*Editor’s note: Mint and Lolly is a new one-stop-online-shop for the best and the brightest jewelry. I had the chance to interview founders and sisters Lesley, Katie, and Meghan on what it was like to start a business. I hope you enjoy their story and stay tuned for an upcoming Mint and Lolly giveaway on Dose Of Dash!
What did you do before starting Mint and Lolly?
We all had separate careers but the same aspirations. Between us we worked in retail, restaurants, consumer goods, theater, and entertainment.
How did the idea for Mint and Lolly come to be and why did you decide to take the plunge?
Each of us has different styles; Lesley is more traditional and conservative, Meghan has a more bohemian edge with a side of social responsibility, and Katie is of the wild, urban streetwear variety. Though we were so different with our styles, we came together with our jewelry. We would always joke about starting our own jewelry business because our three styles would be awesome together. Then, one day, we decided to stop talking about it and to try and make it happen.
The idea came from our common love for jewelry. Our other common love growing up was playing the game Candyland®. We loved playing Candyland together. Candy and color make a person so happy. When a person steps into a candy shop, they automatically become happy with all the shapes and colors. We wanted to emulate that in our business – so we made it candy-inspired.
Once you had the idea for Mint and Lolly what steps did you take to make it happen?
We attended jewelry shows under the auspices of our family businesses, as we will always be employees there. We decided to attend some shows first, to see what the industry was like inside. We had our own careers going at the time, and we lived in three states. Vacations were to each other’s places so we could attend shows.
It was still in the idea phase until Meghan moved back out to California, and took a job that she thought was promising. When it turned out to be a total nightmare, she decided it was time to start Mint and Lolly and sacrifice whatever necessary to get it launched. “Now or never” was our phrase at the time. It didn’t take Katie or Lesley long to become cheerleaders of the idea. And so… Mint and Lolly was born.
How many people are on your team? Do you work remotely? What have been some of the challenges of a) having a small team and b) working remotely (if you do)?
We have a handful of people on our team, with only two full-time employees. Everyone we work with is on our team, even if you help for a couple hours during a photo shoot, or are an independent contractor, you are part of the Mint and Lolly team. Everyone plays a hand in making it happen…not just us sisters.
The challenges we encounter include working remotely and being able to juggle a million things at once. Lesley is in New York while Katie and Meghan are in Los Angeles. Although having your own space can be nice, there is something to be said about working side-by-side. It is no wonder that shared workspace for people in different industries has gained in popularity. So many ideas can be shared, benefiting everyone. Juggling a million things is what entrepreneurs do – if they check off those million things, they find a million more to add – we grew up in it – our parents were entrepreneurs – so it isn’t unfamiliar, but it is still a challenge.
What has been your favorite highlight since launching Mint and Lolly? What has been the biggest challenge?
Highlights: Seeing someone wearing a Mint and Lolly treat and feeling so proud and pretty wearing it; watching someone with Mint and Lolly get a compliment or letting them tell you all about how many compliments they received on their treats. These are only some of the things that let you know your hard work is paying off. They are the biggest rewards because you know you helped make someone feel pretty, and you didn’t rip them off to do so.
Challenge: There hasn’t been a “biggest challenge.” There are many challenges – it is all part of starting and growing a business. That is why not everyone can do it. But we are also sisters so the family dynamic adds a whole other element that can be challenging (but also rewarding) to deal with at certain times. We still fight like any other family. Having a business together doesn’t make you immune to that.
How do you approach buying? Is it hard to narrow down what pieces you want?
We do try and source from multiple avenues so we are always looking for new artisans/vendors. Our approach is to purchase the pieces that are colorful and unique, but also fashionable, and wearable, and, well, just plain cool. They also have to be affordable, of course, as we want women to be able to purchase trends and purchase often. We try and blend our three styles so we maintain product lines that reach almost everyone.
What kind of experience did you need to start a business and, in particular, a jewelry business? Were you prepared?
You need to love business. A lot of people have this idea that a jewelry business or any fashion-based business is fun because all you do is shop for the product. It’s true, shopping for product can be fun, but it only encompasses about 10% of what we do. Everything else is business related; marketing, web design, financials, growth and strategy plans, competitive analysis, monitoring user experiences, interacting with customers – we could write a book.
Did any of you have previous experience working in the retail or e-commerce industry?
Yes, Lesley had e-commerce and retail experience.
Would you ever consider opening up a brick and mortar shop?
Possibly. We had a pop-up shop over the holidays and will definitely consider temporary ones like that again. As far as a permanent brick and mortar…hmmm….I think maybe if we gain more brand awareness. We don’t see a permanent space as being a place where we would solely sell jewelry. Instead, we envision ever-changing artistic space, with a hint of fashion jewelry that you can buy if you want.
What advice do you have for others looking to start their own business?
Go with your gut. Try it. If you fail, you will still win the experience.
I’m sure you’re all very busy as entrepreneurs. What tools or apps can you not live without?
SMS, Facebook, Instagram, Livescribe Pen, Calendar Reminders, Snooze Button, Pandora Radio, Evernote and Twitter!
Best advice you’ve received?
Always look at something from the vantage point of the customer; always remember to walk through their experience with your brand or product on a regular basis. Aim to please them, even if that means sacrificing a little. When both sides win, the world becomes a better place.