Kimber-Lee Alston '13: Founder of Jolie Coquette

Name: Kimber-Lee Alston

Year Graduated: Undergraduate of 2013, Graduate Student of 2014

Major: Theatre & Design (Undergraduate) Technical Entrepreneurship (Graduate)

Favorite Lehigh memory:

Outside of class, my favorite memory is of staying up all night and talking to this boy I was madly in love with. It was the summer of my junior year. I lived in this dilapidated off-campus house and we were in this tiny dilapidated room, but it was great.

My favorite class-related memory is of a product design project that I did with a girl named Liz. Professor Heiss’ class. We had to take an appliance and make it dysfunctional in hopes of shedding light on genuine issues the appliance may have had. We took a toaster and made it super difficult to use. Completely deconstructing it, we took out a the piece that made the toast stay down on its own, replaced the lever with a car gear shift, painted the toaster pink, and wrote “Ladies’ Choice” on the side, encased in a heart - it was very "I Love Lucy"-esque. The idea was that men didn’t want women [back then] doing anything outside of the kitchen. This toaster would make toasting toast a longer and far more laborious experience. You couldn’t toast anything without standing by the toaster and holding down the gear shift the whole time. It was really hard to use. We put coils in the toaster so it was especially hard to hold down the lever. I thought it was hilarious.

We even filmed a vintage, Pleasantville-like commercial about using the impossible toaster. For the commercial we borrowed period style dresses from the theatre department, made the clip black and white, and played old-time music while we demonstrated. It was the most fun I’ve ever had working on a team at Lehigh. Liz is amazing.

What exactly is Jolie Coquette?

Jolie Coquette is a french phrase, translating to “beautiful flirt” in english. The woman and force driving our brand and products. Jolie represents artfulness, intellect, science, and refined beauty. Coquette, the rebellious, playful, and devil-may-care provocateur.

Jolie Coquette, more so than her charmingly elegant demeanor and coquettish mannerisms, refers to the way she engages with her world.  She dances with life decadently and unapologetically; eating richly, living vivaciously, loving consumingly.  An indulgent opportunist and admitted sybarite - seizing every opportunity to make life as pleasurable and as wonderful as possible. Jolie Coquette's Ready-to-Play Wear is, on the one hand, functional and beautiful apparel for women...but at it's core,  a curated collection of sublime play.

How did you go about starting your own business?

I started Jolie Coquette while in the Technical Entrepreneurship program at Lehigh. I used the Integrated Product Development Process and creativity techniques after graduating to continue to develop my products and brand.

Recommendations for future entrepreneurs:

It all comes down to doing the work very well, loving the work, and having a constructive opinion of “failure.” If you work as hard as you can on something, you can still fail, but you will have failed as hard as you possible could have...thereby learning as much as you possibly could have. Which makes entrepreneurship a rewarding life pursuit for a young person who wants to learn through great, passionate experience. I recommend taking thoughtful, but giant leaps into your ventures.