November 01, 2009
A Passion for Fashion
Vibrant, new jewelry company Stella & Dot is rocking the direct selling industry with its unique brand of business.
Passion is the glue that holds us together. If you think about it, passion is what truly makes life interesting. It drives us to pursue the otherwise impossible with wild abandon. It keeps us focused. It lights the fire deep within us and keeps us dedicated to moving forward. Overall, in the end, passion makes us whole.
Love is more fulfilling when it is married with passion, as are our leisurely pursuits. So why wouldn’t we want a career—where we spend most of our time every day—to be something that ignites great passion within us? These days, a growing group of women are finding that passion in a vibrant, young direct selling company.
“At Stella & Dot, we are about a lot more than irresistible jewelry,” says Jessica Herrin, Stella & Dot Founder and CEO. “We are a people company. We are about exceedingly personal service, a lot of business savvy and a healthy dose of passion.”
A Modern-Day Mission
Steeped in tradition right down to the core, Stella & Dot derives its name from the founders’ grandmothers. It only seems fitting, since so much of their unique jewelry line has a distinctly vintage vibe. But the homage to what has been deemed by many to be “the greatest generation” doesn’t end there.
By their own definition, Stella & Dot is a company “inspired by and created for strong women.” The women of their grandmothers’ generation, “who crossed oceans, rolled up their sleeves, won the vote, raised kids, went off to work and still found time to bake,” would be proud of the accomplishments Stella & Dot has racked up in only two years.
“I know all the numbers. I’ve seen them from all the different companies,” says Stella & Dot Chairman Mike Lohner. “And what’s so gratifying to me is that even in this early stage in our company, when we have only just begun to implement some of the exciting things we are planning for the future, our people are having more success than anything I have ever seen.”
Above all else, family comes first to the leaders of Stella & Dot. As a devoted mother of two young girls, Herrin likes to say she is a “mom working” instead of a working mom. And it is women like her—who want to redefine their role in the workplace—who she had in mind when she set out to create Stella & Dot. “We never endeavored to make a business work for people who don’t want to work,” she says. “But we always endeavored to make a business that would work when you did.”
However much the days of old influence the very essence of Stella & Dot, it is, without doubt, a modern, forward-thinking company. “Today’s woman is different,” Herrin says. “She is educated. She most likely had a career before having children, and now she may be looking for something that is more flexible and has balance, but something that is still a replacement for what was an exciting career—something that is intellectually challenging and exciting and has a growth opportunity in it.”
Different by Design
The key to Stella & Dot’s unique brand of success may be linked to their seasoned management team and its diverse business background. To begin with, this is not Herrin’s first foray into startup territory. She founded several successful businesses before envisioning Stella & Dot, not the least of which is WeddingChannel.com. Running the wildly successful Web site gave Herrin the Internet savvy and essential e-commerce experience that promises to make Stella & Dot a major player in the online arena.
Another asset—call it a gift—is that Herrin knows the power of a good partnership. She has teamed up with a dynamic pair of accomplished leaders whose varied skills complement her own.
Before coming to Stella & Dot, Mike Lohner was the CEO of a well-respected, billion-dollar party-plan company. He was also on the board of the Direct Selling Association, so this venture was a natural fit for him. His many years of experience have played a huge role in the “stylist first” mentality at Stella & Dot.
“Our inspiration, our muse, is the modern on-the-go woman who needs versatility and style,” Herrin says. “It’s someone who wants to take jeans—the modern woman’s uniform—and make it ‘Wow!’ And in order to deliver on that mission, I knew I had to partner with the very best creative genius out there. And within two minutes of meeting Blythe Harris, I knew she was the one.”
For her part, Chief Creative Officer Blythe Harris earned her stripes working with some of the most esteemed names in the retail jewelry business, such as Cartier and DeBeers. And she has studied jewelry design in India, Mexico and at Parsons Design School in Paris.
“Above everything else, there was one main thing that really clinched me joining this company,” Harris says. “What was really moving to me was Jessica’s mission to give women an opportunity to be entrepreneurs, but to not kill themselves like she did working seven days a week, 24 hours a day for years to found a business.”
Harris is indeed a big part of what makes Stella & Dot so successful. Her designs are fresh and innovative, and at the same time classic and timeless. “First and foremost, every product that we do at Stella & Dot needs to be irresistible,” she says. “It needs to have what I like to call the ‘wow factor,’ meaning, you put this piece on, and it transforms an old black dress into an amazing moment where you walk into a room and all your friends ask where you got that necklace. It’s a real show-stopper.”
Everywhere you look, Stella & Dot is making a name for itself. Much to its credit, Stella & Dot jewelry has garnered some very favorable attention in the cutthroat world of fashion. A-list celebrities have regularly donned their jewelry, and the media has taken notice. In Style, Lucky and O Magazine as well as The View and The Today Show have all featured and sung the praises of Stella & Dot products.
The overriding appeal seems to be the line’s down-to-earth, go-anywhere quality. “I want you to be able to wear all of our jewelry from the soccer sidelines, to a cocktail party, to your sister’s wedding,” Harris says.
The Sky’s the Limit
With their whimsical style and decidedly feminine flair, Stella & Dot is attracting a whole new generation of women to the direct selling industry.
“You set the pace; you control your destiny,” Herrin says. “You decide when to promote yourself, so that you not only love what you do, you love your life. It is truly up to you. It’s the feeling of never watching the clock, and never bumping up against the glass ceiling.”
For several decades now, women have felt a growing frustration with corporate America. The struggle for survival and equality in a male-dominated world has left many searching for a better way. Direct selling is especially ideal for women, because they can experience freedom, flexibility and success like nowhere else.
“What makes me most proud and enthused about Stella & Dot is the success of our stylists,” Lohner says. “These women from all walks of life, from all locations, from all backgrounds, are having more success than even they dreamed possible, and I guess, in a way, it probably wasn’t possible before Stella & Dot. And that’s what makes it so exciting.”
The Party Life
Part of the allure of Stella & Dot is that they have tapped into a vital need that women have to bond with one another on a meaningful level. “At our trunk shows, women can connect with their girlfriends; they relax,” Herrin says. “They get that ‘me’ time. They actually get to rediscover connecting with each other and shopping together. Somehow, life gets busy and we just don’t do that anymore, but it’s a lot of fun. You get their trusted opinion right there. It’s just a great way to spend a little you time.”
While the direct selling model is a new concept to some joining the ranks of Stella & Dot, it does seem to be a good fit, right from the start. “You can build a team, and by coaching them to success, you can earn coaching commissions,” Herrin says. “So your business is not just about you, but it’s about helping other people, and it’s an amazing way to earn an income.”
The women of Stella & Dot have thrived in such a nurturing environment, and undoubtedly will continue to do so. “When you are passionate about something, it hardly feels like work,” Herrin says. “At Stella & Dot, we are about helping people find that passion. So, whether they want to do it part time or full time, it is really on their terms, and it is something that they are proud of, that they are passionate about, that they absolutely love.”