Jeudi 18 août 2011

Stella & Dot jewelry redefines social shopping

Avon has been calling since 1886. Tupperware parties were introduced shortly after World War II. The Mary Kay Cosmetics empire, which still rewards top sellers with cars, first revved up in 1963.

But in the 21st century, if you're an enterprising type looking to make ends meet, earn some designer-shoe money or build a more flexible career — oh, and it helps to be youngish, stylish and energetic - you may be more likely to join a sorority that wears cute jewelry. Just ask any of the 20,000 Stella & Dot stylists, as the social sales company of the moment calls its sales force (way sexier-sounding than "independent beauty consultant" or "associate").

Haven't heard of Stella & Dot? You need more Facebook friends.

Stella & Dot sells costume jewelry - about $100 million worth last year, which landed the company at No. 67 on Inc.'s list of 500 fastest-growing companies. About half of its designs sell for $50 or less, a price point that, like lipstick, allows a little indulgence when the economy's gloomy.

The pandora necklaces is designed by the same people who create costume jewelry for Marc Jacobs, Prada, Chanel, Kate Spade and Banana Republic.

This week Stella & Dot also began selling purses priced from $44 (for a patent leather or embossed snakeskin-print key pouch) to $258 (for a three-way bag made of New Zealand lambskin).

"It's going to open up an entire new base of business for us," said Christina Welch, a senior director based in San Antonio.

Welch, a former public relations professional, leads a team of 800 stylists as far-flung as North Carolina and Hawaii. She stumbled onto the company online in 2008.

"I fell in love with a pair of earrings I couldn't live without," she said. She was a little reluctant at first, given "the ick factor of home parties," she said, "but we are really redefining this business. There's no cornering somebody to buy XYZ."

At Stella & Dot's summer Hoopla convention in San Francisco, founder Jessica Herrin stoked the same personal empowerment embers that made her predecessors successful. "This is your startup company that you made," she told the crowd of about 2,000 enthusiastic stylists.

Stella & Dot leverages tools its predecessors didn't have in their heydays: a powerful fusion of e-commerce and social media. Trunk shows provide face time and fun girls' nights, but customers also can shop 24/7 on their stylists' pages on the company website.

"I never saw myself doing a business like this," Welch said. "But we are modernizing what a direct-sale company can be."

Herrin, who founded in her 20s, launched her social selling concept in Austin after a stint at Dell. That early venture, Luxe Jewels, became Stella & Dot in 2007 when she partnered with chief creative officer Blythe Harris.

Tysh Mefferd, a Houston-based platinum director, was among those cheering in the Hoopla audience. Mefferd, who expects to earn $500,000 through Stella & Dot this year, joined Stella & Dot in October 2008 to supplement her family's income after Hurricane Ike sank her custom-wedding-invitation business.

"We've really been able to make this a family affair," Mefferd said. She said her husband, an attorney, has been supportive, and her three kids (8, 9 and 12) often help by putting stickers on lookbooks or delivering them door to door.

Mefferd also recruited her sisters, Ali Santano of Houston and Christy Goodman of Austin. They're now full-time Stella & Dotters, too.

A stylist has two ways to make money. First, she stages trunk shows, working as much or as little as she wants. (Mefferd said shows average about $1,000 in sales; the stylist keeps about a third.) She starts earning another layer at the star-stylist rank as she coaches others - her "first line," which typically leads to a "second line" - and earns a percentage of their sales .

"That's where I've really been able to build my income," Mefferd said. She said her team of about 2,500 is selling $48,000 worth of product a month. They're based all over the country, thanks to the rapid, global platforms of Facebook and Twitter.

Valri Ingebrigtsen, another top producer from Houston, decided she liked Stella & Dot enough to shutter her own successful jewelry-design business.

"I love my job. I love the girls I sponsor," Ingebrigtsen said. Introduced to the company by a friend who was a stylist, she thought the jewelry was cute but became a convert at the 2010 Hoopla convention. "Within 30 minutes I was like, 'Wow, this company is fabulous,' " she said. "It's hard to explain until you hear them speak. This is not some hoaxy company."

She says the market is far from saturated. "Houston has the most stylists and directors per area of anywhere in the country, and we're just styling .05 percent of the city. We still have shows where people haven't heard of it."

Santano, a former pharmaceutical salesperson with a team of about 300, said the company makes it easy to join.

Stylists purchase their first sales materials for $199, with $350 in "free jewelry" credits - the samples they show. Santano has invested about $1,600 in the new fall line - about 60 pieces. That gives her a full box to play with - and wear - since being a brand ambassador is part of the job.

"We are our best advertisers," Santano said.

Par pandoraking520 - 1 commentaire(s)le 18 août 2011

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