By Caroline Fassett nj.com
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) They survived the "Shark Tank" and now this pair of sisters plan to take on the holiday crowds with their new stylish pop-up shop "Stella Valle."
Millions have seen them on television. Now, they can meet them in person.
After appearing on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2013 to successfully pitch their jewelry business, sisters, retired soldiers and East Amwell natives Ashley Dellavalle Jung and Paige Dellavalle Walker have opened their first Stella Valle pop-up retail store at 79 Main St. in Flemington.
The store launched on Nov. 8, and will remain open throughout the holiday season, Jung and Walker said.
“We just felt like Flemington needed a little bit of excitement for the holidays, and we thought bringing a store to Main Street would be really fun,” Walker, who currently lives in Stockton Borough, said. "We wanted to give back to the community, and (provide) somewhere for women to shop on the holidays that’s different and exciting.”
In pitching their business on “Shark Tank" six years prior, the sisters made a deal with sharks Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban, through which they earned a $150,000 infusion of cash in exchange for a 35% share of the business.
Mirroring their execution of a contract with some of the biggest names in the country, Walker said that Stella Valle has always been “about inspiring women and younger girls to go after what they want in life,” a goal also reflective of her and Jung’s shared experience as soldiers turned jewelry entrepreneurs.
It’s a message that has remained intact over the last six years -- despite the fact that their jewelry has “significantly evolved,” according to Jung.
“The product that we had on ‘Shark Tank’ is not even close to the product that we have now,” Jung, who currently lives in Bucks County in Pennsylvania, said.
While in 2013 Stella Valle solely consisted of leather charm bracelets, the business currently features gold, silver and brass necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings with charms like birthstones and initials.
Rather than screwed into the fabric, however, the charms are located on the ends of each item of jewelry, and wear a distinctive shape -- a heart, hexagon, or smiley face, for example -- that Jung said is “carried throughout the entire piece.” Much of the jewelry can be personalized or are otherwise engraved with inspirational quotes, which connects the product to the sisters’ aspiration to motivate females everywhere to pursue their dreams.
“All of our product is really a reminder of what’s gotten you to where you are, and how can you go forward and achieve those goals," Walker said.
Jung added that this “more traditional” style of charm jewelry has been so successful that she and Walker decided to “retire everything else.”
“Our customers really like it, and it’s a cleaner version of charm jewelry,” Jung said. “This is something that we designed and we came up with, and it’s unlike anything else in the market.”
Despite expressing confidence in the product they’ve designed together, the sisters’ idea to create their jewelry business grew from Walker’s disappointment with a piece of jewelry Jung had given to her several years back.
“I gave Paige a bracelet for her graduation from West Point, and it was a charm bracelet by a very well-known charm company. And it just didn’t really resonate with Paige, because she felt like it was for an older woman, not a young girl out of college. So we wanted to create this newer, cooler, charm jewelry,” Jung explained.
When Walker graduated from West Point in 2009, Jung, also a West Point graduate, was finishing up the five years of active duty she had committed to upon receiving her diploma. Because of a shoulder injury, Walker could not deploy to a combat zone, and decided to instead chase the passion for personalized and charm jewelry that was dually shared by her sister.
“It was definitely a big learning curve, just coming from the military and not having any design background or understanding of manufacturing," Walker said. “It was really hard ... because we were selling to retailers and they didn’t want to carry all these small pieces."
After appearing on “Shark Tank,” Walker said excitement for the brand exploded, but she and Jung were too quick to begin selling their product to major, big-box retailers where their jewelry was getting lost amongst better known brands.
“When your brand is really well known, and can sit on a shelf, and ... sell itself, (those retailers) are the right fit. But until then, your independent retailer is who’s going to share your story, and who’s going to tell their customer about your brand and really help grow it," Walker explained. “Things like that that we didn’t know because we were so new to business when we went on the show, that we took those opportunities and we had to learn the hard way and steer back."
“In the military you’re taught to think a certain way, you’re trained to do things a certain way. And then as an entrepreneur, it’s the complete opposite: you’re left to your own devices to figure out the next step and the next move, and I think what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur ... is you really have to know what you want at the end of the tunnel and build your plan," Walker added.
“For us, it was a lesson learned," Jung echoed. “You have to have a clear vision, and then stick with it, and don’t deviate.” Despite the challenges that they’ve encountered over the last six years, Jung and Walker said that their business’s revenue has doubled on an annual basis.
Because roughly 85% of their profit margin is earned from online sales, the sisters said that early next year they will update and build upon their website to reach a wider consumer base.
“So much of our business is on our site, so that’s the focus for us. The website is so important to having a successful direct-to-consumer brand,” Jung said.
The remaining 15% is earned through selling their product to retail stores, approximately 100 of which currently sell Stella Valle jewelry, according to the sisters.
“We always want more (retail partners). We’re actually serial entrepreneurs,” Walker said.
Moreover, because Cuban and Greiner ended their involvement with the business in January, Jung and Walker are currently working toward expanding upon their business by locking in one or more new investors “with a large amount of capital.”
“That’s a next big step for us: finding someone to really invest in the brand, in the business. To take it to the next level,” Walker said. “Now the decisions that we make, they’re much bigger and cost more to do. In order to keep scaling and growing at the rate we want to grow, we really need additional capital to infuse into the company to make it much larger.”
Both Walker and Jung said that, pending on the success of their store, they could potentially continue to grow their business by directly selling their product to consumers.
“It’s been really fun being able to meet our customers in person because we don’t really interact with them," Walker said.
"Meeting all the different men and women that come in, and they’re so happy, and they’re excited to see something go up on Main Street. And I’ll feel bad when it closes down. I don’t think they want us to leave.”
To learn about the store’s holiday hours and upcoming events, visit their Facebook page.
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