When Erin Reckner’s friends told her she’d be a great stylist for Stella & Dot, she didn’t realize she would be signing up for a fulfilling career in the fashion industry—one that would eventually lead her to netting 50,000 orders in a month.
“I totally started it casually, and loved it from the instant I started. The brand really spoke to me and quite honestly, I’m obsessed with female entrepreneurs, so [this] is a big part of why my fire stays lit in my stomach for this company,” she explains.
Founded by CEO Jessica Herrin from her living room in Texas, Stella & Dot is a jewelry and accessories company that promotes entrepreneurship for women by allowing them to work however, whenever and wherever they want. They make a conscious effort to encourage women to launch a full-time business for themselves, giving them financial freedom, flexibility and ultimately, control over their own lives. It’s a perfect fit for someone like Erin, who has four kids and wants a good work-life balance.
“Being able to say what I want to do every single day, and having that ultimate control over my schedule is so awesome,” says Erin. It’s a particularly striking scenario in the fashion industry, where long hours and frequent traveling are common.
While anyone can join Stella & Dot as a stylist, the company has 13 career ranks, all with different personal and team sales requirements. There’s a base commission for stylists, in addition to personal sales bonuses up to 37%. As you move up the career levels, you also get a percentage of your team members’ sales.
Though Erin first joined as a stylist, she is now a Director, with about 100 stylists on her team. She had previously spent 10 years in marketing for a national restaurant chain, so being a team leader wasn’t something new. Perhaps this was why, in addition to recruiting new stylists, she was also able to hit an impressive month-over-month growth rate.
“I’m a spreadsheet geek so I have a 10-year-plan, and everything’s in a cell,” says Erin. “I know what I was supposed to do in March and we beat my number year-over-year by 35%. Any business owner would be so happy with 35% year-over-year growth within a month. I’m so proud of my team.”
Inspired by the prospect of continued month-to-month growth, her goal is to continue climbing the ranks, hitting bigger sales targets and recruiting more female entrepreneurs to her team. In order to support her stylists, she extends weekly coaching calls, sends planning emails and offers tips on Facebook.
“I really work on having a profitable business with my team and finding ways to reduce the taxable income.”
Most of the questions Erin gets from her stylists come after they host a trunk show, make sales, then find themselves at a loss about how to file taxes for their Stella & Dot income. Paying taxes and finding deductions is a real gray area for new entrepreneurs, which is why Erin shares tips with all of her stylists.
“I’ll share my spreadsheet categories which have obvious costs like business mileage, office, samples,” says Erin. “I really work on having a profitable business with my team and finding ways to reduce the taxable income.”
Erin keeps track of business expenses with QuickBooks Self-Employed, which syncs with her bank accounts and notifies her whenever there’s a new expense. Before she started using the software, she had to keep track of everything manually.
“I was having to sift through different account statements, whereas now it just pops up on my QuickBooks app and I swipe it. It has also saved me from filing an extension. That’s a big deal.”
Besides basic expenses, however, female entrepreneurs often have extra considerations and hurdles to watch out for.
“One of the biggest struggles for women who work from home is dealing with the home office and outsourcing childcare,” Erin explains. There is the challenge of work-life balance, but also opportunities to write off wages paid to child care workers. This is all part of the learning curve for new entrepreneurs, and something Erin tries to guide her team through.
Believe it or not, many of the women also face pressure from their spouses. Mixing personal and business finances, as many self-employed people do, can be tricky.
“I had a couple gals say to me that their husbands tell them these aren’t deductible expenses. So if they use QuickBooks, they can show the numbers. I think to be able to look at your phone and see your monthly profit would be very empowering, especially when your husband is saying you made this much but paid that much in expenses. They can say, no, I was actually in the black.”
“It helps to hear how other women are doing their business. It gets me inspired.”
Fortunately, the community at Stella & Dot is supportive, which helps their stylists and directors navigate through the business. Erin has a great relationship with her up-line team, who provide moral support, coaching, accountability and inspiration.
“Sometimes I think it just takes a woman’s word to connect the dots with people,” says Erin. “It helps to hear how other women are doing their business. It gets me inspired.”