Top Women in Retail 2017: Jessica Herrin, CEO and Founder, Stella & Dot
What do you enjoy most about working in the retail industry?
What I love in particular about the Stella & Dot family of brands is that we’re not just a company that sells accessories or skincare. We have what we truly love most spelled out in our mission: we get great joy out of designing irresistible jewelry. And yet, jewelry is just the tangible expression of something much greater we’re creating. 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. I love that what we offer gives women means and confidence.
If you weren't working in the retail industry, what do you think you'd be doing?
I studied economics and have always loved the idea that you can make people’s lives better through business. Job creation is essential. My true passion is economic development for women so they can be in charge of their own lives. So, if I weren’t doing that via the Stella & Dot family of brands, I would find another way to do it. Perhaps working directly in government to drive economic development. However, I do what I love, so it’s hard to imagine doing something else. I always joke that my “exit strategy” will be an oxygen tank and a stretcher!
How would you describe your leadership style?
Mission-driven, direct, decisive and I would hope others would say loving! For me, the next phase of our impact and company growth will be driven not by me, but completely by developing leadership in others. I’m at the point in life where I’m far less interested in personal accomplishment and far more interested in trying to make a positive impact on developing others to be great leaders. I want to ensure our current and future brands will thrive 100 years from now, long after I lead this company.
What's the best advice you ever received, and who gave you the advice?
The best advice I ever got came from an “angel in a cowboy hat” — a cab driver in Texas I met while interviewing for my first job out of college. I already had a job lined up on Wall Street, which was really appealing because I had a ton of student loans to pay back. But it wasn’t as appealing to me as a startup in Austin, which would offer more range in my job and more potential upside — at the cost of a lower salary and a greater chance of failure. I was torn between paying off debt or doing what was more authentic to who I wanted to be.
The cab driver looked at me in the rearview mirror and asked what I was worried about. I shared my situation with him and he told me to think about the best- and worst-case scenarios of both jobs. Then he asked, "Is the job with the best upside worth the risk of the worst-case scenario of that same job?” That made it very obvious to me. If it didn’t work out, I would still have my education and could always go back to get the safe job. So I went for it. I always go for maximum upside, as long as it’s worth the risk. I’ve never regretted the decision, and I still use that decision framework in my business and in life.
Do you have any mentors in the retail industry?
Not only is she a mentor, she’s also a friend and part of our board of directors. Leslie Blodgett, former CEO of Bare Escentuals, has tremendous experience in building a skincare and beauty company from the ground up. My dream has always been to build a platform company that could make the most impact by building out brands across women’s lifestyle categories in which we could create truly disruptive product best sold friend to friend. Leslie has also provided incredible wisdom and guidance with the launch of our newest sister brand, EVER Skincare.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
Running and reading. But top of my list is just spending time with my family — my husband Chad, daughters Charlie and Tatum, and our dog Tibi. We love to explore the world, bake and play games.
To see the full list of this year's Top Women in Retail honorees, click here.