Woman Owned Wednesday: Lauren Priori
I was invited to join a collaborative side project with a group of other female entrepreneurs in late 2017. Although the project didn't really go anywhere, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to meet and connect with other young female entrepreneurs, one of whom was the incredibly inspirational Lauren Priori. Lauren and I hit it off, and decided to meet for coffee after the project wrapped.
After that coffee, however, we sort of lost touch because life got busy. I had my second baby a few months later and Lauren was planning a wedding. It wasn't until a few years later that we reconnected through another work project. By this time, Lauren's business was booming, having expanded into multiple locations in three different cities. She hired a wonderful firm to manage her rebrand, and they, in turn, contracted the messaging work out to me.
I learned a lot about Lauren while we were working together, including the fact that she graduated from Wharton and was passionate about employing and empowering women. As Lauren's business continues to grow, I am so in awe of what she has been able to accomplish.
Lauren Priori: L. Priori Jewelry & Priori Estate
What is the name of your company and what do you do?
I have jewelry companies - L. Priori Jewelry, a custom jewelry studio; Priori Estate, an estate and antique jewelry store - and on the side I’m looking for investment opportunities in woman owned companies. I own part of Kari Skin in Old City.
How long have you been in business?
7 years! I started L. Priori in January 2016.
How did you decide to launch your own business?
I had always wanted to work for myself, but the time never felt quite right. After working on Jewelers’ Row for four years, I started making engagement rings for friends and family on the weekends. I had always wanted to start my own business, and testing things out made me feel like I had something.
My then-boyfriend now-husband Fred has worked for himself since he was 21, so he was a huge pusher. One night he told me, “There’s two kinds of people in this world. People who start companies and people who prefer to be employed, and both are right paths for different people. You have to figure out which you are.” Which really pissed me off, because I thought he was implying I didn’t have what it takes! I quit my job pretty soon after that.
What challenges did you face in the process of launching your business?
The loneliness really surprised me. When it’s your company, every decision, every Google review, every customer’s happiness - it’s ultimately your responsibility. It was hard not having a work bestie that I could bounce my frustrations off of.
Growth vs profitability has also been a constant push/pull. We have been lucky to more than double some years - which is amazing! - but that comes with increased costs as you try to plan for growth, sometimes way over or under shooting.
Did you feel as though there were resources available to you, specifically as a woman business owner?
Yes and no. At the time I started, there were a lot of young female entrepreneur groups, things like Rising Tide Society and Lady Boss events. I learned so much about marketing from those groups, plus I made a few really amazing friends.
On the other hand, the money part of things felt very opaque to me. It’s not something any of my female entrepreneur friends ever talked about. I am just now starting to talk to bankers about loans and understand amortization (mostly!).
Do you have a mentor?
I have two amazing mentors. Both are industry guys and my relationship with both developed naturally.
The first was my boss at my last job. I was a key person at that company, and yet he was so supportive of me leaving and starting my own company. He has a very no-nonsense approach to entrepreneurship, and it’s really helpful to get that perspective. Is it making money? Good. Is it losing money? Stop doing that.
My other mentor is an industry CEO who I befriended a few years ago. He is 30 years older than me, and now leads a company of 1500+ employees. He’s been through it all and always has really thoughtful advice. We check in once a quarter or so and I always have a ton of clarity after we talk. Any question I have about hiring, managing my time, structuring my company - literally anything! - he has insight or an HBR article to send me.
I always thought I would have a female mentor by this point in my career, but it hasn’t happened. I hope I can fill that role for a future young entrepreneur.
Books you recommend?
I love Big Magic by Liz Gilbert and reread it every year. She wrote it for artists, but her ideas on risk taking and having a vocation ring true for entrepreneurs.
Dear Founder by Maynard Webb is full of concise and spot on advice. I often refer to it when I feel I’m in an impossible situation.
On a non business note, I love anything by George Saunders. His writing is so odd and thought provoking that it stays with me for years. The Tenth of December is my favorite.
What do you love most about running your own business?
I love having a team and creating an amazing workplace. Early on in my career, I had a role that felt like my dream job. Fairly quickly I realized I hated that job and almost left the industry. I realized that liking your job is more dependent on management style than anything else. I love love love that I get to create jobs that people love in an industry that is not known for having amazing people managers.
What is your least favorite aspect of running your own business?
When you own a business, it’s natural to base your self worth on how the business is doing. When things are going great, I feel like a jewelry queen, when they are not, I feel like I am letting down my entire team, our customers, my family…it’s not always super healthy. I am lucky that my husband is an entrepreneur. He talks me down when I get too wound up.
What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business?
If you’re sure in your bones that you want to do it, absolutely go for it. But if you can, start small. Make sure people are actually buying what you’re selling before you quit your day job. And if you’re feeling ready to make that leap, talk to other business owners about what their day to day is like. If you absolutely love doing hair, know that as a salon owner your day to day is going to be a lot less hair and a lot more managing people and budgets and operations.