#59 Nadine Kahane: CEO & Founder of Stone and Strand

Nadine conceived of STONE AND STRAND while getting her MBA at Wharton. She wanted to do away with the boring world of high-end jewelry, as it felt dry and irrelevant for the modern, self-purchasing woman. Instead, she wanted to create an online space for fine jewelry, combining super-relatable customer service with an offering of expressive, cool, and on-trend pieces.  She grew up between Singapore and London, before happily settling in NYC.

What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?

Accountability - 

I’m a big believer in taking ownership and being accountable in different aspects of your life. Not just in what you say you are going to do, but also emotionally in terms of how you are feeling and the energy that you bring into a room. I often reference Viktor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” where he writes “You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you”.

Curiosity -

I crave novelty, something that serves me well in our trend-driven business. I love trying new things, going to new places, and place huge value on continuous learning in life. I believe in surrounding yourself with people from whom you can learn and who expand your world. In a work context, this means hiring people who are way better at what they do than you are and really trying to figure out what will make someone succeed in that role. 

Resilience - 

I think a lot about how to best help my children develop resilience and believe that being able to bounce back gracefully from failure is one of the most important skills in life. This partly comes down to self-confidence, but I also believe that resourcefulness plays a huge role in allowing someone to try out a different path to the same outcome after experiencing failure going down the first route.

Success in entrepreneurship rarely follows a linear path, and as a CEO I’m constantly having to deal with unexpected curveballs. I need to be able to have a bad day, but bounce back and be back on top of my game very quickly in order for us to move forward.

Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?

In the early days of STONE AND STRAND, we did a pop up in Philadelphia that was a huge flop. I remember driving there in a packed car loaded with jewelry displays, props and diamonds only to then proceed to sell absolutely nothing over the entire weekend (that is, apart from one sale to my friend whom, in total desperation, I asked to come buy something). One sale seemed better than nothing!

The experience taught me a lot about doing trunk shows and the importance of really knowing your customer base at a personal level. We jumped at the opportunity because it was an established brand-name store, but I didn’t take the time to really evaluate whether or not it was the right place for us as a company. 

What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future? 

I’m personally very inspired by the power of femininity an am constantly motivated by the ambitious ladies both at STONE AND STRAND, as well as the wider community that surrounds me in NYC. One of my favorite parts of this role is dreaming up new collaborations under our “GOOD GIRL” platform and we have a really exciting one coming up. So watch this space!

#58 Domonique Rose: Founder of Domonique Rose Florals

Born and raised in Southern California, Domonique Rose is a self-taught florist with an education in apparel merchandising and marketing, which led her to a career in fashion event production, e-commerce management and operations for start-ups. In addition to experience with business operations, she has over 10 years of retail experience ranging from department stores, boutiques, pop ups, and trade shows. 

After years of grinding in the corporate world, Domonique needed a change and found her way back to her true passion. Since launching her floral business, she has designed for several weddings, events and clients including NBCUniversal, Stassi Schroeder, MAGIC Tradeshow's SWIMLessons, and MR Mag Awards in New York.

Domonique would describe her aesthetic as Boho meets English garden. No design is like the last and her goal is to create a new experience for her clients with every event, delivery, arrangement, and gift she creates.

What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?

I N T E G R I T Y

I put so much thought and care into each design not only because I want the best possible result, but also because each piece is representative of who I am as a person and of my brand. I'm being trusted with bringing my client's vision to life and aim to exceed their expectations. I wear my heart on my sleeve and this translates through to my work.

R E L A T I O N S H I P S

I'm a firm believer that people buy into products because they connect with the person behind the brand. I know my designs are only as good as the relationships I cultivate as a businesswoman, mom, and friend. As I grow my business, I am making a point to connect with people in different industries and networks, planting seeds where I can. 

E D U C A T I O N

Education is the path to enlightenment and offering more to the world. From an early age I was taught that you can never stop learning because when you stop learning, what's the point?

Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?

On one of my first events I didn't account for labor costs (read: thought I could handle more than I could and realized I needed more help) and it ate into my margins. As I was first starting off, I felt uncomfortable asking for what I needed, but one of the biggest takeaways I've learned, especially since becoming a mom, is my time is valuable and in order to achieve the designs and aesthetic I want for my clients, I need the proper resources to get the job done. 

What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

I just recently designed florals for Brittany Cartwright's (Vanderpump Rules) bridal shower. That was so fun, and I can't wait to see them on aTV once the episode airs!

I'm also working on designing capsule collections for consumers to order directly through my site. Florals have always created the perfect accent to any event or space. My goal is to make the flowers part of the experience, no matter how big or small the event or setting is. These collections make it easy to plug-and-play with your event, dinner, etc. All you'll have to do is select the color scheme, designs, and quantities you'd like, give us the delivery date, and we'll take care of it from there. Ideally, I'd like to launch within the next month or so and update the collections occasionally throughout the year. 

Lastly, I've had this itch to go brick and mortar. My vision is for the storefront to become more than just a flower shop. It will be a destination for locals and passersby alike to be intrigued to come in and, most importantly, come back for more. Quality products, in-store experiences, and a sense of community are the key ingredients to making this a success. I'm actively looking for the best location to make this a reality and am excited to bring this to fruition!

#57 Heather Sullivan: Founder of Vincent James Designs

_Heather Sullivan.jpg

Vincent James is a collection of elevated essentials with a sustainable approach. The brand creates the foundational pieces for a chic, timeless and minimal capsule wardrobe that allows you to get dressed with confidence and ease every time and for everything your day brings. Each piece is made using the highest quality natural fabrics and sourced and sewn sustainably and ethically.

What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?

My top 3 core values are empowering women, using as sustainable a process and product as possible and producing those products ethically.  
The concept of Vincent James was conceived from my own desire to feel empowered again.  I was emerging from a fog of having 3 children under 4 and in a funk emotionally. I wanted to feel like myself again and have something for me besides my family.  Expressing myself through style and design and feeling good in my clothes was something I had always valued but had lost in the chaos of raising my children. I wanted and needed a capsule collection of functional and sustainable clothing that was still chic, made me feel put-together and could take on all that my busy days held but I didn’t have the time to think much about what to wear let alone stand in front of my closet and play with styles like I used to do.  I know how much better my day can be when I feel good in what I’m wearing and I hope that by designing timeless, elevated essential pieces, women can build a capsule wardrobe that helps them express their personal style and feel good in their own skin. Ultimately I hope Vincent James pieces empower women to be better, kinder and more creative themselves. I honestly know they’re doing that for me.

Another core value is sustainability which is rooted in compassion and concern for our Mother Earth.  I grew up very close to my grandparents (Vincent James and Mary Alice Blandina) who grew a beautiful garden and instilled in me a sense of responsibility for our environment, health and quality of our food.  I lived in New Zealand in college where the appreciation and reliance on the land was a strong value and part of the Kiwi livelihood. It was also the place where I was initially introduced to merino wool. I studied nutrition and believe strongly in the quality of our diet and the more I read the more convinced I am that our health can only be as strong as our environment. And when I started having children I was awakened to the damage our clothing and consumption can have on our (or actually their) world - particularly all the synthetic polyester clothing. But I still love to make and I love fashion so I choose to design pieces that are as natural, respectful, timeless and high-quality as possible so that we can consume less but better.  The clothing is all made in Chicago by people who make a living wage and can make a life with what they make. To me, that’s another important piece of sustainability.  

Ethical production, my 3rd core value for my business, compliments and completes the other values of sustainability and empowering women.  Most of our clothes are made by women but unfortunately under less than ideal working conditions and less than living wages. I know that as women we have so much power in our purchases and can cast a vote with every dollar we spend for the world we want.  I’m not perfect and no one expects perfection, but if you want to help people, particularly helpless children who deserve more, the best way to do that is by empowering women who will then put the money they make back into their families and communities. Choosing ethically produced clothing and goods trickles down to those who can’t yet help themselves or who might not have all the opportunities at their fingertips that many of us are fortunate to have.

Can you share a time you either thought you failed or actually did fail?  How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?

I’ve always felt like an entrepreneur at heart.  I’m also drawn to design and the way good design can enhance your life…and I’ve come up with a few ideas in my day!  Before Vincent James, I was working on a project making gloves for children and told everyone about it, got really close to making it a business and then it didn’t work out.  I was embarrassed, deflated and questioned if I really had it in me to start my own thing. Ultimately I think I lacked real passion for that particular product, but in the process of trying something, I started learning about fabrics, sustainability, talking to people in the industry and figuring out my true passions. I took time to just think and create freely without the pressure of building a business and ended up using some of the fabric I found and loved from the glove process and making a few pieces of clothing.  The joy I got from this creative outlet sparked the desire to build a business again and I promised myself one day that I was going to make this one work! By no means has Vincent James been easy or quick, but I’ve learned that you have to be able to pivot, bounce back, listen to what your heart is really telling you and ultimately be fiercely passionate about the product if you’re going to last through all the ups and downs of building your own business.     

What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

Since Vincent James just launched 6 weeks ago I’m still very much in the production and fulfillment stage and learning everything that goes with that.  I can’t wait to get back to the design process and have a few pieces that I’ve been sketching and making with my limited sewing skills. All the new pieces will coordinate with or compliment the existing collection and since the styles are timeless, won’t push the “old” collection out of relevance.  My goal in the next year is to find fabrics that are sourced and made in the US (not just designed, cut and sewn here). There are more and more resources to help makers find the farmers who grow the fibers and I would love to be a part of this ultimate sustainable process.