Known as “Queen of the Hoops,” entrepreneur Jennifer Fisher has designed jewelry worn by celebrities including Michelle Obama, Uma Thurman, Kim Kardashian and Madonna.
Even so, she told the audience attending a Women Who Empower event at Northeastern’s Raytheon Amphitheater Thursday afternoon that while gratitude fills her sails, fear also powers the engine of her success.
“I’m scared s—less every day, to be completely honest,” Fisher said in response to a question from a woman in the audience about how she overcame fear in the early stages of her business.
“Every day is terrifying. You have to use that as motivation,” Fisher said during an afternoon session on the “Art of Redefining Your Future,” with Jamie Ladge, associate professor in the Management and Organizational Development Group of Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.
Fisher says she interlaces that fear with feelings of gratitude.
“I’m really lucky to be here every day doing what I do,” she said. “I’m so lucky to be here and be terrified every day.”
Fisher said she learned from her father how to pick herself up and forge ahead with goals, plans and ideas.
“You do get a lot of no’s. You have to work through it,” Fisher said.
“Hearing no is just from one person,” or one company, she said, recalling the time a fashion magazine bigshot told her, “It will never work, this jewelry company.” Then someone else at the same magazine told her something entirely different, Fisher said.
Waking up with a positive mindset every day is important, she said.
Fisher was working as a celebrity stylist when she got the idea to make a special charm to mark the birth of her first child, who was conceived after a battle with a desmoid tumor—a rare sarcoma—raised concerns about whether she would be able to carry a pregnancy to term.
A fan of charms, Fisher wanted something special to spell out the name of her son, Shane.
“I always had lucky charms. I wanted to put them on a necklace.”
But nothing on the market seemed right. “Nothing really suited my personal style,” Fisher said.
She came up with the idea of putting her son’s name on a dog tag on a chunky gold chain and found a firm to produce it.
The grips and gaffers at work asked about it, Fisher said. “It was an instant conversation piece. So I started making them for people on the set.”
Eventually actress Uma Thurman wore one on the cover of a magazine, and—after her second child was born—Fisher went into business for herself.
“You have to believe in yourself. If you’re passionate about it, you can make it work,” she said.
Too often women feel they need to wait—to go to college, to graduate, to get married and have children—before they pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions, Fisher said.
“There’s no time to waste,” Fisher said. “You guys should not wait to do anything in life. Introduce yourself to anyone you can. I’m not shy.”
Ladge, author of “Maternal Optimism,” mentioned that she recently had shied away from introducing herself to actor Stanley Tucci at a wedding at which he officiated.
“They’re all exactly like us,” Fisher said, adding that celebrities put on their pants one leg at a time.
She admitted she was an early starter, showing her entrepreneurial spirit even as a child. “My parents would go out of town, and I’d start a new business.”
Fisher told the audience that following one’s own vision while also listening to customers is a key element to success.
She keeps her jewelry, which is often featured on celebrities on magazine covers, streamlined so it doesn’t interfere with the featured models and their designer clothing.
But Fisher said sometimes her vision impedes her growth, as when nobody buys a piece she thinks will be a bestseller or something she thinks is less attractive sells out in two minutes.
“You don’t know. You don’t know. It’s like a game we play every day,” she said.
“I fail every day, guys,” Fisher said.
But she’s learned it’s okay to make a choice that turns out to be a mistake, as long as she remains true to herself.
One of her latest product lines is three flavors of salt, something that surprised people who thought she might segue into shoes or handbags.
“I kind of like being weird,” said Fisher, who loves to cook. “Don’t put me in a box.”
Mental toughness is also important, especially when it comes to picking—and keeping—members of the team, Fisher said.
“If (a) team doesn’t work for you, you have to change that team,” Fisher said.
“If you’re unhappy working for me, godspeed,” go and get another job, she said. “Let people go.”
As Ladge interviewed Fisher, she took questions from the audience, including one from Temidola Ikomi, a 2017 graduate and winner of an Innovator award for co-founding a womenswear business, Irawo Studio, in Nigeria.
Ikomi told Fisher she loved her energy and her sense of gratitude and wanted to know how she overcame feelings of stagnancy.
“That’s an everyday challenge,” Fisher said. She said her company is growing so much it faces production challenges, adding, “You just have to make that change.”
Stacey Pablo, a fourth-year student at Northeastern and co-director of the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship, said she wanted to learn what lessons had helped the women speakers become successful.
What she learned from Fisher was the importance of “being courageous and taking the leap,” Pablo said.
Also speaking that afternoon were Kristen Lee, a teaching professor in behavioral science at Northeastern and author of “Worth the Risk” and “Microdosing Bravery,” and Lisa Feldman Barrett, distinguished professor in psychology and author of “7 1/2 Lessons About the Brain.”