A new direction
Michelle Allen was working as director of sponsorship at Intelligence Squared and had been new business development director of a leading media and marketing analysts. She had spent 14 years in media monitoring, but she wasn't satisfied with her career.
She had been full time up until her children were born and had travelled extensively. She went back three days a week after her first child was born seven years ago. There was a lot of pressure to meet targets and she had lost interest in the job. “I had been doing it for a long time and I wanted to feel passionate about something and to do something for myself,” she said.
She had heard of the jewellry company Stella & Dot through her brother who lives in the US. Her sister in law had bought her gifts from the company and she loved it. After talking to her sister in law she decided to contact the company directly and met its chairman, Mike Lohner, so it was not surprising that when it launched in the UK last year she was one of the first in line to be a stylist.
“When I met Mike I asked him things like how often new ranges come out, how flexible the work was and how many hours I needed to do to be successful,” she says. “I was trying to work out how many hours I needed to put in to replace my salary.”
Stylists [as the organisation calls its independent sales entrepreneurs] can earn 30% of anything they sell, but the bigger money comes from building successful teams of stylists as you get a percentage of anything they sell. Michelle knew several friends and contacts who were not happy in their jobs. Her initial team consisted of around six or seven people, but it has now grown to 32, including six women in Ireland. She plans to get to 64 over the next six months.
Stella & Dot [www.stelladot.co.uk] is one of Inc 500’s fastest growing companies with over 13,000 stylists in the US and 500 plus in the UK. It aims to bring together direct sales, ecommerce, retail merchandising and social media
Michelle says the chance to be a stylist with the company and sell its jewellry informally through her contacts “ticks so many boxes” for her. “You have the flexibility to flex up or down; the jewellry is gorgeous and there's no hard selling,” she says. “I literally lay it out on a table. I have been in sales and this is the easiest sale I have ever made.”
Half the range is under £40. When you start you pay £198 for a starter pack which includes some of the best-selling items, ring measurers, order forms and so forth.
You then get someone to host a “trunk show” where you show the jewellry, normally in their house. The timing will depend on what suits the hostess. It could be over coffee mornings, evening drinks or Sunday brunch. Michelle edits a template invitation for hostesses to send out to their friends, coaches them and tells them to text or email a reminder when the date nears for the trunk show.
Hostesses get a free gift and discounts on jewellry. “It's a fantastic opportunity for them to get their friends together and shop with no pressure on them to buy and we suggest keeping it simple and not offering too much food and drink,” says Michelle.
She says the support from head office is very good. “There is support every step of the way and regular emails, calls and training. There's an online stylist lounge where every training video is posted, for instance, how to talk to a potential hostess,”she says, “and there's the opportunity for promotion through achieving certain goals.”
Michelle works from home and tends to work around her children, who are five and seven. The work means she can pick up her children from school and if she's working in the evening, her husband or a babysitter takes over.
In the school holidays she works less and tries to organise trunk shows in the evenings or at weekends.
A lot of her work revolves around coaching her team, but she says it doesn't seem like work. When a new stylist is signed up she does a two-hour training session with them, ideally face to face, but it can be done over Skype or on the phone. After that she regularly touches base with them.
Michelle reckons she makes about £225 per trunk show and also uses the trunk shows to sign up other potential stylists.
She says you can make as much money as you want to, depending on how much time you invest. She thinks she now does a 40-hour week and says her earnings have outstripped what she used to earn in advertising.
She was recently promoted to star stylist and every month she and another stylist in the North London area host a team meeting to get stylists together and to do some training. “It's a lovely community,” she says. “I've made such lovely friends through this work.”
*If you are interested in becoming a stylist, contact Stella & Dot at www.stelladot.co.uk.