University of Pennsylvania - B.A. in International Relations
Sandy Sloan's father was an entrepreneur in the import-export business in Taiwan, but after she graduated from college, Sandy opted for a different route. She simply didn't feel passionate about selling and manufacturing leather belts. However, she knew that one day, she'd start her own business to fuel the same passion her father had.
During her years as an expat in Hong Kong, she came close to opening a restaurant, exporting pashmina shawls from India and even considered restoring and exporting antique Tibetan cabinets from Nepal. But all those projects were put on hold with the births of her daughters and their subsequent repatriation.
After nine years as a stay-at-home mom, Sandy happened upon Stella & Dot at a fundraiser in December 2008 and says it literally changed her life. In January 2009, what began as a little "side mommy gig" to earn for her shoe slush fund has now become a full-time business earning her a six figure income. While the styling side of the business is immensely fun, Sandy says mentoring women on starting and further developing their own Stella & Dot businesses is what makes her get out of bed excited to start a new workday. The ability to achieve true financial freedom and a chance to live life on one's own terms is incredible, she says, and to share it with others and coach them to success is priceless.
When you love what you do, the line blurs between work and play.
Stella & Dot Week: This interview is part three in a series of five interviews featuring Stella & Dot employees this week.
How did you discover your current job? Tell us a little bit about the path that led you to where you are today.
My women’s group that meets monthly put together a holiday boutique to raise money for a local charity. Stella & Dot was one of the vendors present and I fell in love with the jewelry, the quality and prices. The stylist was going to do a trunk show with me, but even before booking it, she sent me a letter suggesting I become a stylist because she thought I’d be great at it.
I met the CEO and founder, as well as the chief creative officer, at an informal group opportunity meeting where I was full of concerns and skepticism, intending to turn the gig down. Instead, I walked out realizing I had to somehow be a part of this rocket ship and I’d regret it if I let my fears and “what other people might think” deter me from what might possibly be my calling.
It started as a fun way to make $1,000 a month to pay for my kids’ activities and do some guilt-free shopping. After consistently doing that for three months, I was on cloud nine; visibly happier to everyone around me and having the time of my life! And I realized I wanted so much more. I wanted to share my newfound joy, sense of accomplishment and empowerment with other women because I had rediscovered ME and it felt so good. There also was a financial need: I wanted to relieve my husband of the financial burden that beset us when he started his own business. If I could earn both kids’ private school tuitions, wouldn’t that be something! That’s when I decided it was time to build a team so I could coach and mentor others to success.
What is your typical day like, and what types of things do you do in your job?
I don’t follow a set daily schedule. One huge perk about my business is the flexibility. I’m definitely working full-time these days, but on my time.
So, I time block as best I can and each day includes coaching girls one-on-one via phone, booking trunk shows and working with and for my hostesses to put together a great trunk show for them, which includes creating/printing invitations and customer service. (On average, I do six trunk shows each month.) There are days I speak with prospective stylists who want to explore the business opportunity, days that I'm training my entire team via conference call or in person, or writing emails and posts on Facebook to recognize team members’ accomplishments and efforts big AND small.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Hands down, the most rewarding part of my job is the ability to change another woman’s life. I have a renewed sense of purpose because I work with women to achieve their own definitions of success. For some, the potential is so huge and when they begin to see it themselves, the transformation is incredible. It’s so powerful to help someone else feel more fulfilled, accomplished and appreciated, and even more so when that person can find financial independence and freedom to live the life she wants. My team inspires me and I have a weekly love fest with the incredible leaders I'm mentoring.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
More often than not, it’s how to be an effective coach to each individual. People are different. Some are easy to motivate because they're so connected to their sense of purpose and their goals and the things that get them fired up are easily identifiable. With others, it’s not so easy. And when I want it more badly for them than they want it for themselves, sometimes it takes me more time than it should to realize that. This is a good challenge, though! The toughest challenges are the ones that push you to grow in areas you need to develop the most. Each new little victory affirms this path I’ve chosen.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
I am such a workaholic that I don’t see my girlfriends with the same frequency as I used to, nor do I speak with them during the day as much. And so when I do choose time with my friends, I choose very carefully, and it’s usually with my closest friends and people who lift me up. I absolutely love what I do and I’m also driven and competitive, so it’s a natural tendency to just want to work, work, work. There’s such a strong fun, social aspect to my business that it often fills my cup. When you love what you do, the line blurs between work and play. The two coexist beautifully for me on a daily basis.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
“When people show you their true colors, believe them.” I see the best in people and I want to be the one to make their light bulb moments happen. I want to believe them when they say they want to do the work, that they want to grow their businesses and they have goals. Notice, I didn’t say BIG goals. I just said “goals.” But I’ve learned to believe what I see and not what I hear.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today?
I still think it’s not possible to have total equality in a dual-income household. My husband is incredibly supportive and I truly couldn't have spread my wings to fly if he wasn’t my biggest cheerleader and if he didn’t pick up more chores and home admin work. That said, I still do the grocery shopping 99 percent of the time, I still do the laundry more than 90 percent of the time and I cook at least three meals each week. The rest of the meals are either leftovers, eating out or ordering in. In this economy where so many women will likely want or need to contribute to make ends meet, it’s heartbreaking to think of how wretchedly tired they feel because of antiquated social norms and patterns of behavior.
Who are your role models?
My mother has been my biggest role model on how to treat people and live a life filled with joy. She is kind and hugely generous, openhearted and non-prejudiced. One of the greatest joys in life is great food and everyone's welcome to come over for dinner as long as there’s at least a 6th degree of separation. And best of all, she smiles all day long and laughs at just about everything. So much joy to share. She lives in a country club community and is equally friendly and intimate with the countless staff and groundskeepers as she is with her member-friends. No one is beneath her. I share her tendency to forgive and give second, and third chances, hence the lesson I needed to learn (in business) to believe people’s true colors when they are revealed.
I tend to get my inspiration from strong women who go after what they want with conviction, fervor, hard work and grace. Oprah comes to mind, but I really don’t have to look further than Stella & Dot. I couldn’t find a better role model than our CEO & founder, Jessica Herrin.
What are some of the rules you live by?
I'm not the smartest, but I dare you'll find someone who will work harder. I wholeheartedly believe in meritocracy.
Life balance is a myth. It has caused so much stress for me to try to achieve that. I believe that when opportunity is there for you to build, accomplish and grow, you must seize the day. It will absolutely cause an imbalance for that moment in time! Even if that period lasts a few years, the fruits of your labor will allow you to downshift later and that’s when your work-life balance comes back. Work hard now to play later and you’ll have it all. Play hard now and you’ll still be looking for your pot of gold. My favorite quote by the Roman philosopher, Seneca, is, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Approach life and work with generosity of spirit, forgiveness in your soul and most of all, with gratitude. Gratitude was not always an active practice of mine. I knew when to be grateful at obvious times, but because I’m so driven I used to forget to celebrate and be grateful for accomplishments big or small. With an active practice of gratitude, you're able to give even more of yourself and then karma takes over! The more you give and are grateful, the more you receive.
Good is the enemy of great. And great is the gateway to brilliantly outstanding. I don’t do anything just to be good enough. Be awesome. Learn what it takes to be outstanding by constantly educating yourself so you can have dynamic growth! Have mentors. I learned that it’s not only important to have a mentor who is older than you, but also a mentor who’s much younger. Share your best practices with your peers to learn from one another! When I worked in Corporate America, I found that women were so competitive in a mean-spirited way, they’d sooner die than give you any tips that would give you a competitive edge. But it comes back to karma. Give and ye shall receive. When we help others, we’re actually helping ourselves in an accelerated fashion. It’s actually a cornerstone of our success at Stella & Dot. We all help one another and share best practices on a daily basis.
What advice do you have for women who want to be in your industry?
Be tenacious! How boring would life be if every single person said “yes” to everything you offered them? What will make you successful? Not giving up. Calling more people so your chances of booking more shows goes up. Learn what your success ratios are and use those to help keep you motivated.
For example, how many phone calls does it take before you reach someone in person? And when you reach someone in person, how many unique contacts does it take before you can book a show? If layering your income with coaching commissions is part of your definition of success, then sponsoring conversations also falls into this rule of numbers. Leaders simply talk to more people and ask more often!
Also, this is your business, so a high level of customer service and business integrity can only serve you well in addition to keeping it fun! If your business follows the social selling or party planning model, the foundation of our business is the human need to connect with people. You are the facilitator in that. Be warm, approachable and socially savvy, yet authentic and fun! People will want you to bring the gift of glam and good times to them.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
With regard to work or personal life? I’ll be a mother to 15- and 17-year-old girls, so we know what that’s going to be like!
As for Stella & Dot, I'll be doing the same thing I am doing today. The business is simple, but not easy. We book, sell and sponsor. And once we sponsor, we coach them and we celebrate their accomplishments! The excitement comes from constantly learning new ways to hone my craft and from the new people I meet, as well as the deepening relationships with those I already know. I hope to be a Star Director then, as it will mean I'll have cultivated a strong leadership team, as well as some executive leaders who are self-motivated and dedicated. I see myself (through Stella & Dot) as the root of joy, passion and fulfillment for the women I meet.
What are three things you love aside from your job?
Cooking and entertaining. Reading. Traveling with my family.
What’s your favorite wear-to-work piece from Stella & Dot’s Summer Collection?
The Palomino necklace is the ideal day-to-night piece. Subdued coral hues with antiqued gold in a classic style, it’s a statement piece that looks great with a white button-down blouse and transitions easily for a dinner out.