What a stellar idea

American jewellery brand Stella & Dot’s  social-selling concept has found success on these shores, writes Rebecca Gonsalves

Being told by a stranger that they love something you’re wearing is an absurdly affirming experience, but when it happens to “stylists” for Stella & Dot, they don’t just smile graciously at the compliment – they can turn it into a tidy profit.

In 2003, New York-based entrepreneur Jessica Herrin wanted a new project, one which would put women at the heart of the business – not just as customers but by empowering them to create their own income. She embarked upon a jewellery-making course, and put her social-selling concept to the test by selling her designs to a select group of friends and acquaintances.

It wasn’t until 2005, when she met designer Blythe Harris, that Stella & Dot, with more than $200m in sales to date, began to take shape. Harris says of her part: “Amazing quality and design is important so that our stylists feel they are giving someone access to something – not pushing it on them.”

Each stylist must first invest £169 in a starter kit, which comes with £300 worth of jewellery to showcase and a free trial of their own micro-site on the Stella & Dot website. Each stylist can set their own goals and choose when and how much to invest in extending their business. Any further sales through their micro-site will generate commission too.

Since launching in the UK in 2011, the brand has racked up sales of £7m through its growing network of 1,200 stylists selling jewellery, bags and leather goods. Everything is designed in-house, and the company’s New York design office is a veritable magpie’s nest of vintage costume and fine jewellery. At the beginning of each new season, 400 or so designs are whittled down to the 60 that will go into production, with up to 5,000 units of each being made.

“Our end goal is to make as many women successful as entrepreneurs as possible,” Harris says.