Undergraduate Degree, University of Pennsylvania
MBA, NYU Stern School of Business
We all know that girl: the one who’s the ultimate insider. She can click off the best boutique hotels, let you know if that newest release is really worth seeing, and advise you on whether or not that local burger joint is dog-friendly. She’s a mover and a shaker. A connoisseur. Most importantly, she’s a connector.
To many women, that girl is Jess Levin. But that wasn’t enough. Jess wanted to be that woman for every woman — every woman getting married, that is. After hearing many blissful friends turn to her in frustration over how difficult it was to plan and prep for their wedding, Jess decided it was time to create a space where “brides are able to turn inspiration into reality and connect with the right vendors.”
Enter Carats & Cake, Jess’s dream company that helps others make their biggest “big day” dreams come true.
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be both wildly optimistic and resilient. Building something out of nothing isn’t easy.
How did you discover your current job?
The first time I thought about the wedding space, I was sitting in a business school lecture discussing De Beers, the diamond company. Naturally, when someone brings up diamonds, I think of engagement rings! After spending a few months researching the industry and hearing some of my newly engaged and married friends complain about the challenges of planning a wedding, I realized there was an opportunity to simplify the process somehow.
What responsibilities do you have in your role?
As CEO at an early-stage company, my daily tasks include a little bit of everything. But my biggest responsibility is to keep the team motivated and moving ahead. No two days are ever the same and involve everything from development and design work to investor or wedding industry meetings. The variety is one of the things I love most about what I do.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I love the industry, the problem we’re solving, and the small wins that come along as we slowly change the way local wedding vendors do business.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
The most challenging thing is focus — for the overall company, our team and myself. I’m constantly being pulled in a million different directions and I have to know how to differentiate between what’s a distraction and what will truly move the company forward.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I once asked the ever elusive “work/life balance” question of one of the female entrepreneurs I admire most. She left me with this: “There is no secret. Embrace the imbalance.” Ultimately, I try to do what works best for me, the people I love, and the company — though this fluctuates daily (if not hourly).
I also know that if I don’t take care of myself, then I’m no good to the business. Finding time to recharge with Soul Cycle, a quick manicure, or dinner date with my love is essential.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
Not yet! I think success is a constant journey. Each time I reach a milestone, I’m already looking forward to what I need to accomplish next.
What are some of the rules you live by?
“If you don’t build your own dreams, you will spend your life building them for somebody else.”
The other one is, “Always have dessert.”
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
If you have it all today, you will have nothing to look forward to.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be both wildly optimistic and resilient. Building something out of nothing isn’t easy. It’s all about learning how to handle the roller coaster and knowing that there will be good and bad days and, if the good days outweigh the bad, then you’re doing something right.