Fashion frustration led Brandi Long to create her first invention, the Jurse, a leather jacket that transforms into a purse in less than 30 seconds. She recently pitched her product during the first-ever Charlotte Hornets Innovation Summit, an initiative to support minority-owned businesses, and beat out nearly 200 contestants to win a $15,000 prize from the Charlotte Hornets Foundation.
A night out in 2017 sparked the idea for the Jurse — short for jacket-purse — but how to turn the idea into reality wasn’t in Long’s wheelhouse. By day, she’s a research and development chemist based in Greenville, South Carolina.
“I’m coming from a chemistry background. I know nothing about marketing. I know nothing about sales,” Long said during a phone interview. “A lot of things I’ve really had to delve into and learn on my own.”
Through research and trial-and-error, she spent three years perfecting the design. The final version of the jacket included an additional pocket to carry essentials — phone, keys, wallet, etc. — that don’t have to be removed during the transition.
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Watch her demonstration below.
Since launching the Jurse last October, Long says she has grossed almost $7,500 in revenue. Next, she’s planning to roll out a denim Jurse as well as a men’s collection and a kid version called the JackPack.
QCity Metro spoke with the self-described “chemist gone fashion” about the beginnings of the Jurse, participating in the Charlotte Hornets Innovation Summit and what business has been like since winning the pitch competition.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q. You’re a chemist by trade. How did you come up with the idea of the Jurse?
I’m a research and development chemist, and you go through maybe several weeks of failing, trying to get to the right thing.
It was a long week, one of complete failures, and I said that I’d go downtown to have a good time. I went home, got dressed and took my jacket because I had to walk from the parking garage to the lounge that I was going to. When I got there, the place was full, except for the dance floor.
I was holding my drink, my jacket and my purse. When it was time to actually dance, there was nowhere for me to put my things. Now, I’m even more frustrated than I’ve been all week at work. I had to figure it out. I thought there’s got to be a better way for us women to be fashionable, sleek and hassle-free.
Q. What’s the time frame on this?
I started the process of trying to figure out the functionality of the Jurse back in December of 2017. It took me about a year, year and a half to knock out the kinks — try to figure out which fabric worked best, where the zippers needed to be, the best function for people in general.
I gave up on it for probably three or four months. I was thinking, “Where am I going to come up with the capital? How do I write a patent? What am I going to do?”
But then, I thought, “Brandi, you can’t do this because it’s going to become somebody else’s idea and somebody else’s success eventually.” Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so I kept researching.
I wrote the provisional patents to get it started a little over a year ago. After probably five or six prototypes, and different manufacturers, I launched the Jurse in October of 2020.
Q. How did you get the word out about your the Jurse?
I did a lot of ads on Facebook. I got a lot of support from the local community who shared, tagged and things of that nature on social media.
Q. What was that experience like of going through the Charlotte Hornets Innovation Summit?
Right before the Summit, I had a friend tell me about it. I thought maybe I didn’t have enough experience. I went through that self-doubt, saying maybe I should wait till next year. I’m coming from a chemistry background. I know nothing about marketing. I know nothing about sales. A lot of things I’ve really had to delve in and learn on my own.
The competition had about 200 contestants apply in the first round. They narrowed it down for round two to the Top 20. That was the fan votes. Out of 50,000 votes, the Jurse received 12,388. I was absolutely shocked. That round, it brought me to tears to know that people were really rooting for this product.
The third round was more of a ‘Shark Tank’ round. [Five finalists] had to go live with pitches to the judges, and we had five minutes to do pitches. Questions from the judges was the scariest portion of it. There were a couple questions where I thought, “Did I answer it?” My chemistry side is very over analytical. I actually already counted myself out. When I watched it back, I saw it wasn’t so bad. I cried for two days for nothing. [laughs]
It was an experience like nothing I’ve ever done in my life before.
Q. What are you planning to do with the $15,000?
I order in a small-bulk quantity, so I know a lot of it will go toward ordering a larger bulk to lower the consumer costs. Another thing I will do with money is advertising and revamping the website. There are still millions of people who have no idea that the Jurse exists.
Q. How do sales compare from when you first started to now that you’ve won the pitch competition?
I had about 25 pre-orders before it came out. Since the Charlotte Hornets announced I won, sales have skyrocketed. It was something that I wasn’t expecting.
When sales start coming in and coming in and coming in, you’re like, “Oh, my goodness. Am I ready for this?”
My sales went up 152%. In a sense, it was kind of life-changing — you go from selling 25 a month to selling 25 in a day. That was really major.
Q. How much does the Jurse retail for?
Full retail for the Jurse is $190. Right now, they are actually on sale for $85.
Q. What was it like going back to your day job after participating in the Summit?
The first day or so was hard because you’re still taking in, “Oh wow, I won,” and then you have sales coming in.
Working in research and development, there’s literally no breaks because you have people’s lives in your hands when it comes to different technology that we’re working on. I would go home and cry a little bit because, on top of that, I’m a wife and a mother of three.
It was very hard to juggle because your family is used to you spending family time; your job is used to you being set in place; and then, being a entrepreneur, you’re working into the middle of the night. It was definitely a little difficult getting used to.
Q. What steps have you taken to make things more manageable?
I’ve learned to allot my time. In the morning before work, I’ll get up and respond to people on social media. Then, I’ll go to work. On my lunch break, I’ll send off Jurses that have been sold. When I get off work, I make sure the kids have their homework done and things of that nature. In the evenings, for about two to three hours, I’ll pack up Jurses and print orders and package everything. That’s pretty much how I’ve learned to balance the time.
Q. What do you want people to take away from learning about your experience?
There are a lot of sleepless nights, and nothing is going to happen overnight. A lot of people look at the product and they look at the journey. They say, ”Man, she launched six months ago, she’s doing great.”
But, it’s been over three years since the product actually came to fruition. So I say, keep pushing. The biggest hurdle is getting over yourself. Once you start manifesting and truly believing that you can do whatever it is in this life that you want to do, nothing can beat you. You might have a few setbacks, but you’ve got to keep pushing.