Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Today, we chat two kick ass boss ladies, Ashley Jung and Paige Dellavalle, who are the founders of the fashion brand Stella Valle. With a military background these two beautiful sisters are no stranger to hard work and you might recognize them from a little TV show called Shark Tank…
Paige (Left) and Ashley (Right) wearing the F World Collection
Can you share with our readers a little bit about yourselves?
We grew up in a small rural town in New Jersey, with our parents and two other sisters, Lindsay and Kate. We are a very close-knit family. Our dad, an entrepreneur himself, and our Mom, a stay at home mom with a knack for design brought us up to work hard and enjoy the simple, but finer things in life. Our entire family always enjoyed fashion and design. We spent most of our childhood in the pool as competitive swimmers, which also taught us values that helped us get to where we are today. Ashley was recruited to swim at West Point and decided to take on the challenge and serve her country. Paige, 5 years younger, with three other sisters already serving in the Army, decided to attend West Point as well.
We’ve always felt like we were meant to do something larger than ourselves. Serving in the military gave us that sense of purpose, but when we were both separating from the military at about the same time, we knew we wanted to live out life long aspirations in fashion and design despite our unique background. We felt if we could succeed in fashion, we could inspire women by encouraging them to live the life they’ve dreamed despite their background or place in life.
If I were to describe our personalities—Paige and I are VERY similar—I’d say that we are sweet and warm, but type A and tough. I think this is reflected in our background and our jewelry. Our military past has thickened our skin and made us tough, but we are inherently gentle and kind.
What prompted the start of Stella Valle? Where does the name come from?
As I mentioned, Paige and I were getting out of the Army at about the exact same time. Paige suffered an injury and was unexpectedly forced to medically retire. I had just finished my five years of active duty service, and Paige called me to ask for advice on what she should do with the rest of her life. I asked her what was she passionate about. She told me she really wanted to be in fashion, but given her background, and the competitiveness of the business, she thought it would be nearly impossible to do. After many discussions, we decided to start our own company with the hopes she could build her resume to someday land her dream job in fashion…and what we both found in the process was our dream job. We love designing and we love being entrepreneurs.
About the name….While we were in the beginning stages of starting Stella Valle Paige adopted a French bulldog in Oklahoma. At the time, I was living in Dallas, so Paige flew to Dallas and we drove to OK to pick up her new puppy. On the 12 hour drive we were deciding on both the name of her dog and our company. Paige named her dog Stella. We wanted our company name to sound like a girls name, but also incorporate our last name – Dellavalle. So we took off the D, added the St and split the name to make Stella Valle. It was a perfect remembrance of our journey to get Stella and the amazingly fun time we had on that trip discussing our new business venture.
Paige (Left) and Ashley (Right) wearing the F World Collection
What does a typical workday look like?
Wow, that’s a tough question– As an entrepreneur you really do almost everything, so there is vast range in our ‘typical workday” (and everyday is a workday–we don’t take off too many weekends: P ) We always get up and check emails from bed, usually about 6:30 or so. Most of the time I have an email or two or a text or two from Paige. We also get emails from our manufacturers in Asia during the night. We’ll follow up on the urgent emails from them while they are still at work and flag the others for later. Paige doesn’t do anything more until she has about 6 oz of coffee in her. Then we either head to the office or head to NYC. We love our days in NYC because it means we are meeting with people and spreading the word out Stella Valle. We typically meet with magazine editors, manufacturers, boutique owners, or anyone else we do business with. We pack our days from morning to night on those days, hopping in and out of cabs from meeting to meeting. We typically get home really late.
On an office day, we get into the office between 8-8:30, although our day started much earlier. We have these massive ‘To Do ‘lists that we track all of our tasks on and send back and forth. We are pretty organized and structured when it comes to that stuff—hey what can we say, we were in the military! We do everything from following up on production, designing, reviewing our financials, communicating with editors, talking with store owners, writing blog posts, communicating with our marketing company to update our website, designing eblasts, and the list goes on. We usually grab lunch and bring it back to the office so we can get things done while eating. We try to wrap up and head home from the office about 6:30 or so but that doesn’t mean the end of the day. We both like to workout after work and then eat dinner, before we are back on our computers from about 9 -11:30 working on emails and continuing to tackle that long To Do list. There is really never enough time in the day to get everything done we want to!
What is the brand’s most successful form of marketing?
Undoubtedly our appearances on TV are our most successful form of marketing. We were fortunate enough to appear on the super popular TV Show on ABC called Shark Tank during its 4th season. Shark Tank has approximately nine million viewers per episode. The airing was a way for us to tell our unique story- going from the military to fashion designers- to America. Since then, we’ve appeared on Shark Tank two other times- first for the update show ‘Swimming with the Sharks’ and then again for the Veteran Episode that we taped at the White House just a few weeks ago.
We also sell our more affordable line of jewelry called Women Warriors by Stella Valle and designed with our business partner Lori Greiner on QVC. This is another outlet for us to share our story and our brand with a national audience. It’s been an amazing experience.
What or who inspires and fuels your creativity?
So many things in our lives inspire us. In fact, each one of our collections is inspired by something meaningful or important to us. For instance, the women in our lives that were born in the 1920’s and 30’s inspired our Nonnina Deco Collection. Its aesthetic is art deco and each piece is named after a woman close to us from that era.
Our most recent collection is called the F World and was inspired by contentment and understanding in our new world, the fashion world. Our journey to establish ourselves, as jewelry designers had been both trying and rewarding. We finally felt like the rewarding times outweighed those trying times that we were inspired to create a collection that honed in on our adoration for fashion.
Who inspires us: Paige and I served in the military prior to following our hearts to become designers. We have met so many admirable Soldiers in the Army. Although we’ve found our true passion in design, we feel indebted to those who fight for our freedom on a daily basis. They are true-life heroes who often go forgotten when we get into the craziness of everyday life. When we are having a bad day, we remember that there are Soldiers around the world living in the harshest of conditions and fighting for our freedom-that’s heroism.
Do you have personal and industry mentors?
Our mentor is definitely our business partner – the warm-blooded Shark from ABC’s show Shark Tank, Lori Greiner. We were skeptical about bringing on partners to our family-run business, but Lori and her husband Dan are now just part of the family. They have done so much for our business and us. We wouldn’t be here today without their amazing support and tough love.
Where do you both see Stella Valle in 10 years?
We don’t put limits on where we see Stella Valle, but we do set measurable goals for our business. Our long-term goal is for Stella Valle to be a global household brand. In 10 years, we believe we’ll have landed some major retailers. We see our line being well respected and successful in the fashion community. We imagine we will expand beyond accessories into other areas such as clothing, shoes, swim wear, interior etc.
What advice would you both give to those looking to become entrepreneurs?
First, choose something that you are passionate about and believe in. This passion will allow you to persevere through tough times—which you undoubtedly will have. It will make you want to work day and night – which you will. And it will allow you to not take “no” for answer- because you’ll get many No’s.
Then, work your a$$ off! Our investor, Mark Cuban, will tell you that business is the ultimate sport. He believes there is no sport more competitive than business because it is 24/7, 365, and more often than not, you don’t know whom your competition even is. Therefore you must have this fire inside of you that won’t let you quit. We feel we have been successful due to this fire—it’s our unwillingness to give up despite the ups and downs of the business. We don’t let an issue or a question go unsolved.
Third, start small and be conservative. We started with $2000. We grew our business slowly. We watched every penny we spent, and we still do. We review our financials often and make the best business decisions as possible based on analysis of our financials.
Finally, NETWORK. Our mom has always said to us, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While what you know is important, we truly believe that if you have a network of mentors, business colleagues, and industry you expand what you know or can find exponentially. Help others and they will help you!
Just for fun…
Early bird or night owls: This is one place that we differ—Paige is an earlier bird, Ashley is more of a night owl.
How would you characterize each other?
Paige of Ashley: Ashley is one of the smartest, most impressive women that I know. She doesn’t tell a soul that she graduated top in her class at West Point or was the 5th female ever to graduate Sapper School, one of the most prestigious/ hardest schools in the Army, nor would she tell you that she’s extremely artistic and super athletic. Her strength, character, brilliance, and beauty while being the most humble person you’ll ever meet are what make her my role model! I could go on all day long about Ashley, as I am the proudest person in the world to call her my sister.
Ashley of Paige: Paige is the most mature, driven, and smart 27 year olds I know. We started the business when she was 22 and she’s really the one who has made Stella Valle what it is today. She gets SH** done. Besides from her amazing business sense and work ethic, she is kind hearted and always thinks of others before herself. She is an amazing business partner and sister. I couldn’t ask for anything more! I love her to death!
Words of wisdom:
We’ve live by the quote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” Know who you are and be yourself…and do what you love to do. You only live one life, don’t sit back and let it pass by. Follow your dreams, and follow them passionately and with perseverance. Nothing worth having comes easy. Don’t give up! Sorry that’s probably more than one piece of advice.