Tell us about your journey to becoming a jewelry designer and starting your own business.
Paige and I started Stella Valle after graduating for West Point, and serving in the Army. Paige was suddenly medically retired from the Army and had to decide what she was going to do with her career. Since I am her older sister, and I was transitioning from the Army to civilian life, she called me frantic for advice. I told her that she would be successful in any field, but I advised her to go into an industry that she was passionate about. She told me she wanted to be in fashion. I wasn’t too shocked because Paige and I always loved fashion and design. I was a little bit nervous given our military backgrounds was very unconventional for the fashion industry. After a lot of thought, I convinced Paige to start Stella Valle with me. Jewelry seemed liked the easiest fashion product to start with since we didn’t have any formal design training.
How has your business grown in the past few years?
We are growing pretty fast over the past few years. We’ve had 120% growth year over year on average. It’s been amazing, but there are always challenges with growing fast!
What is your favorite part about being a business owner?
EVERYTHING! I love the challenge. I love seeing the impact of the decisions we make (hopefully in a positive way). I love solving problems, and there are problems to be solved every day. I love being my own boss (although our Women Warrior customers are our bosses too). I love working with my sister and our amazing team. I love building a team with her. I love the mission we have of inspiring and empowering women and hearing from our customers when we do that.
What is your inspiration for creating new pieces?
Our inspiration comes from wanting to inspire and empower women. All of our pieces are name and engraved with inspirational quotes and words. In terms of design, we design pieces we want to wear. We are our target market. We are casual and like to wear our jewelry every day! We like to wear things that make us look good and feel good!
When designing your jewelry, do you typically try to stick to guidelines or a specific style?
When building a brand, it’s important to stay cohesive in your aesthetic and style. Our jewelry is all casual. The pieces are classic yet modern, with a bit of edge. Our brand is about inspiring confidence in who you are and where you are going, so we incorporate this message into all of our pieces as well!
Who is the biggest influence in your career?
Women Warriors. These are strong, confident women that know who they are and where they are going in life. They are OUR customers. They are women who have been through tough times but succeed despite the odds. They are women who shatter glass ceilings, chase their dreams, and live a life they love. They bring their A game. They are fierce and fearless. The Women Warriors I’ve met are my influence to keep going and strive to the be the best I can be!
How has your brand evolved to what it is today?
It’s changed drastically since our early days. To succeed in business, you must be flexible. You must change with times. You must figure out what your customers like and want, and do more of that. We started out with a product that is completely different than it is now. However, we learned what worked for us and what our Women Warriors want and we continually evolve. Since we weren’t in design or formed entrepreneurs when we started Stella Valle, we had to learn a lot about designing and business. We feel that we really know our brand, and our customers right now, but we will never stop evolving and changing.
What advice would you give to other artisans trying to start their own business?
First, understand your target market inside and out. Know your target customers, their demographic, their age, their interests, and where they live. Figure out your brand aesthetic and make sure your brand aesthetic matches your target market and target customers. It’s also important to know the sales channels where your product is viable. Is there a gap in the market for this product? Are you going to sell to wholesale accounts, online, in major retailers?
Then, meet and network with everyone you possibly can that is in the industry or sales channel you are targeting, and learn as much as you can from them. Ask them to critique your product and give you advice. Find a mentor who can help you!
Finally, don’t give up. It’s not easy! If it looks easy, it’s a façade. There are ups and downs for all business. The ones that succeed are persistent, willing to adapt, and don’t give up!