Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Jema Tran


Brooklyn, New York

“Giftzza reminds me that anything is really possible, you just have to work hard.” –Jema Tran


Jema Tran was running the New York City marathon when the idea for Giftzza came to her. She had been listening to a motivational speech about connecting the dots and realized she wanted to create a product that connected the significant dots in her life: in this case, New York City and Pizza Hut. Upon completing the marathon, Jema went to a craft store, determined to find the perfect pizza-shaped box.

Jema moved to Los Angeles from the Philippines when she was twenty. The transition was difficult at first, but she began to feel more secure when she was hired for her first job at Pizza Hut. Jema’s product, Giftzza, which offers gifts primarily from local New York City vendors inside a pizza-shaped box, is a nostalgic ode to that period of her life, and how far she has come since. “Giftzza reminds me that anything is really possible, you just have to work hard.”


Jema’s primary challenges in running her own business have been working on a limited budget and spreading the word about her product. “It’s hard describing to people what you’re selling when it’s something they don’t know and have never seen.” While Jema was able to teach herself about the fundamentals of running a business, she knew how much outside advice from more experienced entrepreneurs would benefit her. In need of both financial support and guidance, Jema reached out to Ascendus. The loan she received enabled her to expand her inventory and trademark her product. Jema also attended a Kate Spade Mentorship event in Fall 2017, where she attended sessions on marketing and PR. Jema received guidance and useful tips on growing her business, particularly on promoting her business’s presence through branding and social media.


While she’s still in the early stages of starting her business and currently works two other jobs, there seems to be no challenge too large for Jema to conquer. Her experience running the New York City marathon not only served as the setting for her moment of inspiration, but as a valuable lesson in how to conquer every future obstacle. “The marathon has 50,000 runners, 26 miles and five bridges. It’s painful. But your competition is really yourself and how to finish that race. You just need to keep going.”

With every new stage of her life and in every new city, Jema has never second guessed herself, and her new business is no different. “I don’t want to be 80 and regretting and asking myself why I didn’t start a business. I don’t have everything figured out yet, but I will. I have no regrets.”

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