Heart Driven Leadership

Jessica Herrin

Jessica Herrin cares about giving women the confidence to earn and learn in a modern way.

Jessica Herrin, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Stella & Dot Family Brands, knows a few things about creating successful business ventures—she’s done it twice and both times has captured the attention of savvy media reporters from publications like Fortune and The New York Times to major television networks.

As this year’s recipient of DSN’s Bravo Leadership Award, Herrin has demonstrated an impressive ability to lead a company to strong growth while tapping into the hearts and souls of the thousands of women representing the company’s three brands. That comes from Herrin’s unwavering resolve to make Stella & Dot a heart-driven venture. Why? Because she understands that ambition and entrepreneurship must be combined with flexibility when people—especially women—are juggling both a business and demands of family. “I wasn’t going to apologize or feel like a bad mom if I had my own ambitions,” she states.

“Her ability to connect with people one-on-one is incredible. —Ani Hadjinian, President, Family Brands

To appreciate Herrin’s strength as a successful entrepreneur, it’s helpful to understand the trajectory of her life. Raised by a single dad who had the “ultimate spirit of an entrepreneur,” she always saw the world as how she wanted things to be instead of the way they were. She packed integrity into her work experience the day she left her job at an ice cream store when her first boss told her if she didn’t go on a date with him, she’d do nothing but mop floors. At age 24, she dropped out of business school—against the advice of others—and with a partner created an online business that became weddingchannel.com. They eventually sold the business for many millions of dollars.

Fast forward to life as a wife and new mother in Texas, where she was working as a technology manager for Dell. The siren song of entrepreneurship was still calling to her, and she began exploring ideas. She hit on jewelry and began taking night classes to learn how to make it. Her goal was to create a successful business—for herself and other women—that allowed them to choose the hours they worked. This ideal work experience really hit home the day her boss called a 7 a.m. meeting. “I’m happy to work 10 hours, just not those hours!” she remembers thinking. “That’s
when I realized how passionate I was about reinventing work for the modern woman who wants to have the ‘and’ mentality—what if I want to have family and ambition,” she explains.

In fact, she has her own description for this goal: democratize entrepreneurship. It is this entrepreneurship that has enabled the company to pay out more than $500 million in commissions to date to its field.

Offering A Turnkey Platform

Eventually, Herrin left the corporate world and put all her effort into her nascent jewelry business, initially called Luxe Jewels. She held trunk shows in her living room and shared the merchandise with friends. In 2007, Blythe Harris joined the venture and became cofounder and chief creative officer. Chief Inspiration Officer Danielle Redner and Michael Lohner, chairman of the board of managers, also joined the team at this time. The company was also rebranded Stella & Dot, named after Herrin’s and Harris’ grandmothers.

For about 40,000 Stylists, Designers and Specialists throughout the United States and Canada representing the company’s three distinct brands— Stella & Dot, KEEP Collective and EVER—this is more than cool products and a great business. For many, it is life changing.

“Her ability to connect with people one-on-one is incredible,” says Ani Hadjinian, president of Family Brands. “One of my favorite moments is watching the field connect with her. She has singlehandedly, in a lot of the cases, changed the trajectory of their lives.”

Although Herrin did not design Stella & Dot on “direct sales of the past,” she knew the business had to offer an easy way for women to get involved. “I think of us as a new kind of company which is really a turnkey platform for women and a few good men who want to push the easy button,” she says. “In other words—if you could take away the risk, could we elevate the number of people that would take that chance? That was always my focus.”

Members of Herrin’s corporate team also benefit from her leadership. “What’s remarkable about Jessica is her ability to make those around her better,” says Jeremy Soine, executive vice president and general manager of EVER. “She regularly tells me, ‘My opinion is only one data point. You go lead the business based on what you think needs to happen.’ Her humility and self-awareness put me at ease, is empowering and makes me feel appreciated.”

An Unwavering Vision

One hallmark of an exceptional leader is attracting top-flight people to help move the company forward. Hadjinian joined the company after holding top executive positions for Estee Lauder Companies; she was general manager, North America of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics when she initially joined Stella & Dot Family Brands to serve as general manager of EVER. “The creative element really speaks to me from a branding perspective, and authenticity of that
branding, also the quality of products,” says Hadjinian. It didn’t take her long to see the power behind Herrin’s vision and product innovation. “That’s what sets Stella & Dot apart … It was never unwavering to her, and she wanted to bring something to the direct sales world that had the same level of aspiration of quality products.”

Soine had experience in another large direct sales company and in the food and beverage industry before joining Stella & Dot Family Brands in 2018. In addition to appreciating EVER’s line of clean beauty, science-driven products, Soine is impressed with the way Herrin continues to fuel her passion for helping others. “Every week she spends hours and hours making phone calls and posting special notes on social media to recognize those people who are doing extraordinary things,” he says. “She doesn’t do this because she feels obligated—she genuinely cares and wants those people to feel special.”

Recognizing extraordinary efforts comes naturally to Herrin, as is evident from her book, Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms. She also created the Stella & Dot Foundation in 2010 which has donated more than $3 million to worldwide causes including its year-round global charity partner, Every Mother Counts.

As for the company’s future: “Our focus is on growth in North America for all of our brands,” says Herrin. “We would like to at least double Stella & Dot.” When reflecting on the Bravo Leadership Award and what it means to her and the company, Herrin is quick to take a backseat. “The reality is the leadership of Stella & Dot is done by a team, not me. It’s my team that makes this company and makes me a better leader,” she emphasizes. “Everyone at Stella & Dot is very heart driven—we care about giving women the confidence where they can learn and earn in a modern way. It’s a shared award.”