Written by The Strategy
Girl Boss. She.E.O. It’s time for the world to realize that the future is, well, female. There are so many female entrepreneurs who inspire us and we wanted to know more about how they got their companies off the ground. Welcome to our new series: The Future Is Female, where we sit down with inspiring female entrepreneurs and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how their companies operate.
If you aren’t acquainted with The Last Line yet, you must be living under a rock. The brand counts the likes of Nicole Richie, our personal style icon, Anine Bing, and Katy Perry as fans. And it’s all the brain-child of TS alum, mom, wife, designer, business owner and overall rockstar, Shelley Gibbs Sanders. She. Is. Everything. We sat down with Shelley to get the low-down on how this female entrepreneur got her start. It’s an added bonus that we got a behind-the-scenes look at The Last Line HQ in the process.
What made you start The Last Line?
I’d been wanting to do jewelry forever and ever and ever, so I was kind of trying to figure out how to enter into the space. We saw two holes: We saw people who were making affordable and fair-priced jewelry, but missing great design. It was almost like, “What can you get for the cheapest price?”, but there wasn’t necessarily design considered. And then we saw that there’s wonderful, gorgeous high-end brands, but they’re selling jewelry for hundreds of thousands of dollars. So it seemed like there was a need for well-designed, fair-priced jewelry, and then, fair-priced high-end jewelry. For fifteen years I worked on the side of retail. I was able to work with high-end designers and a lot of different people, so I was able to see the ins and outs of the business. I knew that retail was somewhere that we never wanted to go, because, I wanted to have someone spend $2000, and want them to have the best piece they can have for that price. So for me, retail just didn’t make sense. I felt that for women now, who are able to be on the internet, who are able to research and educate themselves, they know something being sold at a high-end retailer has a lot of mark-ups on it. That’s why people have always said things like “I’ve got a guy downtown…”. So I wanted to be your ‘guy downtown’, but more ‘lady online’, who is offering well designed, well priced jewelry to everyone, from the new collector who is buying her first piece for $100, to the seasoned collector, who’s buying heirloom pieces to hand down.
The other part was that, I had designed for a lot of celebrities and in-house for big fashion companies, and one of the questions I asked everybody was “What do you love in jewelry? What’s your favourite thing that you love, that you just can’t find?” I started identifying classic pieces of jewelry that women wanted, and how they wanted to improve them. So that, mixed with the anti-retail stance, all came together to form The Last Line.
How did you come up with the name?
I hate naming things. A name is so important, so I don’t like naming something, especially a collection that I want to be timeless and to last a long time. I was worried that when I named it, that if I named it something that felt very ‘right now’, it wouldn’t feel right later. I wanted to name it something that basically got across this idea:
When I mix my jewelry, when I think of my friends, one of the things people say is “I want that amazing cocktail ring, that really big statement piece, but I also want a thin gold band.” It’s hard to have a collection that serves both, but women wear both. So, I thought, why don’t I become your one-stop shop? The last place that you need to go. You can get the less expensive items, the gifts, stuff that you don’t have to worry about as much, and you can also get the aspirational pieces that you’ve been dying for.
And so, The Last Line is very simple. It invites people to understand the brand a little bit, and it also feels like it doesn’t mean anything. You don’t know what it looks like, and that’s what I love. It doesn’t define me. And, it feels fluid and timeless.
What inspires the design process of The Last Line?
What I want to wear and what I see cool everyday ladies wearing. I love someone with independent style. I don’t care if you’re 80, 18 or 8. If someone has unique style, I see it and I’m inspired by it, always.
What were some of the challenges in starting your own business?
Defining where and how we would enter the jewelry space was hard. It wasn’t hard, so much as it was very calculated. I went to school to learn how to physically make jewelry 15 years ago. My plan when I got out of school was to start my own line, but I didn’t because I got offered a job to design for another company. But all along the way, I knew I was going to do my own line. So, it has sort of, taken us 15 years to bring it to life. I think the biggest challenge was, how are we going to make a very crowded space feel different. One of the reasons why I dragged my feet for so long, was because there are so many designers that are not trained. I went to school to make jewelry and fine art. It’s not just that I got a chunk of money and made some jewelry. I feel like it was hard for us to figure out where to position ourselves. That was the hardest thing in starting out. After that, the hardest part for me is running the business. I’m an artist! But, luckily, I have Teddy (*her husband and partner), who runs the business.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
One: Listen to your voice. That’s the easy answer.
Two: Something I wish I was told is – be ready to give your whole life to it. I have three children, and this is literally a fourth. It requires a lot of nurturing that is almost 24/7. It’s hard. There’s a lot of ups and downs, there’s a lot of emotions. We’re financing the company ourselves, so it’s part of me!
Three: To be able to ride the waves, be prepared to be tough.