Give us your “elevator pitch” :
I am a stylist and team leader with Stella & Dot, a social-selling accessories company. I share amazing style with women at in-home trunk shows and online. I coach a team of 300-plus stylists nationally to build whatever kind of business they want, from a fun hobby bringing in extra shopping money to six-figure full time incomes. Of 30,000 stylists worldwide, I’m the company’s youngest Senior Director.
When were you “bitten” by the entrepreneurial bug?
In the summer of 2009, unhappy with my previous life in political fundraising in Washington, D.C., I signed up as a stylist with Stella & Dot, fabulous but broke, thinking I might quit in a few weeks after picking up some great free jewelry. When I realized I could earn $300 at an average trunk show, I was hooked.
What’s been the hardest part about starting your own business as a millennial entrepreneur?
I am a 33-year-old, single, female entrepreneur in a state ranked dead last in women-owned businesses. After being asked what my husband did for a living the fourth time (implying a husband must be subsidizing my business income), I realized I was doing something very unique and foreign to many in Iowa. Being an entrepreneur is thrilling but also can be incredibly lonely. There aren’t many fellow travelers who can truly relate to the path you’re on. I have come to cherish my peers and role models who are women entrepreneurs here.
The most specific challenge has been my commitment to operate and grow my business debt-free. Not using credit has been the right choice for me, but at times I wish I had more resources to draw on, whether it's a credit line or a spouse's income.
What resources have you found helpful in blazing your own trail?
I have a great home office at Stella & Dot that provides training and mentorship from day one. As stylists, we are in business for ourselves but not by ourselves. I also have built up a great self-help and business development home library, and on the tough days I find solace in books by Wayne Dyer, Danielle LaPorte, and Jon Gordon, as well as the amazing businesswomen-empowering guru Marie Forleo’s MarieTV.
In 2015 I had the incredible opportunity to be featured on the hit CBS reality TV show “Undercover Boss” alongside our CEO Jessica Herrin, who traveled to Des Moines to do a trunk show in the home of one of my hostesses. Exposure to the world of big-time reality TV brought both challenges and benefits that continue.
Who’s your entrepreneurial hero?
That's easy: the 300-plus stylists who make up my team. They take real daily risks and push themselves to build a life they love for their families and themselves. A $199 investment has produced a 10-day trip to Europe for a family of five, trips to Disney World, new cars, expensive sporting equipment, security deposits on apartments, and even the ability to leave corporate America for working at home. I can’t wait to see what happens next on my team.
What advice do you have for today’s aspiring entrepreneurs?
Have good stomach lining. You will experience high highs and low lows, but keep going. Your friends and family will have opinions. Look for the bit of truth in their worries and concerns. Know that well-meaning and wonderful friends and family members may not be the best business advisors.
How can our readers connect with you?
Sign up for my email list and contact me at www.gracevancleave.com. Follow me on Instagram (handle @gracevancleave), Twitter @gracevancleave, and Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/gracelovesjewelry?ref=hl
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