People & Strategy Summer 2017 Vol. 40 Issue 3 - 58
In First Person: Jessica Herrin
People + Strategy guest editors David Reimer and Scott Kelly and
associate Mary Boland sat down with Stella & Dot founder and CEO
Jessica Herrin to discuss how the company leverages technology to
build a culture that seeks to delight employees, its more than 50,000
entrepreneurial women, and the company's global customer base.
Stella & Dot Offers Flexibility and Flair
P+S: To set context, what was your
original vision for Stella & Dot and how
has that vision evolved with time and
Jessica: From the beginning, Stella &
Dot was not only about creating a company, but also a life. That meant that I
would need to be passionately aligned
and soulfully connected to what I was
pursuing rather than just trying to create a company for commercial success.
My passion and energy were in creating
better work for women. My original inspiration came through an experience
in my first company, WeddingChannel.
com, where I met a group of women
who were working for an old-school,
direct-selling company. I recognized
how profound it was that these outdated models were defining flexible work
for women, and knew that I wanted to
redefine flexible entrepreneurial work
P+S: From that original idea, did you dive
straight into the current business model,
or has it changed as you have learned
along the way?
Jessica: I definitely dove into the business model, but I had to dive in as a student. My background was in enterprise
software and ecommerce, not in goods
manufacturing, and certainly not in
direct sales. I spent years studying the
model, going to the trade association
PEOPLE + STRATEGY
conferences, and walking a mile in the
shoes of the independent seller to learn
what the real business opportunity was.
P+S: How have you developed and
sustained culture within the central
function of your company?
Jessica: We have a very mission-driven,
entrepreneurial culture that originated
at our founding. We bootstrapped the
company from the beginning, were
very scrappy, and were always trying to
find new, creative ways to get something
done. I think our culture reflects both
our origin and our values. I have always
sought to hire missionaries, not mercenaries. I look for artisans in the business
who are looking to create, not just flip
something. The number one thing that
you can do for culture is hire well. Once
we hire, we make sure the origin and
mission of the company is known to all.
We want our hires to use their individual genius to think creatively, and we also
want them to carry our core values and
history with them as they do. Culture
can be a great intention, but it cannot
be described in PowerPoint; it has to be
deliberately worked on every single day
by dedicated individuals.
P+S: Have you found this talent easily-
or has this been a challenge?
Jessica: Finding great talent for any
business is a challenge. I think if you do
not think it is a challenge, you are probably not spending enough time on it or
holding a high enough bar. A company
never hires perfectly, and when you
don't, you have to correct the mistake
with kindness, candor, and efficiency.
Our greatest challenge has been making sure that we spend enough time on
the hiring process to find the candidates who will fit, but also contribute
to our culture. Culture, like marriage,
takes a lot of work. What is imperative
for both is that you choose the right
person from the beginning, or else no
amount of work or counseling can fix it
later. You have to have the right chemistry and right fit up front.
P+S: How does your organizational
structure support the business and the
culture? What are the challenges?
Jessica: If you look at where we began, we used to be a single-category
product, in a single brand, in a single
country. Today, we are multi-brand,
multi-category, and multi-national.
Since our founding, the Stella & Dot
family of brands has paid out well over
$400 million in flexible income to over
50,000 business owners in three brands
and six countries. Clearly, the level
of complexity has grown within our
organizational structure. We constantly
assess the organization to make sure
that decisions can be made quickly,
and by the right people at the right lev-