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Photo of Jennifer and Kevin Keele leaning on a clear podium in front of a large crowd on stage at FIDM Graduation.

FIDM Grad Jennifer Karuletwa Opens Coffee Shop In Los Angeles

FIDM Grad Jennifer Karuletwa is the Managing Director of Peclers Paris, a top consulting agency in creative strategy and trend forecasting for fashion, beauty, design, and lifestyle, and is responsible for running the business in the North American region. With her husband, Jennifer also recently co-founded Silverback Coffee of Rwanda, a coffee shop in Los Angeles, and as a student of yoga for the last 20 years, she is currently developing a yoga brand called Ground Down. 

Not only a cafe, Silverback Coffee of Rwanda is also a brand that's sold at retailers including Trader Joe's. The coffee company donates a portion of their profits to organizations who provide services to widows and orphans resulting from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where Jennifer’s husband is from. They also work with the government of Rwanda to support care of the native Silverback gorilla. 

Jennifer completed her A.A. in Merchandise Marketing and Product Development in 1999 and came back to FIDM in 2004 to teach as an adjunct professor for six years. As an accomplished industry executive, she spoke at graduation in 2022 (pictured above with FIDM Alumni Director Kevin Keele). Following in her aunt’s footsteps, Jennifer’s niece, Naome Karuletwa, is now studying Visual Communications at FIDM.

Jennifer grew up in Maryland and attended Centennial High School in Ellicott City before heading to FIDM for her education. “I knew I wanted to work in the fashion industry, it was my passion. I also wanted to live on the West Coast, so FIDM was the obvious choice. It gave me a focused education in what I knew I wanted to do and provided me with the support of the career center after I graduated to help me get a job.” 

We checked in with Jennifer to learn more about her work.

How is your coffee shop going so far? Please tell us about it! It’s going great! I’ve been able to use my business acumen and creative skills to build the brand. My husband has the vision for the brand and really drives the growth of the business and I contribute and oversee the creative brand language from tone of voice, visual communication, and in-store experience.

Please tell us about your work as a Managing Director at Peclers Paris. What are your responsibilities? I do a little bit of everything, which is why I love my job! I’m responsible for running the business in the North American region. This includes the day-to-day operations where I interact with the finance team in addition to making recommendations about procedures so we can work more efficiently interdepartmentally. I’m involved in marketing to identify partnerships and sponsorship opportunities that will help bring brand awareness and put us in front of new audiences. I work with the creative team in developing new products or services that will bring value to our current clients and potential clients in the region.I also manage the sales team and project manager for consulting projects. Finally, my favorite part is working with clients each season presenting our trends to get them inspired in addition to providing customized solutions for their individual business needs.

How did FIDM help prepare you for your career path? The workload really gave me the skills and endurance to persevere on my path. Many people underestimate how time-consuming the projects we do at FIDM really are. It also gave me the opportunity to really see how broad the fashion and creative industries can be which encouraged me to try a lot of different things. It was the courage to try different things that ultimately led to where I am today because I got to figure out what I was good at and what I liked.
What advice did you give to your niece, Naome, as she was getting started at FIDM? I just shared my experience and encouraged her to follow her passion.  

Can you tell us any more about your new yoga brand, Ground Down? I’ve been a student of yoga since the late '90s and Registered Yoga Teacher since 2019. What started as an on-again off-again relationship with the practice grew into a ritual and way of life which is about living more consciously off the mat. As a lover of design, I started my career in fashion, working in several different capacities including as a designer, stylist, and on the business side of trend forecasting. As I became aware of some of the negative impacts fashion had on the environment, I felt called to support more sustainable brands. As I pursued this sustainable lifestyle through conscious consumption, I sought out products that were made from non-toxic materials and ingredients, by people who were treated fairly and had good working conditions. I believe through the heightened awareness yoga provides it will inspire us to practice conscious consumption, creating an environment surrounded by beauty while being kinder to the planet and each other.

Ground Down’s mission is to provide quality yoga instruction and curate products that are both beautiful and have a social/ environmental mission so yogis can extend their practice off the mat. In addition, Ground Down gives back by providing yoga instruction to underserved communities by partnering with local community organizations.

Anything else you’d like to share? The world of design is big and the industry needs different experiences and perspectives to continue evolving and to keep people inspired!
Explore Jennifer’s developing yoga brand on Instagram @GroundDown.la and follow Silverback Coffee of Rwanda @silverbackcoffee.

Categories:  Merchandise Product Development Alumni