By Matthew Hacke | Photograph by Michael Fornataro
In 1994, Jessica Herrin, a recent Stanford graduate with a degree in economics, found herself in the right place at the right time: Silicon Valley at the advent of the Internet. “When I graduated college, I was fortunate that it was during a time when there was a lot of opportunity. The economy was great and the Internet was essentially becoming commercialized, so all of the stars were aligned,” Herrin says. While debating whether to take the safer route and go into investment banking to pay off her mountain of student loan debt, or go into software, Herrin chose the latter. “I became a product manager in technology and joined a start-up, which at the time was the riskier option. But it spoke more to my entrepreneurial spirit.”
During her time at the technology start-up, Herrin found herself wanting a career that invigorated that entrepreneurial spirit. She went back to Stanford Business School, then dropped out early to start her first company at age 24: WeddingChannel.com, an e-commerce wedding gift registry site.
“It was a great business. I learned that you can create something that is commercially successful and have the kind of success that puts something on your resume and money in your bank account, but not have true life success,” she recounts. “I didn’t feel soulfully connected to what I did in any way.”
After leaving the company, which was eventually sold to The Knot in a multi-million dollar deal, Herrin took on a full-time position as a marketing manager at Dell, while working on her next venture on the side. “I was doing my research and found that while there were home-based businesses, none of them were led with product or used technology to build a smart multi-channeled business. So, that became the seed for what ultimately became the Stella & Dot Family of Brands.”
A decade after graduating from college, Herrin started the accessory line Stella & Dot — out of her living room, while pregnant with her first child and working her full-time job at Dell. “It was a lot of nights and weekends, but I was very passion-driven,” says Herrin. The company, whose mission is to “help women be their own boss, on their own terms,” gives every woman the chance to work as an independent stylist and sell the company’s products, which has expanded to include KEEP Collective, a line of personalized jewelry, and EVER Skincare.
Today, the Stella & Dot Family of Brands is a $400 million enterprise that works with over 50,000 independent stylists in six countries. And these go-getters keep up to 35 percent of the sales they accumulate. “Our model is to reward people for their word-of-mouth marketing and sharing our products,” Herrin says. “They do that with our digital tools, as well as through in-person events. It’s their business, their way, with no quota or inventory involved.”
In the course of only a couple of years, Herrin, the CEO of the Stella & Dot Family of Brands, has successfully re-defined the business paradigm by giving women a platform to be entrepreneurs and leaders. “We really just wanted to fix and reshape some of the businesses that had been invented in the past so that they’d be more empowering and more profitable for women, and ultimately give them a chance to have a greater voice,” says Herrin. “It’s really these women who have helped build our brands and who continue to make them flourish.”
For more information on the Stella & Dot Family of Brands, visit stelladotfamily.com.