Stella & Dot's CEO on the Brink of Making a Billion

Jessica Herrin reinvented her jewelry business twice before finding a concept that really clicked with consumers—and made her seriously rich

by Amanda Robb
jessica herrin image
Photograph: Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao

With Harris as lead designer, the company doubled its earnings within the year. Doctors, teachers, stay-at-home moms and even a pecan farmer bought start-up kits and became stylists. Tysh Mefferd, who owned a stationery company and now oversees 2,500 Stella & Dot stylists, consistently earns six figures. Others have far more modest earnings. In 2011 the average monthly revenue for a rep was $261; a typical “star stylist” (a seller supervising four active stylists) takes in $2,673. A senior director (who oversees four star stylists) makes, on average, $13,765 a month.
“Some stylists are really brand ambassadors. They like hosting an occasional trunk show and the opportunity to buy affordable jewelry,” explains Herrin. “Other stylists work full time during the school year and take the summers off. The important thing is that they choose how much and when they work.”

Today, Stella & Dot stylists operate in one third of U.S. zip codes and in the United Kingdom and Canada. This August, Stella & Dot launched in Germany, and it is expanding into accessories such as handbags. Herrin expects to reach $1 billion in sales by 2015. Last year she and her husband reportedly bought an 8,000-square-foot home in Hillsborough, California, for $6 million. Not that she spends much time there. “Obviously I’m wired to work 80 hours a week,” she says. “I accept that now. I’ve learned to divide and conquer. If the parenting activity doesn’t involve physically being with my kids [a second daughter was born in 2006], I don’t do it. I do the school art project for Halloween because we can be side by side, but I don’t volunteer to raise money. That way, there is actually plenty of time for me to be the entrepreneur I want to be as well as the mom and family member I want to be.”

To finalize the new season’s line, Herrin is in New York for exactly 48 hours. She moves and talks quickly, determining the size of the perfect clutch and the mix of materials that should go into manufacturing the company’s charms. She reminds her team that the collection has to have something “for you, your mom, your daughter and even Aunt Rachel.” For the briefest moment she revisits the issue of necklace length. “Every woman needs a necklace that comes here,” Herrin says, touching the soft spot on her clavicle, “because, you know, that length can go anywhere.”

 

Amanda Robb is a New York-based writer and a frequent contributor to More.

 

Running the Numbers

$10–$65,339: Range of Stella & Dot stylists’ monthly earnings

 

$175 million: Stella & Dot’s gross annual sales for 2011

 

$16: Cost of the company’s least expensive item, a signature sterling silver heart charm

 

$258: Cost of the company’s most expensive product, a lambskin Waverly Three Way handbag

 

48: Number of nights Herrin spends away from her family a year
 

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