeping Family Tradition

Growing up in the Philippines, Fuentabella inherited the entrepreneurial gene from her parents. Her family owned a pig farm; she owned her own beauty salon, and also sold clothing and jewelry.

Fuentabella said there are many differences, however, between owning a small business in the Philippines and owning one in the United States. She said a lot more red tape is involved opening a business here than in the Philippines. However, small business owners can get more help with their businesses in the United States than they can in the Philippines. “Everybody is so helpful here and is willing to teach you what to do,” she said. “There are so many people you can ask. You just have to know where to find them.”

The Perfect Solution

Fuentabella initially found out about ABC through her membership at her local chamber of commerce. What was the main reason for her becoming a member? “I was looking for a way to advertise and get my name out there, so people can see what I do,” she said.

She added that having a website has benefited her business tremendously. “Sometimes, when I meet people at the Farmer’s Market, they might not have time to buy something right then. But I’ll give them my business card, and some end up going to my website to purchase items.”

She added that Jemsera can ship items to anywhere across the country.

When it comes to advice for fellow entrepreneurs, Fuentabella said if you are passionate about something you really want to do, you need to push yourself toward that goal. “You just need to get started and get yourself out there so that customers can find you.” —Lynn Celmer

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