Paradigm Shifters is a series of interviews with a select group of women and men from eclectic walks of life. It will highlight unspoken, real-life insights on how they have been able to turn weakness into strength. A naked soul point of view of how their breakdowns were really a preparation for breakthroughs. They are your quintessential paradigm shifters; internal shifts converted into genuine change.
Everything I have ever done has been focused on this underlying theme of shifting the paradigm because, "What we think determines what we feel and what we feel determines what we do." Hence, why Empowered by You takes lingerie, which has traditionally been seen merely as a tool of seduction and redirected that energy as a tool of empowerment.
I hope from these stories you will look at your own situations, struggles and accomplishments through a different lens. At the very least you will be more equipped with real life tools to change your own paradigm. At the end of the day, we are our own Alchemist turning the silver we were born with into the gold we are destined to become.
Chantel Waterbury - Founder & CEO, chloe + isabel
What gave you the spark to start Chloe + Isabel?
We won't go into it all because it is a long story, but it began at an early stage in my life.
I left home at thirteen and I was an emancipated minor by fifteen. At 17, I was accepted into a private university. Because I was emancipated, I didn't qualify for financial aid in the way I thought I could. There was no way I could attend school if I didn't find a way to pay for it.
Somehow, I stumbled upon a direct sales opportunity, not knowing what it was, and started selling kitchen cutlery. Over the next several months I sold thirty thousand dollars worth of knives and paid my way through the first two years of school. It didn't even occur to me what I was doing. All I know is that this opportunity changed my life.
My coursework focused on business and after college, I went straight into buying. For the next 15 years, I would work in corporate fashion. I was always in jewelry, I love jewelry--I identified that path right away and always knew that I wanted to start my own company.
At my first job, a vendor tried to hire me and I remember thinking "I barely have any experience and you're willing to pay me all this money. Imagine if I knew what I was doing, imagine if I was in these jobs for awhile." So that's why I stayed my course. It was never about money, it was more about paving my path, leading to Chloe + Isabel.
I planned this journey so I could build a company that could create the products for all these stores. And over time I realized I wanted to do more than just create fashion but actually have a positive impact on people's lives with this skill set that i honed over 15 years.
It's crazy when you think about the journey that I set on. Most people wonder why I took so long, I just didn't want to fail.
Why the name Chloe + Isabel?
Chloe + Isabel is designed for every single woman.
I didn't build a company that was about me and my brand, I built a company that was about empowering women.
It's a take on our friendship philosophy and opposites attracting. It was inspired by two strong personalities, which is how people shop. The popular comparison is Carrie and Charlotte from Sex in the City. You've got your fearless in fashion trendsetter, Chloe, and you have your classic and timeless, Isabel. When people come in, they immediately identify with the Chloe or the Isabel, so we teach our merchandisers how to sell that way.
By attaching personalities to the products, it allows merchandisers to do a better job in servicing their customers and identify their needs.
The actual names Chloe + Isabel are French, giving the brand a French DNA, while also honoring my heritage. In that sense, there is duality throughout the brand. I didn't want anyone to think Chloe + Isabel couldn't be for them, I wanted to build a global brand.
What is the business model of Chloe + Isabel?
Chloe + Isabel is pioneering social retail. I can't find another company that actually does what we do. My original thought was, what if a lifestyle brand with such an affinity said the only way you can buy my products is through these women?
There's a true desire for the products but you train these women to be your storefronts. Rather than having big business own big business, what if you actually let independent small business owners own your business and they were your distribution channels?
How do you find these women?
As a company we have to protect the merchandisers, train them, and select them. We interview every single merchandiser. We have over nine thousand merchandisers and we get thousands of applications a month.
I didn't realize how much women needed this, and for reasons that I didn't know they needed it.
Our tagline is, "Be creative, be confident, be you" so I want to help instill that confidence through knowledge. I've had to broaden the scope of what makes someone a great merchandiser and why we would spend that time training and developing them. There are nine thousand storefronts in my mind.
I don't care if this is a stepping-stone for our merchandisers or a destination, they come because they want to run a business. One of the biggest difference between direct sales and social retail is with direct sales anybody can join by paying money, but you can't just pay to join Chloe + Isabel, we choose to invest in you.
How do these women get started?
We invite you to purchase your kit for a hundred and seventy-five dollars, in exchange you receive six hundred dollars worth of jewelry and an online boutique.
We don't make money on the kit--that is where Chloe + Isabel invests time, training and gives you all of your tools. We give you everything you need to be successful. Their success is truly our passion.
The jewelry is very important because you need to know what you're selling. We're selling a story. Our products are inspired by people, places and things. We use marketing themes so that we see a really consistent pop-up experience across the country. Our merchandiser is an omnichannel presence, she can run her business online or in person.
What do you feel was your biggest breakdown to breakthrough moment?
My biggest breakdown moment was realizing that the vision was going to require building new technology. I really thought this software existed and there was a moment where I thought, can we do this?
Our business was growing, the awareness for Chloe + Isabel was there. Yet, I had promised all of these things that didn't exist yet. For whatever reason, this was the first time I ever had self-doubt and there was probably a three-month period where I questioned it all. I could have sold Chloe + Isabel through retailers and had a business over night--but that wasn't why I started the company. I wanted to take the skill set I'd built over my entire life and completely dedicate it to helping others.
I didn't give up, and now I wake up every single day eager to get to the office because I am going to help change someone's life today.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To trust my gut and to not second guess myself.
There were times where I talked myself into things or made decisions too quickly when I knew it wasn't the right thing to do. I've learned to trust myself now.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Legacy is such a strong word, but mine is quite simple.
When I left the corporate world, I had been offered my dream job. It was everything that I thought I had worked towards, and I said no so that I could start Chloe + Isabel. I realized then that it wasn't going to make me happy.
I want to help people understand what makes them happy, to find a way to live their life in a way that delivers that message every single day.
How much money do you want to make or how much jewelry do you want to sell--that's never the question we're asking but more so, why are you here? I want people to come back and say I lived a better life because I joined Chloe + Isabel.