Génesis Warner Fernandez, OBBA ‘17, took an unconventional route to obtain her degree. After transferring to Temple in 2010 and working for the Small Business Development Center, she decided to make a life-changing decision: move to Italy in the name of love.
“I started dating my boyfriend at the time—now my husband—who is also a Temple alumnus. He played basketball at Temple,” says Fernandez. “Our relationship was getting more serious and he asked me if I would want to go with him overseas.”
Ultimately, her decision to move abroad and get her undergraduate degree from Fox online still impacts her life today. “Having the online option was a lifesaver for me,” says Fernandez. “I knew one day I wanted to work overseas. I thought moving would give me a global perspective, which was essential in working in international business and, at the same time, benefited my personal life and career.”
As an independent handbag designer, Fernandez has learned that the time management skills and independence she built while getting her degree are crucial. “With an online degree, you have to manage your time wisely and master independently working, which I believe prepared me a lot with the path I decided to go on.”
Fernandez’s initial interest in fashion merchandising led her to focus her capstone project on the luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton and the streetwear brand Supreme, and the implications of this type of fashion collaboration.
“Doing that project on an international fashion brand made me realize that I really enjoyed researching and learning about the business aspect,” says Fernandez. “So that was one of the things that really encouraged me to go down this path of fashion.”
Fernandez was committed to steering clear of a fast-fashion business model. “I remember taking this course about ethics in business. So when I started Leisara, one of the big focus points I had was to really focus on being ethical,” says Fernandez. Focusing on ethical manufacturing, from ensuring none of her workers are working under unethical working conditions to not getting properly compensated for their work, is the basis of her brand.
She spent a year conducting research and sampling before launching the website for Leisara in 2018. ‘Leisara’ means “she will be” in Italian.
As a mother of two, one of the main driving factors of starting Leisara was to set a good example for her children, in particular her daughter. But her drive and passion have now influenced the lives of others.
“I have had people reach out to me telling me how much I have inspired them to also follow their dreams,” says Fernandez. “So, for me, even if this whole project doesn’t work out, just getting that kind of feedback is huge and makes me want to keep pushing forward.”
Throughout her untraditional and unconventional journey to obtaining her degree, Fernandez became a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
“Looking back, if I wouldn’t have chosen the OBBA program, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to live abroad, gain a global perspective and learn a third language—all while earning my Temple degree. Everything that I was able to do up to now, whether professionally or personally, is in large part to that single decision. I am extremely thankful for that opportunity.”
Leisara was recently named a finalist in the 2020 Independent Handbag Designer Awards in the categories of “Best Overall Style and Design” and “Fan Favorite.” Fernandez sees being a finalist as a career and confidence boost she needed to continue on her entrepreneurial journey.
“For me, being nominated for the award was huge because I don’t have a background in handbag design. I am self-taught,” says Fernandez. “Competing against people who had the background for it, while I was really hustling my way in there, it meant the world to me. It gives my small brand credibility. Now, I have the ability to say I am an award-nominated designer.”