Springfield resident Gina Smith is a longtime veteran of direct sales, mostly in home decor and handbags, but throughout her career, she always had the sense that she could do things differently – and better.
Karen Green, the woman who would become Smith’s business partner, had also worked in direct sales for decades. Though Green lived in Sacramento, California, she and Smith would meet up frequently on incentive trips or at conferences.
“On those trips, we would sit down and just talk about what our dream company would look like – what we could do that would really make a difference,” Smith recalls.
And what they dreamed up – and ultimately opened in 2014 – was Style Dots, for which Smith serves as CEO.
Style Dots is a jewelry line comprising a proprietary system of base items that accommodate interchangeable disks – called dots by the company. With Style Dots, a necklace base could be fitted with a stylish accent piece for the office, but then switched over to a bejeweled team color dot for the big game or a holiday design for a party.
The dots can be popped out with a patented dot key, which pokes them from the back of their recessed setting to allow a new dot to be inserted. The dots stay firmly in place until they are removed with the special key – a unique system for which Smith and Green hold seven patents.
Smith says she and Green were exposed to the high-end interchangeable snap jewelry concept through an Amsterdam jewelry maker, but the pair wanted something more accessible.
What they came up with is classified as fine fashion jewelry, Smith says, using .990 deep silver.
“That’s a term that’s used in electroplating silverware,” Smith says of the 99% pure silver used. “It’s that durable.”
The two had a product they were satisfied with, so the next step was to build a company that would operate in the direct sales space, with dealers – referred to in the company as boutique partners – who could sell the jewelry through parties and to acquaintances.
“Our heart was to make a difference in people’s lives and to have the opportunity to do something where we could give back,” Smith says. “Through Style Dots, we now have hundreds and hundreds of boutique partners all over the country.”
How large the company’s sales force is Smith wouldn’t say. With direct sales, numbers can be wiggly, according to Smith, with some boutique partners more active than others and many stepping into and out of the role without a formal announcement.
Style Dots realized $7 million in revenue in 2021, and the pandemic did not slow business down, according to Smith.
“We saw a 28% increase in sales in 2021 and over 30% in 2020 during the pandemic,” she said. “In 2014 our sales were $650,000, so we’ve seen a 10-times increase in yearly sales.”
Style Dots also supports two charitable organizations – Springfield’s I Pour Life, which helps foster youth to get a strong start on life, and Wholehearted Home, which supports parents and children in the impoverished nation of Haiti.
Proceeds from the company’s Giving Circle jewelry line, including bracelets with inspirational phrases, supports these two charities, and in total, the company has donated more than $300,000 to both causes.
Smith says it’s also important to give back to the boutique partners. “For us, it’s a huge thing to keep this whole thing fun,” she says. “The world could use more fun. A lot of things are overwhelming to a lot of people right now, so if we can be a source for fun and friendship, I think that’s a win for us.”
Smith recalls how cutthroat the direct sales environment could be.
“It was like, ‘This is our team; we’ve figured out this secret sauce, and we’re not going to share it with the other teams,’” she says.
She adds that she has been part of companies where the corporate staff is seldom seen except perhaps when they walk into a conference and a team of people are carrying their bags.
“That doesn’t feel authentic to who Karen and I are,” she says. “We’re in a relationship business, and we want to have a warm and approachable culture.”
Jane Perry, of Springfield, is a boutique partner who has been with Style Dots since its inception. She is one of the only boutique partners in the area.
Smith told SBJ she had previously sold Southern Living at Home, Entertaining at Home and Miche Bags, and Perry said she met Smith through direct sales.
“I always admired her, and when I heard she was starting a business, I thought, ‘I am in,’ with both hands up,” Perry said.
What Perry likes about the company is that she is not working for a suit, as she puts it.
“There’s not some board that’s got people on it that have no idea what it is to have a party not do well,” she says. “It’s really wonderful to have somebody that was in the field and walked in your shoes for many years.”
Perry is also a big fan of the Style Dots products, as well as her fellow boutique partners who sell them.
“One thing I very much appreciate about the sisterhood is we truly have each other’s backs,” she says. “If someone has a good marketing idea, they’re all about sharing it with the team. That’s totally unheard of in this business.”
In keeping with its fine fashion jewelry category, basic Style Dots items are typically under $100. A classic ring without its dot costs $25.95 in the company’s online catalog. A 17-inch necklace featuring a cross and a classic dot setting costs $32.95. The dots are extra. Purchases can be made through the website, but most are completed through interaction with a boutique partner.
Austin, Texas-based Kendra Scott LLC made its Springfield debut; Lost Boys Barber Co. LLC relocated; and Wilson Logistics Inc. opened its corporate headquarters in Strafford.