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News > Past Student News > From Lawyer to Entrepreneur: Jimena Kotsomitis (’01)

From Lawyer to Entrepreneur: Jimena Kotsomitis (’01)

Sharing her journey from lawyer to Founder and Director of By Jimena Alejandra, Jimena’s speech focused on her “non-linear” career trajectory and all of life’s unforeseen challenges.
Jimena Kotsomitis (’01)
Jimena Kotsomitis (’01)

Jimena Kotsomitis (’01) recently returned to St Margaret’s as the guest speaker for the first Aspiring Young Women’s Network Breakfast of 2024, proudly supported by one of St Margaret’s School Partners, Pitcher Partners, and the St Margaret’s Old Girls’ Association.

Sharing her journey from lawyer to Founder and Director of By Jimena Alejandra, Jimena’s speech focused on her “non-linear” career trajectory and all of life’s unforeseen challenges.

Full of references to the 90’s and early 2000’s, Jimena transported students back in time to when she herself donned the middy, and just how drastically pop culture and society have changed since then.

“Kate Moss was in – anything outside of that, out. No Beyonce, no Rihanna, no Kim Kardashian. Nude lipsticks that shimmered. Blue mascara. Strapless dresses. Hipster jeans."

“I was the awkward, gangly girl playing catch up with English as my second language. I was the girl who wasn’t familiar with vegemite, meat pies, the Collingwood Pies for that matter, any of the slang words, and I didn’t even really know how to swim or play sports.”

Despite trying to overcome these seemingly impossible differences, Jimena learnt from her mother that “impossible” didn’t exist.

Jimena’s mother knew that there was more to life outside of Argentina, and finding Brisbane to be latitudinally similar to Buenos Aires, moved her family to start their new life in Australia, and for Jimena, her time at St Margaret’s.

“I took these three crucial qualities – passion, persistence, and patience – from my “everything is possible” mother, who left everything she knew for everything she knew she could give us, her family.”

“The remarkable thing about St Margaret’s was that despite the vast differences in upbringing between my peers and I, I always felt at home. Welcome. Worthy. I was privileged to have all the same opportunities as my peers and friends, and my parents had chosen St Margaret’s for that very reason.”

Departing from St Margaret’s would take Jimena to yet another new country on a new journey.

“After St Margaret’s, I spread my wings (Per Volar Sunata is the school motto, after all), and flew upward and onwards to New York City.”

“So, there I was in New York City one month before my 21st t birthday. Knowing nobody. Just little old me, in an eye-wateringly expensive apartment where I could simultaneously stand in the bathroom whilst opening the fridge and still somehow be touching my bed. Carrie Bradshaw, eat your heart out.”

During this time, Jimena completed the NYC Bar Exam, and was practising as a lawyer in Manhattan as NBC’s in-house intellectual property associate. Lawyering, the corporate world, devoid of colours, plus her side-gig as a Real Estate Agent on weekends – there was so much pressure.

“All this pressure? It formed a hard rock in the pit of my stomach. But what does pressure do, over time? It forms gemstones.”

This pressure ultimately led Jimena to her rightful place: to becoming a designer, creator, and colour-enthusiast. And what better source of inspiration, of change, than the successful TV show Gossip Girl.

Quite literally stumbling on the set of New York’s Gossip Girl filming on the way to work transformed Jimena’s corporate New York lifestyle into one of colour, fun, and jewellery.

“It was an unanticipated, inferno-blazing experience where this dreary black-and-grey-clad lawyer was immediately hypnotised by the colours, textures, combinations, shoes, bags, and jewellery adorning the lovely Blake Lively, Leighton Meister and Kelly Rutherford.”

“I craved this newly unleashed penchant for all things fashion, style, design. But remember, it was my law position that was paying my bills and my way through New York.”

The sights of Gossip Girl in all its exuberant luxury beckoned Jimena toward a life of colour and design, away from her law career.

“Don’t get me wrong, law wasn’t a complete waste of time. I still use my law degree daily. It’s been invaluable to me, and it always will be.”

“But it’s my persistence, my patience throughout it all, that had led me to a point where I could just be me, and a place in my inner-Argentinian was celebrated. My tricky first name – bestowed to me by my beautiful mother – would later become my entire brand, my identity.”

Returning home to Australia to care for her father was a difficult yet transformative experience that changed Jimena forever.

“It put my struggles into clear and precise perspective. I would not live a day longer doing something that didn’t light my soul on fire. Life was simply too short.”

‘While caring for Dad, I fervently researched gemstones – Gossip Girl wasn’t just a show – it was my inspiration for my new beginning. I enrolled in Goldsmithing in Paddington, I hit the books and the web with tenacity and ferocity. My creative side unleashed, and I had one goal in mind: to become the most knowledgeable gem aficionado I could be. I immersed myself in it so deeply, to a point where the Bar Exam in New York was a cakewalk. Jimena plus jewellery? A match made in heaven.”

“My gemstone heart, a product of all the pressure, the pursuit of discomfort-zones, the endless exposure to different parts of the world, the want and need for “more” out of life, have helped me with creating my colourful, unique niche-brand, ecommerce store, and last year my Atelier – By Jimena Alejandra – in New Farm.”

“Today, I’m currently enrolled in a Diploma of Gemmology to power up my expertise in precious gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires.”

“Every day, I now get to lead from the fire in my belly. This gemstone heart is totally fulfilled. I am in alignment now. I wasn’t when I was working in a law office for those 80 hours a week in the toughest city in the world.”

Jimena concluded her powerful speech with five points of wisdom:

  1. The fire in your belly is your body telling you who you are, your passion. Listen to it. Fan it. Grow it.
  2. Through pressure, comes gemstones. Growth is made where discomfort exists.
  3. Vulnerability is a superpower. It is someone aligning so powerfully with their truth that they feel it in their whole body. Goosebumps and happy tears.
  4. Not everything can be taught or planned; experience is identity-shaping. I urge you to step beyond your postcode.
  5. Have patience. Hard times, uncomfortable times, shall pass. This includes New York winters and monobrows.

Jimena’s words of wisdom and her candid storytelling resonated with each audience member – student and staff alike. She is a testament to the power of passion, and what following one’s strongest desires can produce. Her work and her brand are demonstrative of Jimena’s intense courage and tenacity, and her gemstone heart is at the core of her passionate, strong spirit.

By Lizzie Fowler (’19)
Relationships and Mentoring Manager

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