Leila Jacobsen: Full Sail
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
SAN RAFAEL – Before she was manufacturing custom awnings for homes and buildings, Leila Jacobsen was employing her tailoring skills in another capacity—one that was inspired by her fondness for sailing. However, she never expected that her niche operation would eventually bring her halfway around the world. “When I was in my mid-20s, I decided to sail around the South Pacific,” she remembers. “After returning to the States, I moved to Seattle and opened a marine canvas business, fabricating custom products for sailboats.” The quality of Leila’s work was so impressive that she began to receive international attention, particularly from one country in the southeastern hemisphere. “In pursuit of fresh technological innovation, New Zealand had recently opened an entrepreneurial category for citizenship, and I was one of the first to receive a formal invitation,” she explains. “So, I sailed to New Zealand and lived there for four years, right by the ocean. It was a really good time in my life.”
After her international stint, Leila returned to the United States and settled in San Rafael, where she added awnings and window shades to her professional repertoire and eventually founded Awnco Retractables. Despite this shift in focus, her love of sailing hasn’t diminished in the least. “It’s still one of my favorite pastimes,” she says. “As busy as my career keeps me, I always try to make time for sailing.”
As a one-woman show, Leila handles everything from manufacturing awnings to dealing with customers, but she says it’s the artistic side of the work that she enjoys most of all. “I feel very blessed that I’m able to make a living doing art. There’s a lot of room for creativity with awnings, and I enjoy making my customers happy by improving their homes both functionally and aesthetically.”
Outside of work, Leila spends the bulk of her time with her two children, Dane (10) and Danica (6). In addition to sailing around the coast, the family enjoys activities such as painting, playing music and gardening. “I want my kids to have an artistic and adventurous life,” says Leila, “so I try to give them every opportunity to cultivate those areas.”
In her life and career, Leila believes having a positive mindset is crucial for overcoming obstacles. “I personally try to live my life without negativity or worry, which isn’t always easy,” she says. “I want to keep a positive outlook, embrace challenges and take risks without letting fear get in my way.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
A: I like both, but I have a cat, so I’m probably more of a cat person.
Q: If you were doing karaoke, what song would you sing?
A: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele.
Q: What insect best characterizes you?
A: The bee—they’re hard workers and they function well as a team.
Q: Reality TV or documentaries?
Q: What do you like to do on a rainy day?
A: Have a cup of tea and play the piano.
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
A: Lotus Cuisine of India in San Rafael.