Who said you can’t mix work and play? Jelt Belt founder Jen Perry certainly thinks that a healthy mix is a necessity – in fact did the interview for this story while she was out hiking. Jen is the type of person who is so drawn to the outdoors and hiking that she decided to set up her office right along a trail up in Bozeman, Montana. Being outside and looking for her next adventure has always been her calling. Even as a kid she was always up for a game of basketball or a bike ride with no real destination – all that mattered to her was that she was seizing an opportunity to get outside. Rolling around in her 1991 Westfalia VW Bus, Jen’s always prepared to go explore somewhere new!
So, who is Jelt?
Well for starters, you can easily see Jen in her products and how much thought she put into creating these sustainable belts. Jelt was born from a tough, yet pivotal moment in Jen’s life. After a near death experience where her appendix ruptured she was forced to spend time inside, healing up in the hospital. It was in that hospital, walking around the fluorescent-lit halls, dragging an IV alongside her where she decided something needed to change. Realizing how close she got to death made her consider how much more there is to life so she made a promise to herself that she was going to do more and be more.
“I swear if I make it through this, I am going to give back”
Sure enough, she did do more and today she is giving back in more ways than we’re sure she ever imagined. Jelt is a certified B-corp and donates to several charities that help support those who have trouble supporting themselves. Being a firm believer in helping others and taking care of your environment, Jen was set on making sure that if she was to start a venture, it would be one that practices and preaches her personal core values. When talking with her, you can tell how proud she is of her ability to do such a thing:
“I walk the walk and you can check the facts.”
Besides the standout quality of the belts, what really sells her brand is her confidence in them, herself, and knowing that she does have quite an impressive fact sheet. Keeping in line with her brand values, Jen brought manufacturing to Montana and created jobs for local Bozeman women, as well as women living on remote, rural ranches. This allows these underrepresented women to embrace their power to provide for their families.
The lightbulb moment that turned into the seed for Jelt belt occurred one day shortly after Jen got out of the hospital. Having lost weight, she was looking at her belt and thought to herself that it would be much more comfortable if she could have an elastic belt like the one that’s sewn into the bottom of her ski jacket. She also figured this type of belt would be useful to others like her who are always outdoors.
Launching your own business is no easy task, but it is especially difficult when you’re a woman who is launching an outdoor brand by yourself in a market typically dominated by men. Do you remember playing games of kickball back in elementary school when someone on the other team would tell their team to move in closer to try to mess with whoever is kicking? That’s kind of how it was for Jen, except she sailed the ball over everyone’s head.
She has proven time and time again that you can run a small business that doesn’t sacrifice purpose for profits.
Jelt is a successful woman-owned business, a certified B Corp, and a partner of the 1% For The Planet while the belts are 100% vegan and made from 100% recycled plastic.
Jen really did create a unique belt. The typical belt that comes to mind is one with leather straps and different holes to move up or down a size, or perhaps you’re thinking of those strap belts that you pull tight and clamp shut. Jelt Belts don't have that rigid leather or canvas that traditional belts bring, the kind that you can feel digging into your hip if you lean too far one way. Jelt belts are extremely comfortable elastic bands with a grippy gel on the inside to hold your pants more securely. To make them even more desirable, they have been designed so the buckle won't protrude through tight clothing. No more buckle bulge!
So what’s next for Jen and Jelt belts? Jen says that knowing how Jelt is helping others through their partnerships and fulfilling their mission is what keeps them going. While she admits that it can be sometimes tricky to run the business with how much they donate at the end of each year, she holds fast to her original intent: she just wants “to keep making great products that give back so I can write big fat checks to non-profits.” Considering the quality of the products, the confidence of those who make them, and their ability to stay dedicated to giving back, surely the future is bright for Jen and the rest of the family at Jelt belts! After all, Jen did win Innovator of the Year in 2018 by Prospera Business Network.
I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what’s to come from Jelt inbetween all the hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing Jen and her team keep themselves busy with!
If you’re interested in a stylish and comfortable belt that you know is made with your needs in mind, grab yourself a Jelt belt!