Trust yourself and believe in yourself. I knew that physical therapy was a steady career choice but because I listened to my gut and pursued design, I’m a much happier and more fulfilled person today.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Reuben.
Raised by a Francophile mother with an explorer’s spirit, Sharon B. Reuben developed a love for fashion and other cultures at an early age.
While she graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology and practiced as a physical therapist for five years, she always felt something was missing in her career.
Sensing that travel would reveal her true north, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery in France. Following an inspiring visit to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, she was reminded of her childhood nickname, Chérie (French for sweetheart). She could not help but feel that she had returned to where she had always belonged. This place where design, creativity and culture were most celebrated revived what she had always been drawn to.
Upon returning to the United States she started over with a career in fashion. Her first role was as an in-house stylist at Theory, where she quickly became one of the top three sales associates nationwide. After Theory, she joined Zadig & Voltaire where she went on to open the brand’s Rodeo Drive location and continued to increase her responsibilities all the while growing her client roster.
The Chérie jewelry collection is Sharon’s first independent design project and is produced in partnership with her husband Jason’s family jewelry business.
Sharon lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I actually went to school for physical therapy and was a practicing physical therapist for a few years. While I loved the human interaction and helping people, I started to feel unfulfilled creatively. This empty feeling had me book an “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of trip with a friend of mine. My quarter-life-crisis-trip to Paris really inspired me to bring more creativity into my life. Being surrounded by such a beautiful city, and a culture that isn’t defined by how busy you are, motivated me to start drawing up the plans for Chérie jewelry.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I was very scared to get into a creative field because of my physical therapy background. I went through a period of time where I was fearful no one would take me seriously as a jewelry designer. I imagined people turning me away after they heard about my background without even giving me a chance. Imposter syndrome is real.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I had to dig deep inside myself and try very hard to forget about what other people thought of me. While designing the line, I realized that this is my passion and I’m very lucky to have found my passion in life. When I tap into my creative side, the happiness and confidence is what keeps me going.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going well! We launched Chérie last year and while it took awhile to get off the ground, I decided to go at my own pace. I didn’t allow myself to be rushed into anything that didn’t feel organic to me or my process. I think the resilience that it took for me to keep going during delays led to my eventual success because what resulted is a jewelry line that is authentically Chérie.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was so excited and distracted by how the designs were turning out that I neglected to order more than one ring size. This was another instance of learning that I need to slow down and go at my own pace. No matter what, I need to enjoy the process organically.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Prior to starting Chérie, I worked as a personal stylist at Theory and a few other places. When I was working as a stylist, I felt there was a gap in accessories. I started Chérie to fill that gap. My experience working directly with accessories sets me apart. I’ve experienced first-hand the lack of high-quality but affordable jewelry. I’m also very hands-on, I’m the first one to test all our pieces and if I wouldn’t wear it myself, it doesn’t pass our quality check. I want people to love Chérie as much as I do.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I know it sounds cliché but, stay true to yourself! If you sell out and create a product you don’t love, you’re not going to enjoy your process. Listen to your gut in all situations. If you find yourself doing something you don’t feel good about, take a step back and reevaluate. I think if you love what you’re doing, you’re way less likely to experience “burn out.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m very lucky to have my husband. My husband’s family has been in the jewelry industry for over 40 years. When I initially came to him with this idea he was immediately onboard and has believed in me during every step of this process. He’s never doubted me and I’m so grateful for him.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Since we’re so new, the goodness I hope to bring with Chérie is a little happiness, levity and confidence for those who wear it. In the future, we would love to be involved in mental health initiatives. Now more than ever, these kinds of programs are a necessity.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Trust yourself and believe in yourself. I knew that physical therapy was a steady career choice but because I listened to my gut and pursued design, I’m a much happier and more fulfilled person today.
- If you didn’t go to school or have formal training, it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. If someone would have told me this sooner, I think I would have started sooner. Just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path.
- Think outside of the box and don’t conform. My trip to Paris taught me this one, by living in a different country for three months, I allowed myself to explore things that were outside of my norm.
- Ask for help. Asking my husband for help was the best thing I could have ever done. Don’t be afraid of sharing your company and experiences with others.
- Take in feedback and don’t take it personally. Understand the fine line between listening to your gut and also listening to others’ opinions. I’m able to take in feedback but still do what feels organic to me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A mentorship program designed to help people struggling with their mental health. A program where people who have experience persevering in times of a mental health struggle can help others. Kind of like a Big Brothers, Big Sisters, designed especially for those struggling with mental health.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On Instagram @shopcheriela!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!