Women in Business Q&A: Katherine Jetter

Settling in New York City, Katherine created her eponymous company; Katherine Jetter Ltd. Meeting her husband and greatest fan in NYC, she was married and this international jet-setting, big city couple moved their lives and work to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Katherine enjoys the creative vibe of the city as well as the expansive and endless vistas of the New Mexico landscape creating an inspiring and positive influence on her collection and one of a kind commissions.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
It takes time to learn your voice, and I certainly wouldn't profess to knowing everything at 31 years of age today. Being a good manager and leader is probably the hardest task I have had to learn in running my own business. My business and life experiences so far have taught me that the best way to lead, is by example. I govern my business with integrity and honesty and that shapes my reputation. It's key to my business to have that underlying trust as a basis in everything I do. I lead my team by working as hard as I expect them to, by being the first to roll up my sleeves and get in the trenches. I lead my business by being an industry expert in precious stones (opals), through refining my design skills, and delivering the best quality product and service possible for my clients. I stand proudly behind my product and people recognize that and feel secure in their choice to work with me.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure as a jewelry designer?
I have a BSc in Psychology and was an analyst at JP Morgan Private Bank before becoming a jewelry designer. The psychology of customer service is so important, especially when serving in the luxury goods industry. Being able to really listen to people and what they are looking for, as opposed to just pushing a product, is everything. I would consider having a strong understanding of finance and being business savvy a crucial part of my business success. It is simply not enough to 'just' create a beautiful product. With today's consumer it is also has to fit a careful formula of perceived value to price, wear ability and correct placement in the market. The overheads of running a jewelry business are also significant in terms of product, insurance and logistics, and managing these expenses with cash flow as a young business requires constant attention and restraint.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure as a jewelry designer?
I have been extremely fortunate and grateful to receive recognition and appreciation for my work from the onset, from people I respect in the trade, as well as a loyal following of friends and clients. I would say one of the biggest highlights of my career to date was the day I flew to Dallas to meet with the head buyers for the Neiman Marcus Precious Jewelry department. It was the hardest and most significant career meeting of my life to date, but at the end they signed me with my vendor account. The joy and recognition I felt from that was overwhelming, and has been a great business relationship ever since.

The hardest challenge I have experienced so far is learning to be a good business manager. Learning to communicate in a constructive way, navigating personalities, asking for what you want as a business owner while respecting your employees' abilities and boundaries, and learning to be firm but fair. I struggle with it, and I think it is generally a lot harder for women than men to ask for what they need in business, and to remove emotion from the equation. There is truly an art to it. I don't see men agonize nearly as much as women do over asking for what they need in business.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
I would say the rules are no different for a woman than for a man - act with professionalism and integrity - and expect to play the same business game as men. Don't think you're going to receive any favors just because you are a woman, and don't play the 'damsel in distress' card, men will respect you less for it. The same thing applies to using your sexuality to your benefit, don't do it! People won't take you seriously.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Be the best at what you do and master of your field, no one can argue with the facts, so know what you're talking about before you set out.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I think most entrepreneurs would agree with me that work/life balance isn't really the same concept for us. My work and personal life is a continuous flow between the two, the two go hand in hand with each other. I make sure to take time for myself when I can, and when work calls, I am on, the day or time is irrelevant. It certainly helps that my husband is an entrepreneur and business owner as well, so we are able to respect and understand each other's work flow. We may work all weekend, but take Monday off on a last minute decision, that's the perks of owning your own business. I know how around the clock my hours are, so I don't feel I need to justify to people if I decide to take time for myself here and there, I learned to let that one go and not feel guilty.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There is a perception out there that women can be highly competitive and non-supportive of each other. I think this can be especially true in corporate environments. That disappoints me because I feel we should build each other up and support each other's success. I have to say my own experience in business has been amazing, as I have been very proactive in surrounding myself with other strong female entrepreneurs who are confident in themselves. We support, advise, and encourage each other. I am very lucky to live in a town, Santa Fe, where there are a number of young females who own their own businesses. For example, a friend of mine who owns her own PR firm and I recently decided to rent office space together. We are all women, all young mothers or about to become mothers, and we created an environment for ourselves where we can have our children come in for naps, our dogs can play, and we can work without having to segregate our home and work life. There are limited daycare options in our town, so we created this solution for ourselves, it's amazing and we all love going to the office! Reading Sheryl Sandberg's book 'Lean In' really motivated me to listen to the fact that women need to be proactive about asking for/and taking (!) what they need in the work environment to succeed. It doesn't have to be a choice between being a mother or having a career.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has played an enormous role in my life. I would never have been able to build my company at such a young age without the incredible mentors who believed in me, supported and helped guide me, when all I had was my hopes and dreams. With their help, I was able to establish business momentum and avoid pitfalls and mistakes that could end a young career right out of the gate. I was eventually able to turn around and hire my mentors and bring them on to my payroll, which I am so proud to be able to do. It's my way of being able to thank them for believing in me.

My husband and I believe in mentorship so much, that we created The New Mexico Leadership Institute (NMLI). Our program offers 30 children each year with scholarships to UNM and NMSU Universities in New Mexico, paired with mentorship and leadership training, to give back to our community and pay mentorship forward to future generations.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Hillary Clinton. Despite being married to one of the most charismatic and dynamic men in politics, she has managed to still have her own voice and career alongside, in support of, and independently of him.

What do you want your business to accomplish in the next year?
To grow my balance sheet again by 100%. So far, I have doubled my business sales every year since I started in 2008. Next year I will be a first time mother, and I don't intend to let it slow me down!