When I was little I used to sell jewelry on the playground, hustling kids to buy my handmade hemp choker necklaces and custom friendship bracelets. Sadly I didn't have the client demand or the vision to start my own line. Then there are people like Liliana Klein, Founder of Lili Klein Jewelry, who nurtured her love of designing jewelry as she worked an intense fashion job and completed business school. She was able to keep her passion alive through it all to ultimately turn her dream into a reality. Read her journey to becoming an entrepreneur and learn how to make jewelry with Liliana and Six Degrees Society on Tuesday, June 14th at Cuyana in Venice.
1. How did your time in fashion and earning your MBA help transition to running your own brand?
Everything is a business, and having my MBA really helped with understanding the business side of things from day one. In many ways, it's helped me to have a more critical perspective of not only my line, but my brand and its voice. When it finally came time to make the jump, I felt more prepared and had experience in social media and analytics. I had a better understanding of different aspects of a business that I perhaps did not have direct experience in, but I knew enough about that I could anticipate different struggles and work through them along the way.
It's the same with my time in fashion. I learned a great deal about operations, production, logistics, and just seeing things on a larger scale. I learned a lot of lessons that I use in my own business, which helped when I was starting to build my brand. The lessons I have gathered from all of my experiences, good or bad, kicks in at some point when you least expect it.
2. As you know it can be quite intimidating to jump into becoming your own boss. What inspired you to take the leap into creating your own company?
I think it's different for everyone, but for me personally, making jewelry and developing my line was slowly taking precedence over everything else. I was devoting so much of my time to making jewelry and creating something I was proud of. Slowly it became more a question of when, rather than if, I would make the jump. It definitely didn't happen overnight. Once I moved back to LA I started learning more advanced jewelry techniques, everything from metalsmithing to stone setting; it just felt like the right fit. The decision to make the jump happened once I felt I had done as much as I could between splitting so much of my time between my job and my jewelry line. I knew it was my passion and what I loved to do; over time, the decision felt easy to make, but the timing was difficult. I began waking up every day, asking myself if today was the day, and one day I just made the decision. I always felt more excited than scared, which seemed like a good sign.
3. Do you have any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs interested in pursuing their own product based companies?
Yes: Manage Your Expectations! It's easy to make the jump and think, "Okay, I'm going to launch my business on Monday and by Tuesday, hopefully, I can keep up with demand." But that's not really how it works. The reality is that little victories will be your bread and butter, and will also make your goals more attainable, which is key. Real growth happens through development, and development takes time. It was so important that I could see my progress and what was working and what wasn't, and that can only happen when you have something to measure and expectations that are feasible. So celebrate the little wins!
4. What's the best part about being an entrepreneur in LA? Do you find that there is a large entrepreneurial community?
Absolutely! I think there are a lot of amazing benefits about being an entrepreneur in a large city like LA. So many people move here to pursue their dreams, which sounds corny but is totally true. Entrepreneurship comes in so many different forms, and it's not something that always needs to be done solo and with a lot of risk involved. To me, being an entrepreneur is just doing what you love and having a real sense of ownership over it.
Look at Six Degrees Society, it's such an amazing network of women that have taken a real sense of ownership over their lives. Meeting people and learning about their journey and experience is always so inspiring, and one of the reasons I love LA. Everyone has a story and a passion; it's a city with so many different moving pieces, which makes it such a great place to live and work!
5. Right now your company sells its products direct to consumer and in various wholesalers, what has been the most monumental moment of your career so far?
Seeing my jewelry in People Magazine for the first time felt monumental; but there have been so many moments that have been real achievements for Lili Klein Jewelry. For instance, seeing my line in a store for the first time was incredibly exciting. Just being able to walk in and see my work was amazing; moments like that, which validate my jewelry and my brand, are always really motivating and make me feel proud.