Beauty and Brains-An emerging truth and a new product
Lovely is as lovely does or so goes the philosophy of Boise entrepreneur and former model Toni Jewell.
In 2011 when she launched her business, Lovely Dorothy, Jewell knew she wanted to be more than just a pretty face. She wanted to be the brains and a decision-making powerhouse. She wanted to create and sell products that make a difference in everyday lives. So she first crafted a meaningful mission statement: “Everyday things done better.”
Through Lovely Dorothy, Jewell brought to life her entrepreneurial dreams and created a product that filled a need in her own everyday routine.
Jewell’s brainchild is called “DripKnots.” DripKnots are soft, absorbent wristbands that soak up any water that drips down your forearms and wets your sleeves when you wash your face in the sink, do dishes, scrub a shower, or bathe a child or pet. DripKnots sets include a head band called a HairKnot, crafted from the same luxurious terry velour fabric as the wrist bands. The HairKnot protects hair and clothing while washing your face or applying skin care products.
Although Lovely Dorothy was launched just last year, the prototype for DripKnots was created years ago, when Jewell worked as a professional model. The demands of the job combined with heavy makeup meant washing her face was a frequent necessity. But the water that dripped into her sleeves and onto counter tops was annoying, so she tied strips of terry cloth fabric around her arms. Over years, that idea evolved into the DripKnot. Jewell’s husband — a successful entrepreneur in his own right — offered his wife some advice. “The product is looking right at you,” he said and encouraged her to go for it. Jewell is driven, so she embraced her husband’s challenge.
“I’ve always been like this and I set goals and I just like experiencing life,” she said.
Jewell’s modeling career began in high school and lasted 12 years. It led to a sort of jet-set lifestyle that allowed her to see the world. She modeled for major companies like Avon. She worked for couture beauty brands like Shiseido in New York, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tokyo. Those experiences also gave Jewell glimpses into what she really wanted to do with her career.
Jewell said she never had aspirations of becoming a supermodel. Instead, she saw modeling as an opportunity, not only to travel the world and wear glamorous clothes, but to learn first-hand the behind-the-scenes business.
“I was young and I wanted to know what they did in this group, and there would be maybe 20 or 30 people around me, and I would always ask about the business side of things,” Jewell said. So while Jewell watched and questioned others about the business of beauty, she also dabbled in photography and makeup.
“I was interested in that, but I was really more interested in the business and the product,” Jewell said. Jewell says she would be modeling something, like a hat “…and I thought, if that were my product, this would make more sense.”
In her heart, Jewell knew she was more than a model. So she used the time and the experience to hone in on the aspects of the beauty and fashion business that interested her. The effort ignited her passion to find an entrepreneurial destiny.
“It has come full circle and makes sense, now, what I’m doing, when I look at my past.” Jewell said.
Jewell still needed to add an education to her modeling world acumen. So she pursued and earned a degree in Marketing Boise State University. She studied photography and took graphic design classes which enable her to execute her vision. Having the personal knowledge is also a financial decision; she is able to do her own marketing and design work.
“I’m not an expert in any of these things, but I was so interested in making this come to life,” Jewell said.
So even though DripKnots were created out of personal necessity, the product also represents the means by which Jewell’s business self (the one she had been nurturing all these years) was able to come alive. Jewell likens it to finding her deeper passion and pulling back the curtains to let the light in.
“I really think I have found what I love doing,” Jewell said. “I feel like I could do this forever!”
Although Jewell had passion and believed in her product, she really had no idea if DripKnots would be successful. But any doubt was erased when she attended a home and gift show in Atlanta. Out of the 5 other “mom-preneurs” she attended with, she sold the most product.
But it is Jewell’s drive and personal enthusiasm that is driving her business. For example, on her own Jewell has taken DripKnots and HairKnots to over 300 stores. She’s networked with other “mom-preneurs” online. Those efforts have opened up doors for Jewell and her business. Through a friend she was able to find an agent that could set her company up with a reputable gift distribution company. She crafted an agreement with the distribution company and awarded it licensing rights to manufacture, promote, and sell the product. Given her desire to be a decision-making powerhouse, Jewell retained creative control and rights to the patent. She earns royalties from the sale of her products.
“Licensing was the way to relieve that pressure, to work with an experienced team to take DripKnots to the next level,” Jewell said. “So I’m very much an owner and very much involved.”
Licensing also allows her to not only work in her business, but to work on her business. Although the current focus remains on DripKnots, there are new products in Lovely Dorothy’s future. Jewell is exploring personalizing the DripKnots with embroidered social expressions and custom orders. This feature will create easier personalized gift giving.
As a mother of three young children, Jewell is realistic about her role as an entrepreneur. She encourages other women interested in going into business to be prepared for sleepless nights. They also, she said, have to include their family.
“When you start a business you have to make sure you are on the same page as your family members; significant other and children too,” She said.
The first year of Lovely Dorothy meant long hours of hard work for Jewell. In realistic terms it meant exhaustion, barely sleeping and a messy house. When the opportunity to shift some of the work to a licensee came about, Jewell also embraced another tenet of business; being flexible. Licensing the product was liberating, she said. “My primary job is as a Mom, so you know your business plan just changes, and it has to be able to move and flow with you,” Jewell said.
With modeling success early in her life, the launch of DripKnots, and the licensing of her product, don’t think of Toni Jewell as just another pretty face.
Jewell was born and raised in Idaho and graduated from Borah High School. After traveling the world, she and her husband, Jefferson, also a Boise native, decided to settle down and stay in Boise.