Last weekend, along with approximately three thousand other women, I traveled to San Francisco for the annual national conference of Stella & Dot. I’ve been a consumer of their beautiful baubles for some time, but with a move to Dallas about a year ago, I decided that becoming a Stylist would help me meet people and create community in a new city.
While timeliness is so important in blogging, I purposely waited to write this particular post. I wanted to be sure that any “emotional buzz” would have time to wear off, leaving only the true substance and reality of my experience. It was my first attendance at “Hoopla,” and it was an amazing and inspiring experience…but would the inspiration “stick,” or would it wane as many motivational-type buzzes do?
Now, a week later, I wanted to share my top three observations about the company and why I think Stella & Dot is on the fast-track to even greater success.
Stella & Dot’s leadership is phenomenal.
I spend a lot of time speaking, coaching and training companies and executives on various leadership topics that engage and value employees and clients, inspire vision and innovation, and leverage people’s strengths. Many times, I have to first convince organizations of the value of these concepts before I help them learn how to apply them. However, the Stella & Dot leadership team, led by CEO, Jessica Herrin, not only gets it, they fully embody great leadership. Here is Jessica’s favorite quote:
“Be daring, be different, be impractical; be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the Ordinary.” ~ Cecil Beaton
Herrin is not afraid to be different; in fact, she thrives on breaking the status quo, taking calculated risks and pushing beyond the self-limiting boundaries so many women have falsely created for themselves. She consistently challenges women to create a vision; defining success their own way, whatever that looks like for them; whatever will achieve their happiness and fulfillment. It’s not about her or her jewelry. She’s creating confidence in women, inspiring dreams and teaching women to strategically work toward them.
The whole leadership team is inspiring and creates a sense of hope. The theme of this year’s Hoopla event was “Wonderland” and included much focus on words such as wonder, believe and possibility, culminating in Herrin’s keynote speech where she redefined the word “impossible” to become I’m possible.
Herrin and her team listen. They hear the voices of their thousands of Stylists. They’re in tune with consumer feedback. They feed off style trends and beautiful craftsmanship from artisans around the world. They are incredibly smart, but clearly demonstrate that they are always eager to learn more and serve customers and employees.
They are strategic, yet creative. Savvy, yet heartfelt. Profitable, yet generous and philanthropic too. The company now produces more than $100 million in sales and is a multi-award winning Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Company that gets results…and, although privately held, they even rang the NASDAQ bell this year for their notable results in creating jobs and empowering women. Herrin leads by example, and she passionately builds into and creates leader after leader within the Stella & Dot world. It’s truly a company of “we” not “me” and she is adored for her leadership.
Stella & Dot leaders are authentic and truly caring.
If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times over the weekend. “I am a mother first.” This was stated, embraced and celebrated at every level of the company. Every general session presentation included family photos, top-level leaders cried when gushing about their children, and conversations about “balance” included Herrin authentically sharing how she didn’t push the company hard until she finished breast-feeding. That was most important to her.
Session after session encouraged women to prioritize, balance, pursue dreams, but not forsake special time with family or necessary time to manage health and well-being. Herrin even shared her personal goals and time management strategies, encouraging women that “there really is enough time, if you just make the time for the things that matter to you most.” Lots of giggles ensued when she suggested it might mean giving up things like Facebook, American Idol or the Kardashians.
Over and over, attendees were pushed to get out of their own way. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” Herrin quoted Theodore Rooselvet. “Perspective and gratitude ARE joy,” she added, noting that we all have much to be thankful for. She shared that she often thinks about the girls’ schools in Nicaragua that the Stella & Dot Foundation funded. “If you have a floor to stand on, you have more than a lot of people in this world,” she passionately spoke.
Then, as success story after success story was personally shared on stage by Stylists – attorneys leaving partnership, teachers making the most of their flexible hours, stay-at-home moms taking their families on extravagant vacations – nobody cheered louder than the leadership of this company. They gave gifts, danced on stage, hugged, high-fived and genuinely celebrated each woman for her accomplishments. Even the Chairman of the Board, Mike Lohner, joined the celebration by delivering a heartfelt speech, playing his saxophone and singing “What Makes You Beautiful” to all the attendees. (The crowd went wild with appreciation!)
They care. They really care. (And the Gallup organization knows the importance of leaders showing they care!) Stella & Dot wants women to succeed. They want wild, passionate, thorough success the way YOU define it. They want to help you get there, and they’re just dying to celebrate you accomplishing it. Indeed, it was beautiful to cheer everything from huge financial gains to one husband who wrote that he was grateful to Stella & Dot for helping his wife get her “mojo” back.
The bottom line, biggest-takeaway that continues to resonate is this: Stella & Dot is purpose-driven.
More than anything, Stella & Dots want to make a difference in the lives of women, whether you are part of the company as an employee or Stylist, or part of the three non-profits served by the Stella & Dot Foundation (or the additional fundraisers for breast cancer, autism and more.) These women are incredibly passionate and show no signs of slowing down until they see more of this:
We have a vision of the world where STRONG WOMEN LIVE BOLD and joyful lives. They know what they want and they work for it. They inspire each other. Passion and joy are their best accessories.
What I learned, above all, is that this company is all about instilling confidence, creating more independence and impacting women’s lives for the better. Jewelry is simply the vehicle to accomplish these things … and of course, in Stella and Dot fashion, the jewelry is pretty amazing too!
** IMPORTANT NOTE ** Although I am a Stylist for Stella & Dot, I was neither paid nor asked to write this blog post. My long-time passion, focus and full-time business is Sagestone Partners, a leadership development company providing coaching, training and professional speaking services. Because my time is spent in this arena, these leadership observations were notable, meaningful and authentically apparent within Stella & Dot. This piece was writing as an illustration of success, as well as a personal pride to be associated with such an amazing organization and its leaders. I’m thrilled to be doing my small part to make a difference in the lives of other women!