I met Christina Welch, Executive Director & Founding Leader of Stella & Dot, back in 2009. In case you’ve never heard of it, Stella & Dot is a social selling company specializing in boutique-style jewelry and accessories. The line is available exclusively through in-home Trunk Shows by Independent Stylists and online. My close friends hosted a trunk show, with Christina as stylist, and I attended even though I had had never heard of the company before. Well, all it took was that first introduction for me to fall in love with the jewelry! At the time I was working for Tiffany & Co. and was used to wearing thin, delicate silver pieces during the day. I was craving bigger, bolder & trendier items to spruce up my going out wardrobe. Stella & Dot fit the bill perfectly! Throughout the years I have enjoyed wearing the jewelry to weddings, birthday parties, nights out on the town, vacations, and casually. You’re definitely going to get noticed and complimented when you wear these unique pieces! I’ve always admired Christina’s passion and the flexible lifestyle she’s created that’s best for her family, and knew I had to do a Soul Search feature on her. The day before her big Spring 2016 launch party I sat down to talk with this Entrepreneur, Wife and Mom of two boys.
In Christina’s words…
Let’s talk about your background. Why did you decide to join Stella & Dot when it was still a fairly unknown company in 2008?
I didn’t know I was going to join Stella and Dot. I always say I never saw myself being that girl that was going to go and do parties in people’s houses with jewelry! That was not the plan, that’s not what I went to college for, that’s not what I spent my career doing prior to this. What prompted me to look into it was that at the time my boys were 1 and 4 and I was starting to look at other options for me as a mom who wanted to work, but wanted to work flexibly.
I was inspired by a mom at pre-school who had invited me to a show and she was repping another jewelry line. I went to it and I was really happy for her cause she seemed like she was having a lot of fun with it. I ended up going to the Direct Selling Association website because I was intrigued by the business. That product didn’t speak to me, the idea of being able to do something did, but I also still was very uncertain about the whole party thing. I didn’t have exposure to it so I didn’t know. I had been working on a big PR project, and that wrapped up, when I stumbled into Stella & Dot. I saw a pair of earrings and thought “I should get those earrings, but then I thought no, maybe I should sell this!” I kept going back and forth in my brain on it. It actually took me a little while to send off for information because I was skeptical. I ended up doing that, got a lookbook, and a couple days later a really great woman called me and just started talking to me without pressuring or interviewing me. Then I got connected with some other people and I decided to go ahead and sign up. I thought what do I have to lose? I can do this for fun, worst case is I’ll have a lot of cute jewelry. Fast forward all these years later. I thought I’d actually really enjoy the selling maybe a little bit more, but what I’ve grown to love, is the people development, mentoring and coaching and helping women achieve what it is that they want to with the business. It’s just the best of all worlds for me. I can get my fashion fix, I get to wear amazing accessories and get to meet lots of fun people.
Did you have a background in jewelry or sales?
I had no sales background. Out of college I started out working for a local agency specializing in hospitality, non-profit and retail clients. I spent the bulk of my career, prior to having my children, with Macy’s. I was the Public Relations manager for all of the Texas stores. I was able to do fashion shows and celebrity appearances and I went on television to talk fashion trends and did community donations and outreach. It was a really great job! But when I had my oldest son, the travel was not a good fit for my changing lifestyle. So I left that, and when my oldest was almost 1, I had an opportunity to join a local event marketing agency as a freelancer doing PR for their event side. I did that for 3 years, and I worked a bit on projects still while I was getting Stella & Dot started, cause I wasn’t sure at the time when I started if I would love it. But this just started taking off and I DID love it!
When did you know you were going to be successful with Stella & Dot?
I almost think after my first show because I loved it so much. I just opened up my home. I joke now, “invite everyone you know that has a pulse. Every woman you know that has a pulse.” I had a very tiny display of jewelry. It was friends and acquaintances and colleagues and former colleagues that came by. Some neighbors did and everyone was just so happy for me. We had fun hanging out and drinking a glass of wine and playing with the jewelry. I had several girls saying that they wanted to do a Style Social with me. I knew right then and there that I loved what I was doing.
How many stylists work under you?
My first stylist joined when I was about 2 weeks into the business. What I love about the business is that you don’t need to know what you’re doing to start growing a business. It’s actually much more fun with a friend. Recently I was sitting across from a stylist at coffee and I said “I don’t know what to do with you but we’re just going to go have shows and have fun with this.” It’s just that spirit early on of just enjoying this and having fun with it that makes it fun to mentor people who want to do the same thing.
Our team, The Gem Fatales Super Gems, has grown to well over 1,000 across the country. We do have some stylists overseas and in Canada.
What’s a day in the life like for you?
One of things we talk a lot about in this business is your WHY. Why are you doing this business? When I started my why really centered around my desire to have a lot of flexibility. Not to be at the park with my kids and have someone from a t.v. station call me looking to interview a client and I’d be shushing my kids all the time. So that was really what fueled me to have something where I could call the shots on my own terms. What I love about it still to this day is that flexibility.
So when you say a typical day, everyday truly is different. I’m a big fan of laying out your week and saying what has got to get done and when can I fit in things like working out, which I love, and is very important to me. If I’m working out at 9 o’clock one morning I’m going to get up at 5 or 5:30 and work for a little bit. I’ll return emails and check in on our team Facebook pages and I’ll message people back and do some of that stuff early. There’s certain days that are dedicated to coaching my team and mentoring them. I allocate time to work on booking trunk shows because that is the heart of the business we have. There’s time for customer follow-up in there, there is time for stylist meet ups or going to coffee with stylists and talking to people about joining Stella & Dot as a stylist. There’s a few conference calls throughout the week, there’s a lot of plug and play trainings that our home office provides for everybody so I’ll sometimes listen in on one of those. I’m an early riser. I need to be done by 2:45 p.m. to go pick up my kids from school. That’s what I love! From 3 o’clock on I’m Mom and I’m taking them to their activities and it works really well with our family life. If I have a trunk show I have a very supportive husband so he’ll meet me and he’ll take the boys and I’ll go off and have a fun girls night! It can be a 40-hour week but I call it full time flexible.
What have you learned from Jessica Herrin, CEO & Founder of Stella & Dot?
What haven’t I learned! I think number one is that everything in life centers around just being positive. We’re really fortunate as women to live in a time where we have so many opportunities for ourselves. With opportunity comes responsibility and choice. I look at her and I see how she manages being an amazing mom to her daughters, they are about the same age as my boys, and how she runs a huge worldwide billion dollar company in the making. I think it’s a lot about time management, and less thinking about things, and more just going out and doing them. Just deciding what you want to do and making a plan and going for it. Realizing there are going to be bumps in the road. I look at Jessica, and her path to success has not been a straight path, no one’s is. And it can look ugly, but one of the things that she’s said is “I’m successful because I’ve failed.” I think we all can take that lesson and realize that you can look at anyone, in any industry, in any type of endeavor. Their path, they may look like they’re at the top, but it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. They are still learning from things that haven’t worked out to make them better and to get stronger and to move on. Also, a lot of time mastery. Be present in the place that you’re at. She’s not only just a great CEO, you just learn a lot of really great life lessons from one of your contemporaries.
What’s your advice for someone just starting with Stella & Dot who aspires to have a career like yours?
The biggest thing that you have to know about in this business is that as long as you are consistent in your effort you WILL get results. I tell my team all the time I’m not concerned about the result. I’m concerned that you are taking the action. When you take action, you’re going to get that result. For a new stylist my advice is first of all go out and have fun. Just go find four friends and have them do a show for you. Have a good time with it! Be consistent and as graciously as you accept yes from people graciously accept the no’s too. Just don’t quit!
What are your personal goals for 2016? How much higher can you go with this!
We had a year of exponential growth on our team last year. It’s grown steadily every single year, but last year was a particularly strong year for our team. We have so many amazing stylists across the country, not just here in San Antonio, but everywhere.
Recently I was talking to somebody about the word of the year that was going around on Facebook. My word of the year is “Stretch.” Stretching myself out of my comfort zone a little bit more. That truly is a space where growth happens in anything you do. It’s also to have some stretch goals for our team. We had a really nice increase last year and I’d love to see that continue. Hopefully it will help all the girls that are on my team to reach the levels they want to do. It will help people that aren’t yet a part of our organization, that don’t know they want to be a stylist yet, but once they find it and they love it they can stretch and do things that they never thought were possible for themselves personally or for their families.
I live by the mantra in this business that you get what you want when you help others get what they want. If I can impact all of those people even more so I’ll get what I want and we’ll have another year like we did last year.
Tell me about the new Spring 2016 line that just came out on January 12th…
It’s incredible! Our Chief Creative Officer Blythe Harris is just a creative genius and she blows my mind every single season. It sounds completely cliche, but I think it’s better than we’ve ever had and it’s the best collection! What I love about Blythe and our whole design process is that they travel to faraway places, they go to fashion week, she looks at places that she’s been to. They really create cohesive stories about where their inspiration comes from for these collections. One of the inspirations this season is Ubud in Bali. The blues of the collection. There’s also Morocco, and the more vibrant colors, we have the hot pink tassels. She merges a lot of that inspiration with trend. Tassels are really big right now, delicate layering pieces are. Chic Boutique is something that’s been really successful for us and we’ve built a lot on that by adding some stones to it and to have pieces that have a lot of versatility.
If you could style one person in Stella & Dot, who would it be & why?
Kelly Ripa! I think she’s hilarious and I think she represents everybody. She’s so natural and down to earth. I think it would be fun to style her cause I think she’d have a blast and she has worn Stella & Dot before. She would be fun to hang out with and to style and she sounds like she’d be the best person to have a party with!
You always look great. Where do you shop for clothes to complement your jewels?
I like Zara and Nordstrom. I’ll pick up pieces at J. Crew and Banana Republic. Neiman Marcus when it’s on sale! I like certain designers like Joie and Rails. I prefer to dress more simply because of the jewelry. I do wear more solids than patterns.
What’s been your most memorable experience with Stella & Dot?
Two are seared into my memory. It was that feeling like I was completely shocked and my body started shaking! The first one was when I received the Spirit of Leadership Award. That was team nominated and our home office decided who got that. It’s the highest honor that Stella & Dot gives to a leader in the field. Earning that, and knowing that it came about because my team nominated me, really was extremely special.
Also, last year they surprised quite a few of us. We were given a new Lifetime Achievement Award. By selling $500,000 in our careers or more, we were all brought out on stage at Hoopla (Stella & Dot’s annual sales conference) and we all got a nice bonus. It was a moment I’ll never forget because there were literally 15 or 20 of us and our jaws just dropped!
Tell me a little about the travel you’ve done as a reward with S&D.
I love that they reward us for doing what we love to do! I’m actually going to Jamaica in about 4 weeks. I’ve been to Cabo, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Bahamas the Dominican Republic. Did a girls trip to LA with a celebrity stylist which was a lot of fun. I was able to go to New York last year and go to the design studio and spend a lot of time with Blythe Harris and our design team. We helped land the spring line and that was a really fun reward for doing what I love to do!
What makes your soul flutter?
My kids and my husband. It’s the flexibility, the quality of life. The ability to provide experiences for them. And decorate a bit and shop. I call my house the one that Stella & Dot decorated!
Stella & Dot’s revenue is around $300 million, and has about 50,000 independent business owners in six countries.
Christina’s 5 Must-Have items from the new Spring collection:
I’m a HUGE Stella & Dot fan! (Just ask Christina….) Wearing S&D necklaces in all three pictures.
Scheduling a Trunk Show:
Christina still has a few January dates left to bring the style to your place for a style session with your girlfriends. She’ll be thanking those amazing hosts with a BONUS style spree (think $300 free!). And if you love it all and are looking for a new gig in the new year — then she really needs to talk to you about how to make MORE possible in your life. Stella & Dot has a special that she can tell you all about and you’ll add extra rewards, fun, and fashion in your life in 2016! Contact Christina here, call 210-823-0180 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Living with soul,