Stella & Dot Founder on Success: Ignore the Naysayers

Jessica Herrin was a successful e-commerce entrepreneur who, after having her first child, suddenly started making jewelry in her living room. "People thought that was totally nuts," she said, "and in a way it was." Her crazy living room-based bauble project turned into Stella & Dot, a $175 million dollar business. And Herrin? She's the founder and chief executive officer of the company, with more than 10,000 sales reps working under her in five countries.

Herrin knew she'd pursue a career in business when she fell in love with economics in college. "Really, economics is at the underpinning of happiness," she said. "If you can give people a economy that provides jobs and food, it's the basis of need. And from there they can do whatever else they want." She went on to co-found her first business, WeddingChannel.com, while she was a student at Stanford Business School. It quickly grew into a multi-million dollar business and was sold to another company.

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Herrin launched Stella & Dot in 2004 while working full-time at computer giant Dell. The company sells jewelry and accessories through a network of independent sales representatives called stylists. As Stella & Dot gained business momentum and press coverage, Herrin said women contacted her to share their interest in starting their own companies based on her example. She was concerned about women following the hectic pace of a small business owner: "I'm not sure you want to do this," she thought. "You know, I work every night, I work every weekend. I've signed up for all this risk and, and employees. I don't know if this is really the path to happiness for a lot of different personality types and life stages."

But she also started thinking about how she could use Stella & Dot to support those women. She turned her company into a business-in-a-box that gave people the ability to succeed as entrepreneurs, with work that revolved around life goals and schedules. Now, Stella & Dot stylists sell the company's product line through their own e-commerce websites, mobile applications, and via in-home style sessions called "trunk shows."

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"My passion was about reinventing flexible entrepreneurship," she said. "I started Stella & Dot with the mission in mind and then found the right large market opportunity. Accessories, in the U.S. alone, is a $30 billion dollar market. So there's just a tremendous amount of room for people to be incredibly successful with it."

In the early stages of building her business, naysayers surrounded Herrin. "There are always people who will find the reason why something can't work and focus in on that," she said. "As an entrepreneur, you have to learn to ignore the naysayers. Listen to what they're saying for the kernel of truth. Find a solution to overcome what they think will be an obstacle in your business and then you simply outlast your problems. You see the issues, you see the obstacles, and you just learn to outlast them and get over them."

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