March 06, 2014
The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling
by Beth Douglass Silcox
Founder and CEO, Stella & Dot
Because Jessica Herrin never looked at gender as an obstacle, she says, “It doesn’t really manifest. I never thought, ‘Hey, I can do anything a man can do.’ I just thought, ‘Hey, I can do anything, period.’ ” It’s little wonder exclusively female executive challenges don’t exist in her world.
There are, however, “challenges as a parent when you have a demanding job and executive challenges like hiring great people who are mission-driven and passionate about joining your cause.”
Atypical of most direct selling companies, Stella & Dot has a predominately female executive team. It reflects the nature of the company’s products and their mission of empowerment, but presents challenges of its own. “What is very interesting to realize is that with females you have a very particular communication style that’s wonderful and productive, but it’s also one that tends to avoid conflict—healthy conflict—a little bit more than on a predominately male team,” Herrin says. “We’ve learned how to play to our strengths and be aware of personality traits that need to be watched and monitored to be really effective when you lean toward one gender versus the other.”
As a company, Stella & Dot is one part fashion and one part technology with people as its overarching priority. “The highest and best use of my time is spent on coaching and motivating our field and on the ideas and innovations of our brand and product that help our stylists thrive,” Herrin says. Their blended board of directors, which includes Alfred Linn, former CEO of Zappos, and Leslie Blodgett from Bare Escentuals, adds phenomenal expertise and insight to the company.
Herrin surrounds herself with “great sounding boards”—trusted advisors, young executives from outside the direct selling industry, and Stella & Dot customers—whose voices mix to nurture her own personal development. Within the company she encourages corporate employees and field stylists to lean into their individual strengths, meet new challenges, and own the empowerment associated with their experiences. “We invest a lot in our people to make sure we’re doing the development and the coaching and the facilitation to make great female leaders,” she says.
Offering this opportunity of empowerment to greater numbers of stylists across the globe is Herrin’s key objective in 2014. And much of that kind of recruiting starts with the Stella & Dot Trunk Show. It was 10 years ago that Herrin, who was pregnant with her first daughter, opened her cases to the public for the first time. To this day, she considers herself Stella & Dot’s “chief stylist,” and relishes each experience. She says, “It keeps me incredibly in touch with our customers, our products, our tools, and our services, and it’s my greatest source of excitement, energy, and inspiration.”
Infrastructure improvements, including a new fulfillment center in Ohio and a call center in Arizona added in 2013, are creating excitement around the speed at which Stella & Dot will reach its goals. Herrin says, “We have only two out of 10 Trunk Show guests that have ever shopped with us before, so we have so much room to grow, and that’s why we’re very excited to really take off!”
Jessica Herrin on flexible corporate work environments…
“We really empower people and judge them based on their results, not based on any face time. We’re a very family-friendly environment, which is something I believe is not just of benefit to females, but certainly males love that, too.”
Jessica Herrin on personal development…
“I love the classic business books. I’m a huge fan of everything from Jim Collins to Michael Porter and very old-school business books. I read Harvard Business Review and TechCrunch and other media that keep me informed about what’s going on in the world. That always keeps me curious about how we might be innovative and break out new ideas.”
Stella & Dot
Stella & Dot’s mission is simple: Give every woman the means to style her own life. It was Founder and CEO Jessica Herrin’s vision 10 years ago to create a new career alternative for today’s busy woman. Now, Independent Stylists offer Stella & Dot’s jewelry and accessory lines exclusively through in-home Trunk Shows. Roughly half of the company’s product line is priced at $50 or less, and all products come with a “delight” guarantee.
Stella & Dot is one of the fastest-growing companies in America with more than 18,000 active stylists. Through the Stella & Dot Foundation, the company has proudly funded causes that support economic, educational and health-related benefits for women and children.
Stella & Dot is a worldwide operation with design studios in New York, Sausalito, corporate offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, and international offices in the U.K. and France, among other locations. Infrastructure changes put into place in 2013 will make possible the company’s planned expansion across America and Europe in 2014.
Cover Story | Women’s History | Sheryl Adkins-Green | Claire Bancino | Meredith Berkich | Lori Bush | Dr. Oi-Lin Chen | Doris Christopher | Angela Loehr Chrysler | Kathy Coover | Shelli Gardner | Jessica Herrin | Wendy Lewis | Candace Matthews | Sheri McCoy | Cindy Monroe | Kay Napier | Joani Nielson | Meg Sheetz | Pam Sowder | Jill Blashack Strahan | Connie Tang | Heidi Thompson