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When she founded jewelry and accessories company Stella & Dot, CEO Jessica Herrin had a vision to “democratize entrepreneurship” by putting a turnkey business in the hands of women. As a successful entrepreneur—Herrin co-founded the popular wedding site WeddingChannel.com, acquired in 2006 by The Knot—she understood that the traditional path to entrepreneurship, the one she had followed, is not accessible to all. In 2007, Herrin launched the business now known as Stella & Dot Family Brands to create a career alternative for the modern woman. It comes as no surprise, then, that empowering the individual also is the theme of her first book, Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier, and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms. The 272-page release from Crown Business, a subsidiary of Random House, is set to hit shelves on May 3. DSN recently spoke to Herrin about Find Your Extraordinary and how Stella & Dot helps individuals do just that.
DSN: What motivated you to sit down and share this message with the world?
JH:This book was a passion project for me. Find Your Extraordinary is about how to create success in your life on your own terms. I wrote this book as a guide to help people achieve true success—the kind where you do more than just put money in your bank account or a title on your resume, the kind that puts peace in your mind and happiness in your heart, too.
DSN: What is wrapped up in this idea of extraordinary that you advocate in the book?
JH:An ordinary deﬁnition of success is making money, moving up the ladder, and being well regarded by others. Extraordinary success, however, includes doing well at something you love and being well regarded by those who matter most to you, especially yourself. It’s about learning what you want, developing the conﬁdence to admit it, and having the grit to go out there and get it.
DSN:What would you say to those who feel hard-pressed to maintain an ordinary life, let alone craft an extraordinary one?
JH:Success is not for someone else; it’s for you. It all starts with self-confidence, so that you truly believe you can create the success you deserve in life. Then, I provide a tactical framework, starting with finding your authentic passion and helping to create your path to attain it. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who will help you achieve your goals and make it all worthwhile, and about cultivating the positivity and perseverance to go the distance and the productivity that will help you get it all done while you still love your life.
The book ends with a discussion on what I think is essential to true success for women, which is giving up the joy-sucking guilt too many women carry to make room for more happiness and accomplishment in life. We need to celebrate the diversity of choices women make, given we have different definitions of happiness and thus success. We need to not be such harsh critics, both of others and of ourselves.
DSN: You write about achieving success on your own terms. How did your definition of success take you against the grain when you set out to launch Stella & Dot?
JH: When I was at a crossroads, when I could have become a serial entrepreneur who did it again in Silicon Valley, I moved to Texas instead to follow my husband’s career, took a job as a middle manager at Dell Computer, and started making jewelry in my living room. Doesn’t sound like the next chapter of a success story, does it? But it was for me, because at that point in my life my deﬁnition of success was starting a family. And I was planning to build a mission-driven business around my family. I started the precursor to Stella & Dot during nights and weekends. This time I wanted to swing for the fences. I didn’t want to just start another business—I wanted to start a life.
I realized that creating commercial success was very different from feeling soulfully connected to what I did. I had to let go of my concern about how the rest of the world would view my journey.
DSN: What drew you to social selling versus a traditional retail model?
JH: With my first business, the company that became WeddingChannel.com, I appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. After the show aired, women from all over reached out to ask for help on how they could do what I had done and start a business. It was hard for me to give good advice on what to do. I’d had to take out loans to fund my specialized education, raise venture capital, hire employees, sign leases, and work all hours of the day and night for years to make my first company happen. It wasn’t a pattern many people could replicate, or would want to. That’s when I began to think about how to democratize entrepreneurship so that more women could succeed in business without feeling too stretched to love their lives.
DSN: How have the principles of Find Your Extraordinary shaped the culture at Stella & Dot?
JH: My top goal at Stella & Dot Family Brands is not about the growth of our revenue streams. It’s about the growth of our people. The ideas I share in Find Your Extraordinary translate directly to how we work at our eight offices around the world, starting with one of our S&D core values: Happiness = Success. Happy employees who feel fulfilled and encouraged to be themselves have the greatest impact on a company’s success.
DSN: What do you consider some of the biggest hindrances to breaking away from the ordinary—whether in business or other areas of life?
JH: People feel they’re too busy with day-to-day life to accomplish big dreams, but we all get the same 24 hours, 7 days a week. It’s up to you to choose what you prioritize, and thus what joy and value you create for yourself and others. There is time to accomplish bold goals, but it takes focus, strategic planning, self-discipline and the ability to say “no” (a lot), without carrying the guilt. You can’t be everything to all people, but you can be a superstar at the things that matter most to you. The first step is deciding where those priorities lie by identifying your authentic passion.
DSN: What piece of advice would you offer to other direct selling executives who, like you, are in the business of empowering people?
JH: Our business completely centers on what is best for our independent business owners. In every decision that we make, the first question I ask myself is whether or not this will bring more happiness and ease into the lives of our business owners at EVER Skincare, KEEP Collective and Stella & Dot. You should always put the mission first.
DSN: Now that you’re a published author, do you envision yourself doing more writing, and perhaps speaking, in the future?
JH: I didn’t write a book because I wanted to be an author or a speaker; I simply wanted to make a broader impact by inspiring other ordinary women to believe they can do extraordinary things. The statistics on women in business are not where they should be, and women are simply not advancing quickly enough. It feels like both a privilege and an obligation to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ll continue to focus my speaking only on events that align with our core mission.