Jordana Schrager, Mary Lemmer, Nick Lemmer, Shaily Baranwal, and William Cosby share their rich, entrepreneurial journeys through their responses to our questions as they impart advice, illuminate their triumphs and setbacks, and talk about everything else in between! As a dynamic group of entrepreneurs, disruptors, and thought leaders who are changing the world and making their mark in their communities and beyond, they represent some of the best and brightest of what a Michigan entrepreneurial education can offer.

Jordana Schrager

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Briefly describe your company.

I am the owner and designer of by Jordana! I use footwear, apparel, and accessories as my canvas and add value to these products with custom hand-drawn designs and mass-produced artwork and patterns. I’ve designed custom footwear and apparel for people all around the world, including celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, P!NK, and Nick Cannon; and companies such as SoulCycle, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Adidas, Reebok, Sharpie, Yoobi, Macy’s, Juicy Couture, Vans, Tretorn, Steve Madden, Taco Bell, Jamba Juice, and more. I’ve also expanded my business into a mass-produced footwear and fashion line sold online and to retail stores across the country. This line offers a variety of products, all designed exclusively by me!

What inspired you to create this venture? What was your journey leading up to it?

I first doodled on a pair of white sneakers in high school. I’d been grounded for staying out past curfew, and I was in my room with nothing to do. Totally bored, I picked up a pair of sneakers and started doodling on them. I wore the custom-designed sneakers to school the next day and everyone loved them! Pretty soon I started receiving orders from people around my town. When orders began to trickle in from across the country, I saw the potential for a business and by Jordana! was born!

How was the University of Michigan ecosystem beneficial to you?

Once I got to college, I started to take advantage of the resources that the University of Michigan had to offer. I majored in art and design and learned a lot of skills that helped me grow and shape my business. I took classes in drawing, Photoshop, Illustrator, branding, and more and used these skills toward growing by Jordana! I wanted to gain more business knowledge and entrepreneurship skills so I decided to minor in business after my sophomore year. I took a lot of business and entrepreneurship classes, applied my business to class projects, and became very involved with the Zell Lurie Institute. Once I graduated, I applied for an investment from the Zell Founders Fund. I used this investment to scale my business from custom hand-drawn orders to a mass-produced footwear and fashion line. I’ve also networked with Michigan students, faculty, and alumni, which helped me create partnerships with major brands such as SoulCycle and Bloomingdale’s.

What would you consider your biggest setback in your entrepreneurial journey?

My biggest setback was figuring out how to scale my business. I was hand-drawing each design and taking each order one at a time. I had to figure out a way to mass-produce my designs so I could reach a larger audience, while keeping the “artistic” and “unique” aspect of the business!

What advice do you have for students thinking about starting a venture?

My advice would be to work hard, believe in yourself, and do what you love!