Dr. Shellie: Can you fill us in on your journey to becoming the “Queen of Bling”?
Debbie: Well, it has been quite a journey, I will tell you that Shellie. I have been on this path and journey for a good part of my life. I’ve wanted to be in fashion ever since I was a five-year-old little girl. I have done several different careers in my professional life and had the opportunity to look at this business about two years ago to take it over from the founder.
Dr. Shellie: I know the name was “Cookie Lee,” and you have rebranded the company as “ViVi.” What does “ViVi” mean?
Debbie: “ViVi” stands for “Vision, Inspiration, Value, and Independence.” After I bought the Cookie Lee jewelry company two years ago, we decided to change the name as part of the rebrand. I wanted to name the company to encompass where we are going rather than where we have been. I also wanted the name to honor the women who built the company over the past two and a half decades and are the driving force of the business today.
Dr. Shellie: Tell me more about the name and how it supports your company’s mission.
Debbie: ViVi’s mission is to embrace women and empower them to reach their full potential through selling a great product they can stand behind. ViVi represents an opportunity for every woman to harness and grow in the qualities of vision, inspiration, value, and independence in herself, her business, and in other women. We put it this way: Share our vision by inspiring other women and helping them to inspire others, provide great value with our product, teach them to find value in themselves and with each other, and create financial independence.
Dr. Shellie: Why did you feel that purchasing Cookie Lee was right for you?
Debbie: What I loved about this company is that our values, Cookie’s and mine, were so in sync. Cookie Lee built this company off the kitchen table, into the trunk of her car, and into women’s homes. Her passion was women helping women. I share that passion, and mentoring women is my very favorite thing. I believe that, in life, we are given gifts, and it is our responsibility as women especially to identify those gifts, nurture those gifts and steward those gifts to others. One of my gifts that I have found is mentoring women, and I absolutely love it. So, I get to do that on a very large and “blingy” scale with our business. We provide the opportunity for women to have their very own entrepreneurial business and create flexible income for themselves selling beautiful, affordable jewelry.
Dr. Shellie: I too am a big believer in mentoring, and one of my books is Mentoring Magic: Pick the Card for Your Success. What we found researching for that book was that true mentoring comes when it is reciprocal, when it is give and take. Can you speak to that about the mentoring you do, and do you find it to be give and take?
Debbie: It is usually give and take. But as you know, Shellie, mentoring can sometimes be a one-way street until others really find that they see value in it and are getting value from it. I think, in a lot of ways, we have to give and give and give before it becomes a two-way street. Part of what I love about this business is that I get the opportunity to help women see and identify talents they have that they don’t recognize that they have and nurture those and develop them into something that can allow them to grow personally.
Dr. Shellie: You’re not only the “Queen of Bling,” but you are the queen of affordable, beautiful jewelry. Tell me more about the jewelry and how you keep it at the affordable price point.
Debbie: One of the things I love about our price point and our product is that it is fashion jewelry, and all of it is $50 and under. There is something in our collection for everyone. I have teenage daughters who wear the jewelry, and my mom wears the jewelry, and it’s for everyone in between. What I love about the price point is that it allows women to sell our product everywhere. There is something for everyone on the table, and it is so fun.
Dr. Shellie: How do you go about creating the jewelry so it is affordable?
Debbie: I brought in Shawn Forbes as our vice president of creative, and she has done a great job and has an amazing history in the fashion industry, especially in accessories and jewelry. She has been dedicated to providing our stylists with the best possible line that we can design that is on trend, but not too trendy, and it is super fun and affordable.
Dr. Shellie: Tell us about your family.
Debbie: I have six children—four girls and two boys.
Dr. Shellie: How are you raising six children and running a major business?
Debbie: I have a very supportive husband. I travel with my children when I can. That’s been a total blessing for me this past year. We look at colleges, we do mini vacations, and when I am home, I AM home. And when I am working, I AM working.
Dr. Shellie: Do you have any tips for moms who may be starting this journey and are like, “Oh no, I can’t be an entrepreneur because I have children.” What would you say to them?
Debbie: One of the things that I find fascinating and interesting about our particular business is that a lot of women get into our business when they are in some sort of transition. It’s either when they are graduating school, starting a family, leaving a full time job to stay home with their children, women who are transitioning in a marriage or life situation or their children are going off to college, so there are all sorts of transitions. I believe we short-change ourselves and that we believe we are not capable of doing everything we can actually do. If you follow the recipe of our business, anyone can do it.
Dr. Shellie: What would you say helps you to balance raising your family and running a company?
Debbie: For me, the most important thing, I think, in being a mom who works outside the home is being organized. I use the method of time chunking. I time chunk, so when I am working I am super effective. And so when I am with my family, I can BE with my family. And the reality I have for my children is that they are all going to have to work. I have worked since I was 13. I believe it is important for me to model that for my children because the likelihood is that they are going to be working when they get to be adults.
Dr. Shellie: Work ethic in children is vital. So
we’ve talked about your children and your wonderful husband. How do friends fit into the equation?
Debbie: I love my girlfriends, and a lot of them are working women as well. Friendships are the one area that I have to be very diligent about maintaining. I don’t see them as much as I used to, but I talk to my friends all the time because I think that is really important. Actually why I originally got into a direct selling fashion business ten years ago was so I could have girlfriend time. Friendships are a really important part of my life, but the family part trumps the friend part right now when I have to make choices.
Dr. Shellie: I totally understand that. Debbie, what about giving back to the community? I know you have some philanthropic endeavors, tell us about those.
Debbie: I am involved with Children’s Hospital of LA, CEOs Against Cancer, and the American Cancer Society. These three in particular are near and dear to my heart as I am a pediatric cancer survivor myself. At 9, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer and was treated at Children’s Hospital of LA until I was 18, so I remain close with them.
Dr. Shellie: I understand you have a relationship with the American Cancer Society.
Debbie: Last year, we became a corporate sponsor for the American Cancer Society, and as a result, Shawn designed three cancer support bracelets where $3 of each bracelet goes to ACS. Our personal stylists are actively involved in their communities as well for the American Cancer Society. What is also wonderful is that most of our stylists want to give back to their community, so fundraising is a part of their business where they work with individuals or organizations who want to raise money for a particular cause.
Dr. Shellie: How would women find out about this as a business opportunity for themselves?
Debbie: Women can go to our website www.beViVi.com. All the information about becoming a personal stylist is there. You can see our entire jewelry collection there. We are looking to grow our family of personal stylists. We have an amazing sisterhood of stylists. Not only can you earn commissions for selling the product, you can earn a fabulous ViVi Vacay. Right now our stylists are earning toward our ViVi Vacay in Costa Rica next June. The best part of the trip is the sisterhood and the community of women coming together and having girlfriend time. It’s really a blast.
Dr. Shellie: What does it mean to you to encourage other women entrepreneurs?
Debbie: I absolutely love what I do. I feel it is a blessing and a privilege that I get to get up every single day and support women to improve their lives. Whether it’s emotional, personal, or professional, it is such a gift that I get to give, and we get to do it through fabulous jewelry. I have an amazing team of women, and a few men, in our home office who help us to support the personal stylists out in the field who get to share our business opportunity with other women. We really look at it as a blessing. We are here and get to serve other women and help them create an opportunity for themselves. It is an honor and privilege. Your mission, Shellie, and ours dovetail.
Dr. Shellie: Yes they do, and it is all about the relationships with other women. Any last thoughts?
Debbie: Just this…support the women in your life…stay true to yourself…follow your heart and passion because, if you are doing what you love, it never, ever has to feel like work.
If you have questions about ViVi, you can contact Sandie Grindel at beViVisandie@gmail.com or visit her website at www.beViVi.com/sandiegrindel to purchase the gorgeous, affordable jewelry or learn more about becoming a ViVi personal stylist.