A successful retail store is a store filled with genuinely happy sales people who walk customers out the door with a smile on their face. When I left the Lulu Frost studio I felt like a happy customer. Not only did founder Lisa Salzer walk me out of her studio with a smile on my face, but she reinvigorated the notion that dreams can be reality. Maybe her contagious energy is the reason her brand is so successful. She loves what she does and I can only imagine her jewelry leaves customers with a bag in their hand and smile on their face.So much of what I write about is based on feelings I have during my interview process with people. Did I feel truly inspired? Did I leave feeling underwhelmed? I never prepare notes or questions in advance because I thrive off of unedited and organic conversations. My ultimate goal is to write about people who inspire myself and others to conquer our dreams. It was my interview with Lisa that made me realize this blog is not just an effort to unveil the talents of New York City transplants but is also meant to help me uncover my own ambitions based on the advice and experiences of my interviewees.It was after leaving Lisa's studio I happened on this new idea and exercise. I sat down in a nearby coffee shop and allotted 30 seconds to write down all the words that came to mind based on how I felt upon the close of our interview. Here are some of the most notable, "...lovely, kind, beautiful, nice, wisdom, inspire, cool, intention, vintage, history, mentor, leader, relaxed, contagious, smart..." So, basically? Lisa is one of those people who made me feel like I could go out and conquer my dreams.She grew up outside the city in Long Island but spent weekends in Manhattan at places like Limelight pretending she was over 18 like any young girl primed for city life. Her love of hiking with her father brought her to the beautiful Dartmouth in New Hampshire where she majored in Art History. She started taking jewelry courses in Dartmouth's jewelry studio, but never thought she could have a career in it, even though art, fashion, and entrepreneurialism is in her blood.After all, Lisa's immediate family consisted of doctors and lawyers and her grandmother, Elizabeth Frost, was in the antique jewelry business. "The name 'Lulu Frost' comes from the combination of my grandmother's last name and my nickname, 'Lulu.' My grandmother came into the states alone on a steamship when she was 13. She was an old school British woman who managed a beautiful jewelry store. She had the love of vintage in her blood," described Lisa. The winter of her sophomore year Lisa landed an internship with a designer in New York City. "I realized I could actually bring jewelry to life with my hands and loved the idea of building something out of nothing," said Lisa.After completing her Art History degree, Lisa had a lot of spare time on her hands at school. She started combining her love of vintage with jewelry and began sourcing different vintage pieces at flea markets in New Hampshire and Vermont. She would find amazing pieces for next to nothing at garage sales, etc. Lisa remembers one store in particular called Gem Star Gem Stones owned by a hippie couple. She would buy things here, transform them, and make jewelry which she sold to girls at school. "The fact that these older girls would spend $60 on something I spent 20 hours making was so thrilling. Of course I wasn't charging what it was worth but these cool girls would wear my jewelry to frat parties and it gave me so much confidence," said Lisa.So in 2004 with her parents blessing her senior year of college, Lisa decided she would try for one full year to launch Lulu Frost. Her first step was to make sure the name was available. Sitting in her bed at Dartmouth she called up a lawyer and while waiting to hear back had "an overwhelmingly emotional experience." Lisa's grandmother, who had passed away a couple years earlier, loved red cardinals. All her time at Dartmouth Lisa never saw a red cardinal, but that morning a cardinal landed on her window sill. "I thought it was my grandmother helping me. Since then I feel like Lulu Frost has been blessed. Even if it was a coincidence, it doesn't matter because I believe it and it helps keep me believing in what I am doing," said Lisa.After receiving an affirmative from her lawyer, she decided to enroll in a crash business course at Dartmouth. She signed up for what was essentially a boot camp for pre corporate people with summer classes six days a week. "It was incredibly hard but the best learning experience. Now i was confident in both the creative and business sides," said Lisa. After this course she moved from New Hampshire to New York City. In New York she found a day job with her sister filing orthodontist charts so she could personally fund her business on the side.After about nine months, due to a lucky chain of events, she knew she could turn Lulu Frost into a long term business. The first stepping stone was a phone call from Daily Candy. They wanted to run a story on Lulu Frost within the week giving Lisa little time to prepare for the mass exposure she was about to receive. "It was the best blessing of my life and the reason I believe you don't really need to be as prepared as you think you do. When you are put in a situation like this you react and have no choice but to accomplish what is necessary," said Lisa. If she wanted to capitalize on this opportunity she had to scramble to update her site and produce more product. The day the story went live she had 25,000 hits on her website compared to the previous 10 to 30 a day.Her second success moment came shortly after Daily Candy. Two days later she cold called Barney's--literally 411 to the corporate offices. Lisa left a message for the jewelry team and they called back immediately. She set up a meeting and showed them her entire collection of 20 pieces. Barney's bought them all. "It was a fortuitous moment. I discovered I really didn't need to know anyone. I mean, maybe people who know people move faster but I didn't. I felt charmed and had a start," said Lisa.When Barney's picked up Lulu Frost Lisa was working by herself. Eight years later she has a team of about 12 and is in retail outlets like Fred Segal, Intermix, Bergdorf Goodman, Net-a-Porter, and more. Lisa, like myself, is very familiar with the importance of the sales floor experience. "I always loved selling and worked at places like J.Crew and Abercrombie. What it comes down to is how do you become that brand that a customer chooses to spend their hard earned money on," said Lisa. She loves interacting directly with customers and tailors to many specialty orders. "People know we love to use vintage antiques so they will bring a family heirloom and I am so lucky to be trusted to rework something of sentimental value," said Lisa.For Lulu Frost, it's about making an aesthetic connection between the jewelry and the person who is wearing it. As an art history major Lisa draws inspiration from various eras from the Hahn dynasty to Victorian and Art Deco. Her upcoming spring/summer 2013 collection was inspired by the style of three fashion icons: Marchesa Casati, Nancy Cunard, and Elsa Schiaparelli, all of whom Lisa's friend (and editor/writer), Lesley Blume, praises in her book Let's Bring it Back. An added bonus to Lisa's covetable aesthetic is that the majority of the creation process takes place in New York City, a city that has been the love of her life."I love New York. It is such a nurturing place for creative people and if you work hard and consistently it will be recognized and celebrated in this environment," said Lisa. Her one piece of advice for those who have dreams of making it in New York? "Just start. Don't let fear stop you," she said. And while she acknowledges she had little to lose when she started her company at 21, she also strongly believes in taking a chance. After all, I asked Lisa, "How unstoppable of a world would we have if fear was not a road block?" She very much agreed.I absolutely adore Lisa's jewelry but I adore her outlook more. This optimistic attitude is part of the reason she is able to create such beautiful works of art. Her definition of success? "Doing what makes you happy is the best joy in the world. The possibility to make it huge and keep growing--it doesn't stop. Whatever I dream can be true," said Lisa. And with these parting words, I took my exit. With a smile on my face and a Lulu Frost souvenir around my neck.
All pictures taken of me courtesy of Sunny Chang.