Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Natalie Holst, founder and creative director for the New York based jewelry line Holst + Lee. Natalie shares with us the uniqueness of her latest collection, her inspiration for creativity and her advice for those wanting to thrive as an entrepreneur.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
Well, I’m originally from the South and moved to NY 14 years ago. I worked in Fashion for many years (Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler to name a few) and I was a maitre’d at some of NY’s trendiest restaurants. I used to have to get dressed up every night for work and I started making statement jewelry to accent my outfits. People responded and would try to buy things right off my neck and HOLST + LEE was born.
2. What prompted you to start your own jewelry line?
The response from people was what really got the ball rolling but Mara Hoffman gave me my first shot on the runway, styled with her collection. That’s when I went full steam ahead with the line and started selling in stores.
3. Tell us about your latest collection. Is there a story behind it?
Yes! I’m obsessed with my current collection because it really speaks to my soul. I wanted to hark back to the defining things that make HOLST + LEE what it really is. The current collection is called Color World and it is a celebration of vibrancy and strength. I was pregnant when I was designing it and I think it has a strong sense of optimism and passion. Something maybe we all need in these tumultuous times.
4. Describe a typical work day.
Well, I am a new Mom with a 6 month old so days have certainly changed in the recent months! I recently moved my studio into the bottom floor of my Brooklyn home. It’s such a great thing to be able to work out of my house. My day starts around 9 AM and the first part of the day is logistics (emails, bills, organizing…you know the fun stuff :)) Then my assistants get in around 11 and we go from there. They work on making orders and I work on designing or doing more business related things. My son hangs in the office and plays while we work and takes naps in between. Thank God for naps :).
5. What is the best part about being your own boss? The worst part?
I think the best part of being your own boss is to know that you get to do the thing that you love. It’s such a treat to be able to be creative everyday. I think if I didn’t have that I would go a little crazy. I’ve been making things since as far back as I can remember. It really fills my soul. I also love that I can have a flexible schedule.
I think probably the worst part is the stress of staying on top of everything. There are a lot of nights where I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m making lists in my head about what has to be accomplished and by when. I mean I think all women do that actually but it’s different when you’re itemizing your taxes in your sleep.
6. What is your brand’s most successful form of marketing?
I would definitely say Social Media and word of mouth. Social Media has really changed the whole game. It’s a great thing to be able to communicate to the world through an app and to tell visual stories.
7. Who would you love to see wearing your jewelry?
I’ve had the privilege of seeing some really amazing women wear my jewelry. Some highlights were Solange Knowles, Vanessa Hudgens, and Mary J. Blige to name a few. I would love to see anyone who is confident and feels amazing in my jewelry, but while I’m dreaming I’ll go with Iris Apfel!!!
8. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Oh wow, so many things. I draw inspiration from art, fashion, travel, and popular culture to name a few. I’ve always got my eyes open looking for inspiration.I studied Art and Art History in College and I’m still a painter (when I have the time) and I feel like my jewelry speaks to the painter in me with the use of color and unexpected materials.
9. Who is a Boss Lady that you admire and why?
I think I admire any woman who is out there being a Boss. Women are so important. I became a mom this year like I said and that experience really made me realize that awesome power women have. You definitely don’t have to have a child to obtain that, but it was very empowering to see exactly what a woman is capable of. I think women who are able to “give birth” to their dreams and seek out a way to run a business speaks to that awe inspiring power. If we’re talking about specifics though I’m gonna throw it back to my girl Iris Apfel. She has lived such an amazing life and was able to curate such a cool and confident existence. And to be hitting her stride in her 90’s is just unbelievable.
10. What advice do you have for anyone wanted to go from employee to entrepreneur?
I think the best advice I ever got was, “get as much advice as possible from everywhere.” It’s then up to you to take what you’ve learned and apply it or don’t apply it. I ask questions constantly when I know someone has information to offer. Also, I would say to anyone starting a business, never give up. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to take everything you have. Sometimes it will be tough, sometimes it will be great. it is not linear. It is a struggle. But if you want it enough, you have to work hard to achieve it.