All that Glitters is Gold (and Silver)
BBA graduate hits the entrepreneurial jackpot.
Jessica Lynne Constable, BBA '07, was an entrepreneur before she was a high school graduate. During the summer when she was just 15, Constable was lounging by her local pool making ankle bracelets when several women took notice and asked if they could order some.
The revelation that people would pay good money for her jewelry designs set the young artist on a course toward turning a profit. "My immediate response was, 'Go into business, '" Constable says.
By the time she collected her high school diploma, Constable also had collected about a dozen outlets that carried her budding jewelry line. But what she really needed was an outlet to grow her business while learning how to improve it. Ross was that place.
"Being from Michigan and seeing U-M's b-school ranked as highly as it was, it was a no-brainer to apply to Ross," Constable says. "I went to business school because I had a jewelry business already, which is not the traditional way to do it. When I prepared my applications for colleges and business schools, my essays were all about how to propel my business to something I could do full-time."
Ross proved to be the boost that Constable and her business needed. The management and organization classes gave her the framework to manage the crew of part-time, freelance, and commission employees who contribute to the business today. And the seemingly infinite extracurricular options, clubs, and conferences she encountered at Ross provided several fortuitous prospects.
"I think the value the school provides is opportunity," says Constable. "As an entrepreneur, you have to take advantage of every opportunity, so that's what I did at Ross."
In addition, support staff in the Office of Career Development presented a "gold mine of opportunities" she says. In fact, it was one of the conferences Constable attended on recommendation from the Ross staff that put her in touch with the then-VP of recruitment for Macy's.
"She looked through my jewelry catalog and said, 'Where do you want to work?'" Constable says. New York City would be the answer, as she landed an internship in product development.
Jess LC Finds its Legs
After graduating from Ross as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007, Constable faced the transition from the relatively protected environment at Ross to a world in which she planned to live solely off of the profits from her business, now operating under its current name, Jess LC. Constable moved the operation from Ann Arbor to Chicago, where she lived and designed jewelry out of a studio apartment in the Lakeview neighborhood.
Between August and December of 2007, she worked solo and grew the business from about five to 20 active accounts. "I find it pretty effortless to have motivation," Constable says. "A lot of business people claim they need external motivation -- the boss or the deadline -- but I've never felt that way. There's lots of motivation when you have bills coming every four weeks."
In 2008, she expanded the operation, and moved her living quarters to an apartment across the street from her studio. Three part-time employees and an intern work for the company, along with various commission and freelance designers who work on a project-by-project basis. Constable estimates they moved over 5,000 pieces last year. Retail outlets comprise the majority of Jess LC’s customer base and the company supplies wholesale product to about 94 stores right now. Sales also are generated though local retail, home, and jewelry shows, as well as trunk shows in the Chicago area. Last season, Constable was invited to participate in a series of trunk show sponsored by her former employer, Macy’s. She also sells product via the Jess LC website. Remarkably, each piece of jewelry is still handmade by Constable or her part-time employees.
Operating with Intention
As her sales expand and the business grows, Constable keeps a close eye on the corporate culture at Jess LC. She has convinced her staff to put 10 percent of their salary into a charitable cause of their choice, so that they are essentially working and volunteering at the same time.
But she didn't stop there. In September 2008, Constable launched Soc Chic, a line of "chic necklaces benefiting social causes." A portion of the sales from pieces in the line go toward such charities as Bright Pink, a national nonprofit that provides education and support to young women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer, and KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now), a volunteer-run organization that provides free one-to-one recreational opportunities to disabled children and young adults.
"The great thing about Soc Chic is that it's win-win for everyone," explains Constable. "It's caught the customer who loves the cause, but also the customer who likes the necklace."
Constable says she will always have a passion for jewelry, but her role as the company’s founder has provided a broader picture of the impact she can create as a leader and member of society. "Jewelry will always be a part of my brand and who I am," she says. "But I’m an entrepreneurial spirit. I would say managing people is more rewarding now than the jewelry, itself, and I always want to operate with an intention."
For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, firstname.lastname@example.org