Magazine article Working Mother

Gilt Complex

Magazine article Working Mother

Gilt Complex

Article excerpt

JESSICA DlLULLO HERRIN, 36, mother of Charlotte, 5, and Tatum, 3; founder and president of Stella & Dot, a direct-sales jewelry company, San Francisco. Number of employees 28. Gross revenue in 2008 $5 million.

My story: Little did I know, sitting there on the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show, that the very thing I was supposed to be an authority on- following my passion and entrepreneurial pursuits- would make me rethink my life. After the show aired, hundreds of women reached out to me for advice on how to start a business of their own. Most were busy moms looking to do something with flexible hours. I wanted to help (couldn't let Oprah down now, could I?), but, frankly, I wasn't in any position to offer advice. At the time, I was in my fourth year of the 100-hour workweek, launching straight out of Stanford Graduate School of Business. It wasn't exactly a path I could recommend for moms- or for myself much longer, because I was approaching 30 and wanted kids.

As the question How do I help these women? played in a loop in my mind, I was on business in Dallas, staying at a hotel that was hosting an annual direct-selling convention. A gaggle of convention goers around my mom's age stepped onto the elevator with me, all bubbly about the awards they'd gotten. And that's when it hit me: I could launch a directsales company for women of my own generation, something modern and hip.

Strange, but I started thinking about the things I didn't enjoy shopping for. Right away, jewelry came to mind. It's hard to buy in stores; you have to wait for the clerk to take each piece out of the case and stare as you try it on. With direct sales, women could try on all the rings and bangles they wanted in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their tell-it-like-it-is girlfriends.

I had a concept, a business model and e-eommerce experience. All I needed was everything else. So I partnered with Mike Lohner, our CEO and chairman, formerly CEO of Home Interiors & Gifts; and Blythe Harris, our chief creative officer, a former merchandising manager for Banana Republic's jewelry line. Blythe and I named the biz after our grandmothers, Stella & Dot, and five years later it launched, in 2008.

We wanted to make it affordable for moms to jump-start their own businesses, so our sales reps, or "stylists," can get started for just $199. …

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