Chantel launched Chloe + Isabel after a 15 year tenure in the corporate jewelry industry. She developed, designed and sourced jewelry for brands such as Kenneth Cole, Gap Inc., Macy's, Nordstrom, Target, Kohl's and specialty retailers, and served as Director of Luxury Jewelry for DFS, division of LVMH. Chantel's interest in the direct selling space stemmed from her years at Santa Clara University, where she paid her way through college selling Cutco Cutlery, and was recognized as the top producer in the Western U.S. She regularly guest lectures at Santa Clara University, San Francisco State University, and several specialty fashion and design schools, on topics ranging from product development to retail math and merchandising.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have been blessed with amazing mentors throughout my life that have taken me under their wings and shown me that you can get ahead with kindness, integrity, and hard work. I love helping people discover their true passion in the workplace and help support and develop them to realize those goals.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the founder of Chloe + Isabel?
While my career in corporate fashion and retail gave me the experience and knowledge from building a brand and designing and producing jewelry to managing large cross-functional teams in $15 billion retail companies, I know I would have never set out to re-imagine the direct selling industry if I hadn't myself been a seller at the age of 17 and 18. It changed my life in such a positive and powerful way. Not only did it help pay my way for a private university but also gave me confidence in my entrepreneurial endeavors that I incorporated throughout my career.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I didn't fully understand the importance of this until I became a mother. I have always loved what I do so much that it never felt like work. After having my son, who is now 4, I learned that it is quality and not quantity that makes it work for us. I manage my time so that during the weekdays, I give 100% of myself to Chloe + Isabel. But in order to do that - I have to give my family 100% on Saturdays and Sundays (at least during the day) so that we can build meaningful experiences and memories without distractions. I make sure we always do something that a 4 year old will love and inevitably we do as well.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Chloe + Isabel?
Seeing the positive impact that Chloe + Isabel has on our merchandisers' lives is hands down the highlight for me every week. Hearing their stories is both powerful and inspiring. I've watched women transform right before my eyes into confident leaders and entrepreneurs as well as realize financial goals that were life-changing. The greatest challenge has been the sacrifices you end up making in your personal life with both friends and family. A start-up is a massive time commitment that you just have to prepare people for so they understand when you disappear for long periods of time!
What advice can you offer individuals who are seeking a career in the jewelry industry?
This could be a long answer because it depends on if you want to be in design or merchandising or sales, etc. Assuming it is design - then I would recommend going to a design program like FIT, Parsons, RISD, etc. Then get experience at a jewelry company (even if very low pay) based on how you like to design. For example, if you like to draw - then going to a designer jewelry brand is key. As you develop your skills - doors will open.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I find the lack of women in CEO roles concerning. We still end up in more "supporting roles" than true leadership roles and it is more challenging to have the same kind of impact.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I think it is wonderful that she is having a positive impact on women around the world and taking such an organized and thoughtful approach for a more powerful impact. We need more female leaders to come forward with their point of view so we can have different types of empowering messages that can reach a wide range of women.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire so many of our female leaders. Some of the female leaders I admire most are no longer with us but I am so grateful that they started to pave the path for us in a time that was far more challenging to disrupt the status quo. Today - I find that I most drawn to those who show you can do it all without sacrificing family. Many women feel they have to choose but you can do both successfully. I think Diane Von Furstenberg is a great example of a female entrepreneur who has been a positive leader in the fashion industry for many years, is a mother and a grandmother, and consistently gives back to her community (NYC) as well as makes meaningful contributions to women's causes. She is a leader far beyond the walls of a boardroom or corporate office.
What are your hopes for the future of Chloe + Isabel?
I can't wait for the day the Chloe + Isabel is helping and empowering women all around the world. We get many requests from women in other countries wanting and needing this opportunity and I can't wait to say Yes.
Follow Laura Dunn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lauraemilyd