Robbinsville resident Jessica Leale got the idea for her business three years ago. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Leale.)

By Brianna Gunter

In today’s world of “on the run” attitudes, it can be difficult to stop and think about life and the world around us. With her newly launched business of eco-friendly gift products, Robbinsville resident Jessica Leale has attempted to change that.

On March 4, the mother of three officially launched “are you?,” a gift line of candles, jewelry, T-shirts, note cards and more. All of the products are made from environmentally conscious materials, such as soy and recycled silver and paper. Although the items have just recently become available to the general public, the business has been under development for more than two years. Leale said the idea for “are you?” came to her one day in December 2008.

“I guess I was just basically in the zone where I thought the world could use a little talking to,” she said. “I thought it might be kind of cool to take people back to the days with their parents or grandparents saying ‘Are you doing enough?’ ‘Are you helping enough?’”

Each of the products is inscribed with “are you?” usually followed by a thought-provoking question or, as Leale describes them, “helpful reminders.”

In addition to awareness of environmental impact, Leale’s products promote thinking about daily life and the future with phrases like, “are you following your dreams?” and “are you celebrating life?”.

The new business has certainly changed Leale’s life. Long before embarking on the process of making “are you?” a reality, Leale worked in finance in New York City. After giving birth to twins six years ago, she became a full-time mother.

“Everything is totally new to me … It’s like every day is going through college,” Leale said.

“She’s one of the hardest working people I know,” said Meghan Hutt, a good friend of Leale’s. “When she has something in mind, well, I’ve never seen anything fail.”

Hutt currently works as a sales manager for “are you?,” and hopes to help the business get more publicity.

“The products are very simple, but they’re beautiful,” she said.

To develop the look for her products, Leale consulted with Yael Miller, owner of Miller Creative LLC. The Lakewood-based agency specializes in packaging and logo design as well as brand development. Regardless of the green materials used by are you?, Miller said the products wouldn’t appeal to people if they didn’t have an eco-friendly look. Most of the products are in natural-looking colors and earth tones.

“We didn’t want to go too saturated in color because that would move away from what looks organic,” she said.

Miller also said one of their goals was to make sure the depth of Leale’s environmental and life-pondering messages would get across. The little phrases found on each item are therefore in a non-dramatic style of lettering that Leale said complements the natural colors.

“It needed to feel honest and simple in the way it was represented visually,” she said. “We were trying to pick out a style that wasn’t too formal, but not too playful.”

As for short-term goals, Leale just hopes to get the word out and hear feedback from people.

“I love to hear people’s takes on things and people’s ideas,” she said. “But right now I can’t complain. Everybody’s been so supportive of me … and I definitely have the energy and the excitement to make it a lot bigger.”

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