EP356: From Lilly Pulitzer to Solo Startup: How One Designer Left Corporate to Pursue Her Passion with Jane Paradis
2:41PM May 26, 2022
If you've been thinking about leaving your corporate job and you aren't sure the right time to kind of take the leap. Well, you're going to love this episode today, where I interview Jayne paradise of Jamie Lynn jewelry, she talks all about how she left her corporate career, made a business plan and then took the leap to launch her passion project. Jane Wynn jewelry. In this episode, Jane talks about her experience working at Barneys Calvin Klein and Lilly Pulitzer, some of the steps that she took to prepare for her leave from corporate and some of the mistakes that she made and some of the that she wished you would have done differently in that transition, plus a whole lot more. So whether you already have a jewelry business, or you're thinking about starting one and leaving your corporate job, you are surely going to love today's episode. Hey there, I'm Tracy Matthews. I'm the chief visionary officer of flourish and thrive Academy. I'm the host of the thrive by design podcast. And I'm also the author of the desire Brennan effect, stand out in a saturated market with a timeless jewelry brand. And as I mentioned today, on the show, I have Jean paradise of genuine jewelry. She's been featured in all the magazines, she has a really solid direct to consumer business. And she also is selling wholesale, she's going to talk about a bunch of different things across the gamut, but primarily some of the steps that she took to leave her corporate career and start her business and do it the right way to have now for employees to be sourcing products from all around the world and to be building a thriving, profitable jewelry brand that is supporting her and her family. So before we dive in, if you haven't done so yet, make sure that you subscribe to our channel that you liked this video. If you enjoyed the episode and at the end of the show, I would love for you to share some of your key takeaways. Let's dive in to today's episode.
I was so excited to have Jane paradise of Jane Wynn jewelry on the show today. Welcome, Jane.
Thank you so much for having me. This is a pleasure.
We just kind of in the free show. And I'm flattered that you are a listener of the thrive by design podcast, just absolutely.
I feel like there were certain podcasts that I listened to, especially during the pandemic during the last two years, we've had a lot of time and they kind of keep you company. So it's so fun to actually be chatting in real life.
Yeah, this is so fun. I'm really excited about this episode, because we're going to be talking about your transition from working in a corporate job with Lilly Pulitzer to starting your own jewelry company and making that a success. So my first question, usually when I'm doing interviews is to talk a little bit about your journey. So please share a little bit about your journey into the jewelry industry. Like how did you get here?
Well, it's a long one, because I think I might be older than you and most of the people that you interview, I've already five and so I'm older than you. So
there you go. Well, you look fabulous. I'm 51. So
wow, you look great. I'm moving to Arizona. So I really my life right now with jewelry is design, production, distribution and marketing. And I went to college for none of those things. So I went to school for art history, I adored it, I thought I would go out you know, I interned at Christie's I thought I would go into the gallery world in some way. But I graduated, hopped on a plane to move to New York City and got a job in production. So my first job was learning how to make things which is like the so many people don't get that experience. And, you know, I loved fashion instantly, but saw someone reading magazines all the time. And I said whatever she does, I want to do, she was in public relations. So I switched kind of from, you know, first job in production, straight into marketing. And I loved it. I was a Calvin Klein and then Barneys New York. And then I started my own business and started designing handbags, because I saw these great handbags at Barney's and thought I could do that. I mean, I was obviously young, like and hide in New York City. But I did it and I started a line and because I had all this marketing background, I got a ton of press right away. We were in Elle Magazine, the second we launched we were in Barneys New York, and the line really, that was all wholesale, ended up in 100 Fabulous stores. And one day, Lilly Pulitzer called and said, Hey, your bags are great. We'd love it if you came and launched accessories for us. So I moved from New York City to Pennsylvania. Have the main line. Wow. And I launched bags, and then footwear and jewelry for Lilly Pulitzer, I ended up being there for 12 years, moved on to the head of print, fashion director. And then after I'd been there about eight years, there was an opening in marketing. And I really want to be a vice president by the time I was 40. And I said, Hey, let me do this. And I pitched it to the CEO. And he said, Okay, we'll give you a shot. So by the time I left, after 12 years, I was the senior vice president of marketing. So I really have done design and marketing my whole life. And that was a very abbreviated version of a crazy all over the place path. But that is what gave me the confidence to start genuine.
Okay, so why did you decide to leave? Like, it sounds like you're at like an awesome career. Like, why do you want to leave Lilly Pulitzer? Yeah,
well, I did. I love the company, I had a great career, and I got a paycheck, you know, I got health care, it was all that. But I, like, I have a certain way of looking at things, I think a unique point of view, I love to build things. And so when I had my first company, I honestly really did not know what I was doing. But I just had a vision. And I think I got a big chunk of the way there. But I really didn't have the strategy, the business planning experience to make it work. And that's what I got at Lilly. So after being there, 12 years, I felt like I had done a lot. And I wanted to build something from scratch. I'll also add in, we're a blended family of five, my youngest was going into middle school, and I had worked my tail off for another company from when she was in kindergarten to eighth grade. And I missed a lot. I was traveling all the time. And I just wanted more flexibility. So I just had this moment where I thought I'm going to create something from scratch, I'm going to do it so the kids can see it and know it can be done. Right. And I had, you know, we'll chat about this more. So insecurities that I didn't have before I was older, and I knew more and I had more money in my bank account, and so that I could plan out how to take that leap of faith.
So how did you kind of prepare to prepare to do that? Like what gave you the courage to kind of like clip your wings and start the career like, what did you do? Right? What do you feel like you did wrong? Like, what are some of those things?
Well, that is such a great question. And if you were kind enough to send me a few questions, and I started giggling at this one. So what did I do? Right? I wrote a business plan, I wrote my core values. First things first, that is what I spent with my husband, Doug, who's my partner the most amount of time on, I love the idea I have of having a company that is based on strong core values, that you have to write them down, and you have to pay attention to them. It can't be just something that you talk about. And I am a planner and want the roadmap. And so we were very diligent about that business plan before we started, we're self funded. So, you know, it really did matter how much we needed to start when we thought we would be profitable. That stuff was very important. That's what I think we did well. And we continue to do well. What I did wrong, is I totally underestimated how drastic the change was going from working at a company filled with the most fabulous smart women. You know, I 30 People that reported into marketing and a big budget. And I went to the office every day and honestly laughed, and I had fun and we were challenged. And I was using someone else's budget and it was a ball. And then all of a sudden I had the plan. But I was home by myself with you know, a set amount of funds to make it all work. And I was really lonely. And I felt like I got told no all the time. And, you know, production didn't work out or I didn't. I had to go in and figure it out. And with that comes ups and downs. And I did not mentally prepare myself and I say, you know now as a founder, it really is a mental game that you have to go at it longer and more consistently than the person next to you. And I think I'm pretty good at that. But that first year, you know, there were days where I didn't want to get out of bed.
Yeah, I think that's a common thing that a lot of people feel you No, the solitude part of the reason why we started flourish and thrive Academy it was because we didn't want people to feel alone. And like they didn't have someone to talk to or like peers that were like kind of going through the same thing. So you just confirmed that this is like a universal thing with entrepreneurship.
I think for sure, and thank goodness for podcasts like this, because honestly, as a 45 year old, I'm not a soccer mom, but mom that lives in the suburbs. I didn't have a ton of people to go talk to about you, right? No, I wasn't like I could turn to someone at drop off and say, you know, whatever, how's your profit and loss? Go? I mean, they just completely on another planet? So
what's going on with your supply chain issues? That's so funny. So I want to I just want to ask you, that's kind of random, but like, what are your core values?
Well, we spend a lot of time working on them. And I'll actually send them to you, we have them on our website, we're so so proud of them. But the first one is, we make beautiful things that people want to give loved ones for a special occasion. And, you know, when we go through making decisions for the company, that one being first and foremost, if there's a product that's not quite right, if there's a packaging question, always going back to the pinnacle of is this something you are so proud to give that you are, that is so beautiful, that you are so happy to gift it to someone else, that has helped us make a lot of decisions along the way. The other is that we treat people with respect. Having worked in fashion for a long time, I saw companies that didn't peep treat vendors or people that they owed money or their employees with respect. And that was really very important. To me, that was something that I learned at Lilly, they were up standing business people in did the right thing. And so that was very important. Another is that when we do well, we get back. So you know, each month that we make our sales plan, we make a donation to one of two charities. And that's a constant part of who we are. It's not grand, it's not a million dollars. But when we do well, when we hit that plan, it's a part of our culture that we always get back.
I love that. So basically, like everything you're doing to run the company is through the filter of those core values.
Exactly. And when we have a crossroads when something is not quite right, or we have a question, or we have something that we need to solve, we do go back to that, and it helps us answer the question.
I love that that's so good. You know, we talked about core values a lot here from the standpoint of finding like what are the things that matter to you, as a person and matter to your customers. And I think when they're clearly defined, it becomes really easy to kind of put stakes in the ground for your company.
Yeah, it was so helpful. And it is, again, something that I learned at Lilly and now they're so important that I do love sharing them again, we have them on the website, but I thought about, you know, we don't have them in the office. That's crazy. I need to put them on a slick on the wall. Because I think, you know, I started obviously the company with my husband. But basically it was just me. Now we have four full time employees. And I want them if I'm not saying it every day, I feel like I am I'm thinking it, but it does help when it's right in front of you.
That's so awesome. It's so cool. So I have a question. You might have kind of answered this. But I just want to ask you again, if you did. Was there anything that you wish you would have done differently when you left? Like how was it kind of getting into kind of the the shift or change of that support? I mean, I guess you kind of talked about how you went from having this all these people around you to being like alone. And there was a lot going on.
Yeah, so I think a few things on that. I am a truth teller. So I just think I always think honesty is the best policy and I really have a hard time with not being direct. I do try and like make it not too direct. But I just feel like if everybody's on the same page, it makes life so much easier. So when leaving I have to say because I was waiting for some stock to vest before I could go I knew in my head I was going and I wrote the business plan. I was ready to go but I had to wait. Yes, probably like two months. And that was really hard because I did have so much respect for the people that I worked with. I wish I could have just said you know I'm moving up because my heart and started to move on. And so I don't think there's anything I could do to change that. But I will say, when leaving a company, I do think it's really important to do it in a standup way and do the right thing, I and so telling people in the appropriate manner, giving them the appropriate amount of time, that is how I roll. And I do suggest that it's funny leaving companies like, I've gotten divorced, I always say, I want to look back and know that I did my best and that I acted like a lady which may sound dated, but acted with respect. So that would be kind of my advice around leaving, there really isn't any rush, you should do it well. And then I think once I left, and I was feeling a little alone, I got some great advice. And that was, don't take advice from everyone. But find certain people who can be almost like your make believe, awkward. Like, who is your old co worker from Calvin Klein, who's now in digital marketing, I can't really help you. Like, if you're trying to sort out a budget, who was the controller at Lilly Pulitzer, that will have great advice on ABC and D, and kind of pull them in for certain things. Make sure you're asking the right people, appropriate questions, it can get overwhelming. A lot of people want to tell you what to do.
Yeah, that's great advice. I think you do need a board of advisors. And I also think, like when you get to a certain level, right, or someone to get feedback from, but I also love what you said, don't take advice from everyone, because it's funny, I just posted on social media today, like, beware of taking advice from people who haven't walked in your shoes or don't really know what they're talking about. Because I feel like there's so many people who they're well meaning and they want to help you, I think that the intention is there. But if they've never run, like a product based or jewelry company, like it's, it's very different than a lot of other types of businesses. So just because someone owns a business, like having someone who has a big shop, like it's not the same kind of philosophy. In fact, we had someone come in and talk to our community, about profit margins. And I had to interject in the middle of the presentation, she's really smart. And we have our comments speak about finances a lot. But one of the issues was as she was using the business model of a completely different kind of company, and I'm like, our margins in a jewelry company have to be so different, or they're gonna go out of business, because the cost of the materials are so high, you need a much higher profit margin, you can't run a business, at least from like pricing model, you can't run a business by only like marking up your products by 10%. Like you will be broke in like, two seconds. So there are like, you really need that direct experience to understand, like, here are the things that are relatable in our industry. And here are the standards. And these are the things that you should follow. I mean, that's like the one of the reasons also that I built this company is because I feel like people just didn't know. I mean, the amount of people that we support, who don't know how to price their jewelry, they're just pricing drugs to consumer wholesale pricing is just, it's crazy. Like, I would say the majority of people who come in and take our programs that yeah, that's like a common thing.
And one thing I would layer on I do not know everything, but because I have this design and marketing and kind of business experience. There are so many incredibly talented jewelry designers that just have no idea the business side of things. And it makes my heart break because their talents are off the charts. And it's it's so funny. Of course you are filling a niche because is it something about jewelry designers, they're lovely, and they create the most stunning thing with their hands. But they're just the running the business side. They need a little bit of help on but you have to want the help. Yeah, exact so I find like with, especially with marketing, because I love it. I love digital marketing. We spend a lot of money on digital advertising. I love social media. I love posting on Instagram, whatever even that sounds dated. But and people say oh, how do you do it? You know what? You got to love it. You got to get into it because it is it sink or swim you've got it's a table stakes experience, you know. And so I don't know how to make people like it. But I think if they get more comfortable, and they have more tools at their fingertips, meaning if you're scrambling for a photograph every day, of course it becomes a downer. But if you have a closet filled with fabulous images, you're like, Oh, what am I going to pick today?
Exactly. For sure. So was there anything that you had to sharp transition here anything that you had to do to prepare mentally for the leave like was that hard for you? Or
was that was the, that was the hardest part, I made a giant mistake by totally under estimating it. And looking back I, what I would have changed was providing. I'm all about structure for the business and the business plan. But I didn't give myself like a daily structure and plan. And I think if I were gonna go back, or I could give someone some advice on that it would say, it would be, you know, what's your day going to look like? Are you going to work on product and design first, and then, you know, build content, you know, and then take a lunch break, and then take a walk. I know, it sounds so silly. But like, all of a sudden, I felt like I was free floating through my day. And while I had a kind of grand business plan, I had broken it down into smaller tasks.
That is, so how do you plan your week, this is so fascinating to me, because like, I feel like everything you're talking about is like everything we teach in our programs, because that's a huge thing. Like people just, I remember when so I co founded this company with Robin Kramer, my dear friend, and we interviewed someone or not interviewed someone, we used to offer these, like 90 minute coaching sessions or with someone booked it with us, she's like, I really need some help with sales, you know, I blah, blah, blah. And I'm prolific at creating and this and that. So we gave her plan. We're like structure your week, here's how to structure your day, blah, blah, blah. And she's like, that won't work for me. Because that structure kills my creativity, I have a completely different belief system, because I feel like in structure, creativity thrives because, you know, your brain actually knows when you're supposed to be creative versus the other thing. So how did you get to a place where you were able to create that structure? And what is your week look like now?
Well, I would say at first, I didn't have it, and then I figured it out. For me not working from home is a big deal. So I'm working from home right now. But I needed to get out. And so for the first two years, our you know, office, and we our own distribution center, we ship that detail 100 packages a day, all over the United States, but our DC is in our office. So I always knew that that's how I wanted it to be. So from the very beginning part of my day was picking and packing. It wasn't quite the magnitude that it is now but so I was at home, we had picking and packing in the guest room. And so it was kind of messy in my personal space. And my personal life could get a little too entwined, and I could get distracted. So I knew we kind of made it when we were able to move the DC from the guest room into the living room. So it's a big deal. And I hired someone to come in and help with picking and packing. Because I'm not sure I'm answering your question completely. But the evolution will help. I find when I'm overwhelmed, I focus on the small tasks. So I would spend all of my time instead of planning the marketing calendar, or even the product calendar, I would pick and pack.
Yeah, you're doing the like admin tasks instead of the important things.
And I still do that to this day. And I'll tell you how. But so after two years, I thought, oh my gosh, this is so exciting. We've got someone picking and packing, it's time to move out of the house. We rented honestly, a dumb around the corner. But we put lipstick on a pig and made it look great. We hired our first employee. And honestly, that's when COVID hit, oh, gosh, I thought it was the end. Like many of your listeners for us, I mean, COVID, double, tripled, quadrupled our business. So all of a sudden, kind of the structure became incredibly important. And I had one employee at the time who was focused on product. So I spent my time mostly on distribution and marketing. And we are organized under those three pillars. So product distribution and marketing. Now each has one person that fills that spot, as well as someone who does picking and packing. So currently, my day is it's a balance of long term and almost like I think with COVID as it continues kind of the short term messes that are happening. But as we kind of come out of it, my primary role is to look right now at fourth quarter and making sure that we have the best product quality is always on my mind and I think again, with what's going on in the world and honestly just working The factors is tough, like you've got to be on quality all the time. And what my current weakness is, is that I spend way too much time on customer service. And that's a real pulls at my heartstrings, because, you know, we get 75 messages in and out for customer service. Yeah, maybe 50 People want to Well, and that includes DNS, everything comes in through just everything comes into one spot. And it's a conversation and people say, I want to layer with this. And, you know, my chain broke or Panda it is, it's a lot of talking. And I always felt like it was a badge of honor to be answering those and kept me very close to the pulse of the business. And I think to a certain extent, that is very true. But now I use it as like, when I'm overwhelmed, I hide in customer service. So I think you know, my goals right now are we're actually hiring someone to help all the time with the picking and packing customer service, and wholesale, which is only about 15% of our business. And that will help me start looking forward again. Because every time I do, it pays off.
Yep. That's for sure. Like planning in the future or creating a vision like all those things. Exactly. So is your product. Are you making it in house? Or do you work? You work with many? It sounds like you work with manufacturers? I'm just like piecing things together? Yep. Is it produced in the US or
all over? So when I first started we were making in New York and Rhode Island chains in Massachusetts. And I drew everything I work with a CAD designer, I've always been an illustrator. So you know, we make coin jewelry and charms, the coins are all double sided. They have a word that goes along with each of them. And I actually wrote the word and the meaning behind it before I designed the coins. It was really about what that word celebrated. So and in a way that's marketing, even though I don't like that, but it is it's like, if you can connect with a word like forever, and the word say, forever, find your way home to me. And I mean, I say it, a customer reads it, our kids are going off to college, and we burst into tears like is like the connection. It's not like who matters, who cares what the jewelry it looks like. But like the words are so important. And then the jewelry is beautiful. So sketch to CAD. And then again, we were making everything very close to home. And then during the pandemic we had to expand. So now we make a ton in LA, we make some things in China, we make some things in India, we make some things in Thailand, we're really making things in a lot of different places. And I'm so happy about that.
Awesome. That's so cool.
Yeah, it is cool to have it, it was a real necessity. And this is such a silly thing. But right now we're actually I have a good flow with the jewelry. But it's packaging. Oh my gosh, packaging is driving me crazy. It's such a big part of the experience for our customers, especially as direct to consumer. We want her to get it and just like light up head to toe. And we just cannot make enough boxes. We're going through them so quickly. And we do a trunk show and it's 100 box. And I'm like, why am I valuing the boxes more than the jewelry? It's ridiculous. It's because of the scarcity of it. So now we're going through what we did with the with the jewelry with the coins, and now we'll have two factories that we work with, as opposed to kind of begging one to get our pieces out the door.
Yeah, that it's hard. I think that a lot of people were struggling kind of with, like, as I mentioned earlier, like supply chain, like making sure that they have they can get their orders in time. I know a lot of people who are held up especially with international.
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, again. So with jewelry, we do end up airing in the jewelry, but with packaging, you're voting and then
yeah, it takes forever. I mean, we're just not
used to that. And that's why I love jewelry so much is because I can sketch something, or have an idea. We can have a sample in days or weeks. And that's how my mind works. So to think that about is going to slowly meander over with our boxes that are so precious to us drives me crazy.
That's so funny. This has been such a great conversation. Are there anything we missed or any other pieces of advice you'd want to give someone who is thinking about starting a business or thinking about leaving their corporate job to take the leap into entrepreneurship and starting their own jewelry company?
Yes, of course. I always have tons Advice. But I feel like I might be a broken record. People are afraid to write a business plan, they should turn to you, they should turn, there are places to look. But I think it is irresponsible to start a business without a plan. And so forcing yourself, even if it's not in your natural wheelhouse, it just makes your life so much easier. And then gives you the time to spend on the creative because you know, you have that roadmap for yourself. And whatever, I feel like a mom or a dad that's like nagging about it, but write your business plan, write it every year, look at it quarterly and make sure you're on track. We have the business plan, and we have quarterly initiatives that we really hold ourselves to and evaluate. We have sales goals, we have monthly meetings to review each month that has passed. I mean, if you want to be a business, you have to set yourself up as a business. Yes,
this is true. I agree. It seems
so silly. But like, like, I am sure you just say it all the time. I know you do.
And just you know to frame like, if you're new to business planning, it can be really short. It doesn't have to be like 30 pages, it could be something that is consumable for you. Like, I think that's an important takeaway, too. It doesn't have to be a massive thing you're never going to look at again. But I do think it's important.
Yeah. And one part that was really fun is identifying who your customer is. Yes. And I think as the importance of digital advertising. I mean, it's what's so so important that it is obviously still important, but a little bit harder right now, having a real vision of who she is. Yeah, just like the core values helps you say yes and no to a lot of things. Because as kind of a small business owner, you only have a certain amount of time. If you can look at a store and look at the brands in it, and say yes or no, pretty easily because you know who your customer is, that alleviates a lot of stress. So for sure to pulling those pictures. It's like kind of the yin to the yang of the business plan. It's like the fun, pretty side.
For sure. That's so great. Well, Jane, thank you so much for being here. Where can everyone find you?
Shane when.com That's J A N e w i n.com. And then on Instagram, we're Jane when underscore jewelry. Awesome visit send a note to customer service. I'll write you back.
Love it. That's amazing. Thanks for being here. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to the show today. This is Tracy Matthews, signing off till next time. If you haven't done so yet, make sure that you pick up my best selling book, the desire brand effect stand out in a saturated market with a timeless jewelry brand. Also, check out some of the other episodes over here on my YouTube channel. You're gonna love them. This is Tracy signing off for now and I'm looking forward to the next one.