Editor’s note: This interview with Jamila Tazewell, creator of 11:11 Enterprises, was conducted by me in early 2012 for Jumping at the Sun but was never published. Enjoy!
Tell me about your childhood. Were you into art back then? If yes, what type? Drawing? Painting?
I grew up in Key West, Florida in the 80’s.. it was a sweet place to be a kid. Lots of bike riding to the beach and to ballet lessons.. I was a tiny dancer.. haha.. way more into dance than visual arts. I think it’s in my blood though because my mom, grandma and great grandmother are and were amazing visual artists..
You attended the Savannah College of Art & Design. What was your major? What did you learn there that has stuck with you since?
I started as a Fashion major and transferred into the Fibers dept after taking an intro class and realizing how dynamic and creative I could be in that major.. We learned everything relating to fabric- weaving, screen printing, embroidery, repeat pattern design.. Then I got heavily into making handbags my senior year and it was then that I realized that I wanted to have my own accessories business. I think what I got most out of the whole college experience was an introduction to my own creativity and what it means to think of something, make it, and then make it better…
Okay, so you’re from Florida, went to school in Georgia, lived in Brooklyn, and now you’re in L.A (WHEW!)… how has living in those different places influenced your craft? Your outlook?
I loved living in each of those places.. I was a real east coast girl.. and then I moved to LA and everything changed. I went through the classic California transformation- I started doing Yoga, juicing and living healthy in the year round sun. Seriously I love it here and I’m not in any hurry to move anywhere else…
Before hitting it big making awesome wallets, you designed handbags. Why did you switch?
Hitting it big haha thats funny! To tell you the truth I never really intended to make a 8 year detour into wallet land.. I started making wallets because it was within my reach – it was something I could handle and expand on with no starting capital and no business experience. I stopped making bags because I was too busy learning how to make a living designing and selling wallets. It didn’t come easy and since I’m no natural born business person it took me a while to figure it out… and I am still learning all the time! My dream is to get back into bags again, as well as many other kinds of accessories – including jewelry! I am working on these things bit by bit now, finally, and it makes me soooo excited to expand on what I’ve built so far!!!
Why did you name your company 11:11?
It’s my favorite time. There is more to it of course and it involves lots of synchronicity and magical moments.. Basically though I feel like its a wink from the Beyond ( Angels, Spirit, God, Universe..) every time I catch it on the clock.. I just feel reassured, like I’m all right in that moment. It makes me feel guided and thankful. This started in college and since I’ve named my business this I have met soooo many people who feel the same way that I do and there is all kinds of crazy (and not so crazy) stuff you can read about the 11:11 phenomena if you google around..
You’ve been married for 3 years to the love of your life, Jai Gopal Khalsa. Does he play a role in 11:11?
YES! I was very fortunate to marry a man that has complimentary business skills!! Additionally, the fact that he lost his real estate job in 2008 right when the whole economy tanked was also a huge blessing. I of course can see this clearly now, not so much then. It got to a point where he turned to me and said that he believed in me and 11:11 and instead of trying to find another “real job” he came on board full time with me. Its been a huge challenge learning how to work together ( we are both very strong willed and opinionated) but its been the key to 11:11’s huge growth and success in the last 3 years.
You teach yoga? Sweet! Tell me about it! Do you practice Hinduism? How does your spiritual beliefs influence your craft? Your view of life?
Practicing and teaching Kundalini yoga made my life what it is today – which is totally galactically awesome I tell you! I was a mess when I moved out to California and I knew I needed something. I was so agoraphobic and closed and small and stressed. When I moved here 6 years ago I had been running 11:11 for 2 years and it was so hard. Working alone can be great but it can also be terribly isolating. Anyway, I did my little Rodney Yee yoga DVD in the living room because I was too scared to go to a yoga class. I really wanted to but the thought was just terrifying. I finally made it to a class at Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood when a visiting friend really wanted to go. I bought a class pass that day, did the teacher training later that year and started teaching at Golden Bridge a little over a year after that first class. I like Kundalini yoga because it works and it works fast! Anything you want to transform in yourself and your life is possible with this technology.
As for the religion part.. Kundalini Yoga (as taught by Yogi Bhajan) is a body of teachings that comes down to us through the Sikh tradition. It’s a Raj Yoga which means that it’s a complete system that was handed down (with great secrecy) through the royal lineages of the east for thousands of years and then through the Sikh Gurus starting with Guru Nanak in the 1400’s. So it’s much older than Sikhism but its been steeped in that beautiful (and very Aquarian) tradition. All that to say– I am not religious, but I am very devout.. my devotion to my practice and to the Guru of the Heart absolutely influences everything I do… To be honest, my yoga and meditation practice is what makes my business and art possible. I need that balance. They feed each other. And I can finally relax! and we know that’s where the flow is..
Who’s on your MP3 player on repeat?
I am not going to front on you, it’s all about the mantras for me these days. I love listening to mantras because they arrange energetic spaces favorably and they make me feel good. I listen to a bunch of incredible Sikh artists on repeat – Simrit Kaur, Nirinjan Kaur, and Snatam Kaur probably the most. If you want to know what heaven sounds like , look them up on itunes. If you checked my all time most played tracks though you’d see that I used to be a bit more diverse in my tastes… Stevie Wonder, The Pixies, Dolly Parton, Led Zeppelin , Allison Krauss, Paul Simon, Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, Mobb Deep, The Flaming Lips, Eric Satie, Peter Tosh, Depeche Mode, The Beach Boys, Snap, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock….hahahaha
Who’s your favorite artist?
Thats an impossible question. Too many. The fairies in charge of the sunrise. Followed by Robert Rauschenburg. Then all Art Nouveau artists. And Hundertwasser….
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Ten?
Living in my Earthship (google them) on a beautiful piece land with a waterfall and hot springs surrounded by fellow earthship living friends. Making art everyday and eating beets from my garden while I teach my (future) children about how awesome the universe is. Also making bags and joyfully overseeing my online 11:11 business adventures of course….and painting..
As you may know, I’m a Jersey girl, and not too thrilled that the Nets now belong to your former residence, Brooklyn. But that got me thinking… Nets or Lakers?
I have no idea what you are talking about. hahahahha. I am clueless when it comes to sports. It’s almost like you are speaking another language… what did you say again?
Even though the economy is a mess, you run a very successful business. What tips would you pass on to other small business owners?
Get clear on your vision and just go for it. Don’t listen to the fear talk ( in your own head and from others) and just work hard and don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!!!!!! Keep your awareness open and your game sharp. Also get help in the areas you are weak in. No man is an island and the key to building a successful business is in your ability to outsource/ partner to get the many jobs done. Do what you love and are good at, and find a way for others to do the rest. Oh ya and this is very important – make time for friends and having fun. Your to do list will always be very long. MAKE TIME! Your mental health is your greatest wealth.
What advice would you give the class of 2012?
Congratulations! You are here to do something great. Everything is possible now… all the cliches are true! If I can do it, so can you. The world you want to live in is possible. Create it.
Tell me something totally random about you.
I am currently totally obsessed with keychains. Yes. I look forward to showing you why coming soon on my website… 🙂
You can like 11:11 on Facebook by clicking here.
Check out 11:11 online here.
Or follow 11:11 on Tumblr here.