As a female owned and operated company, we're always interested in the processes, stories, and history of other women run operations. Jackie Swerz and Bec Adams are partners in Greenlight Licensing – this summer we caught up with the duo about bringing creatives together in fashion and the arts, running a bi-coastal business, and why smiling at strangers could be the season's best beauty secret.
Can you introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about what Greenlight Licensing is?
JS: I am a lawyer based in NYC and founder of Greenlight Licensing. The company started in 2015, specializing in collaboration, licensing and retail projects for clients. We focus on bringing curated and impactful products to market, and ideas to life.
BA: I am a music supervisor with a specialty in music licensing, currently in LA via New York and Australia! I opened the all female music/ dj agency Les Filles, and Jackie is my business partner at Greenlight Licensing.
You both very impressively have backgrounds in law – was there ever a time when you saw yourselves taking the road more traveled to become traditional lawyers or was it always the plan to use your skills for something more offbeat?
JS: There was a time during law school when I was considering a job at a firm, but it came down to which role seemed most exciting at the time. I had a great mentor who was an entertainment lawyer, I was always interested in what he was working on. I took the path I felt most drawn to, and that was working with a lawyer the licensing division of a company that managed talent and brands. During that time, I did a large-scale licensing deal with HSN, which lead me to work at a bigger licensing firm that owned brands. When the time felt right a few years ago, Greenlight happened naturally. Our first two clients were designer Cynthia Rowley and artist Andre Saraiva, and we quickly started working with many other properties after that.
BA: It never really entered my mind, unless I was to go down the typical entertainment lawyer route. Following an untraditional route and trusting my instinct has enabled me to make the best choices for my work life, so that work does not feel like ‘work’ - something that is very important to me.
How did the two of you meet and get to the point where you were ready to collaborate on something like this?
JS: We met when I was really looking for support for the growing business. Mutual connections kept telling us we should meet, and then we ended up sitting next to each other at a dinner! Bec has been a confidant, influence and partner in Greenlight’s projects. It is difficult to find this because our area of work requires unique skills like understanding contracts and terms, business, personalities, fashion, art, and aesthetics, as well as vision for brands.
BA: It was very serendipitous. It was at a time when I had just started Les Filles, and did not know many other female founded business owners, let alone within the licensing law category. Jackie truly helped me make the shift in my career and open so many doors into my professional life. Supporting her goals at Greenlight has played hand in hand to my skill set, and to Les Filles' identity as well.
Are there challenges in your chosen field related to being two women that run the company?
JS: I don’t feel as many challenges related to being a woman running the company, and I am grateful that other women paved the way for this level of progress. The challenges in our course of business are ones I think any founder can feel, whether man or woman, such as making sure the business is flowing, that client’s goals are being met, solving difficult problems, finances and operations, all while working on new business development. It is a lot of pressure, but it is worth it! I also believe that if people generally think in a collaborative sense versus competitive, there is enough business and abundance for everyone to succeed.
Standing out these days is a major challenge and people are partnering up like mad – there’s a new collaboration born every minute! How do you make sure that the partnerships and collabs that you’re bringing together remain relevant and meaningful?
JS: It is important to me that the company stays focused on special projects that excite and inspire people, as well as generate sales – without forcing it. I think Supreme really pioneered this business model and opened the eyes of licensing companies everywhere. I’ve always loved art, fashion and products. Based on that passion, we connect the dots in different ways within the space. I still believe in the mass market, but there has to be a reason for the product to exist. There isn’t an exact formula to it, but after a lot of experience putting these concepts together, you gain a sense of what will be impactful based on who the collaborators are, what the product is, and the general market interest around the intellectual properties.
BA: Jackie and I have a really good eye for using our networks to identify the talent that is the ‘next’ in line to help shape culture through collaborations. We only like to work with clients that are doing good things.
Do you get the chance to incorporate sustainability into your work? Is this important to you? Do you find that it’s important to your clients?
JS: We are always on the journey of incorporating sustainability into our work and lives. We recently worked with Chopard and Eco-Age on a sustainable handbag that launched at the Cannes Film Festival.
We are lucky to have clients that are already very focused on this, so we don’t have to convince or educate them. For companies we work with like Nanushka, Prabal Gurung, and Bureau Betak, this is a standard that they hold themselves to.
Ultimately, I think that it is about asking difficult questions about manufacturing, making sure that we are aware, why products should exist, and using our best efforts to take the right actions. My inspiration to be better in this area comes from friend and colleague, Lauren Singer, creator of Package Free Shop in Brooklyn.
We often talk about what will happen if we end up in different parts of the country – one of us has our heart in the west and the other has two feet firmly planted on the ground in the east. How are you two dealing with your newly bi-coastal business?
JS: Bec’s move to LA has been great! It gives us more reach, insight into other markets, and we have seen each other a lot as we have both been back and forth for obligations.
BA: LA is in a special time with culture – there are a lot of interesting things happening out this way with fashion and music, so it has been important for us that I am out west to see what is going on, and how we can capture these cultural moments into our business.
Bec, you also have another project within the music industry – can you tell us a bit about LES FILLES?
BA: Les Filles is the female music agency I opened a little under 2 years ago. We specialize in creative music projects, from creating the runway music for fashion brands, to sonically branding retail spaces, to representing talent for DJ bookings. It’s about celebrating talented women in the music community, and using their skill sets to bring beautiful music to our ears in as many facets of life as possible.
What’s on the burner now – any exciting projects you can discuss? Anything you’re both looking forward to?
JS: Yes! We are really proud of all the projects that have recently worked on, such as Andre Saraiva’s collaboration with Peanuts, Andre’s collaboration with Uniqlo, Emma Craft’s campaign for Miu Miu, and Jason Wu’s intimates collection, which is available now at Nordstrom and Journelle.
We are simultaneously expanding the company, and doing a lot more work in Europe and Asia. We have a vision for the company to start to acquire intellectual property in the near future as well...
We usually dish out the heavy handed stuff early and try to end with something light that leaves everybody feelin’ good – any old family or unusual beauty secrets that you would want to share?
JS: I think that it is very important to get adequate sleep- for both work mindset and beauty. In terms of products, I love Alive Coconut Oil from Clover Grocer. I also like Dr. Barbara Sturm and Biologique Recherche for skincare, and all Dior products for beauty. Above all, confidence is the best beauty secret!
BA: Eat organic vegetables, drink sulphate free wine, go for a hike, smile at strangers, and have thoughtful conversations with loved ones. Beauty is about feeling good on the inside, to have it translate on the outside!