In the interest of full disclosure, we first must admit that we wrote this entire post while in the scorpion pose. OK, that is clearly ridiculous. We’ve barely got the downward-facing dog conquered.
But you know who’s probably standing on her head, somewhere in the Hamptons? Jen Russo, owner of the new Juja Active shop in Southampton, pictured above. A former investment banker, Russo is one of those rare yogis who can simultaneously (we imagine) talk about ROI and IPOs while belly breathing and chanting om. Spoiler alert: Don Draper isn’t the only one dreaming of commercial success while sitting cross-legged during morning meditation.
Russo, who spent two decades at places like Blackstone, Citigroup and Sonenshine Partners, traveled frequently for work and often stumbled into yoga studios where she noticed “all these great little brands out there” for activewear. Yet, there seemed to be no central clearinghouse for yoga-inspired tops and bottoms. “I felt like there was a white space in the retail market,” she says. That was when Russo, who made a living providing retail strategy advice, had an a-ha moment: Why not create a yogawear marketplace?
Her concept, Juja Active — named for her two stepdaughters, Julia and Jamie — opened Memorial Day Weekend at 38 Jobs Lane, with outposts in Hamptons Hot Yoga in Bridgehampton and HOT’auk in Montauk. She has plans for an e-commerce site to launch this summer, with additional brick-and-mortar locations to follow. (She’s a yogi who can do spreadsheets, keep in mind.) Russo declined to say how much she’s invested in the business, other than it’s “not an insignificant amount” and she’s also backed by investors. So take that, Lululemon.
Russo, who quit banking in January, is getting the word out about Juja Active via social media (specifically, the Big Four: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest), in-store events and local activities like an upcoming yoga series at Channing Daughters winery. She launched the Southampton shop with 15 independent brands, including Crane & Lion, Track & Bliss, and Electric & Rose.
What sets her store apart from other activewear stores? For starters, Russo says it’s the look and feel. “We’ve designed it to bring a sense of calm,” she says. “We have whitewashed floors and a frosted mirror with a yoga mat in front of it, so people can come out of dressing rooms” and strike a pose. As for inventory, “we have everything from sophisticated basics to wild and crazy prints,” she says, mostly from smaller companies. Juja Active also has a social mission and plans to donate a portion of event proceeds to nonprofits that empower girls and women.
Does she miss investment banking? (Does anyone ever miss investment banking?) The biggest thing about the banking world is that you “work hard — but that was nothing compared to launching a business,” Russo says. She’s digging doing her own thing. “It’s so rewarding and so fulfullling.”
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