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Faces of Our Community: Glendale Community College’s Jessica Herrin Faces of Our Community
When those inspired by Jessica Herrin’s journey from Glendale Community College student to celebrated entrepreneur and philanthropist hear her story, they naturally want to know her secret.
There was no secret.
“You don’t need a pedigree from a formal program – you need effort,” says the GCC grad and founder of $300 million fashion brand Stella & Dot. “The best advice I ever got was from my father: Don’t ever expect the world to just show up for you … You want to learn something? Go figure it out.”
Herrin’s rise began with a macroeconomics class at Glendale, in which her fascination with the writings of Milton Friedman sparked a broader interest in the subject. With her father’s advice still ringing in her ear, she became determined to “figure out” the boldest path to a successful career in business.
Despite scoffs from classmates, and in one case, a counselor, she set her sights on Stanford University, where she was accepted into the undergraduate economics program. Once in Palo Alto, she wasted little time proving her naysayers wrong.
“Those who go straight to a four-year school may think community college is not as hard,” Herrin writes in her book, Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier, and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms. “That is not true. Some of the teachers I had there, like Stephen White in economics, were better teachers, in my opinion, than some of the most prestigious professors … at Stanford.”
Three years later, Herrin had turned her Glendale Community College credits into a bachelor’s degree in economics, and was pursuing a master’s at Stanford’s renowned Graduate School of Business. It was there that she germinated the idea for what would become her first entrepreneurial swing, and soon, the first name in online registry services: WeddingChannel.com. The venture was a runaway success, and a new star in women’s entrepreneurship was born.
While Herrin’s fast success was professionally fulfilling, she was determined to make her next venture mean something more. Hoping to change the paradigm of woman-focused, home-based businesses, she launched the Stella & Dot Family of Brands in 2007, and immediately began to pay her “humble beginnings” inspiration forward.
“I wanted this company to be soul-fulfilling and to feel like a calling, not just a job or a commercial pursuit,” says the 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. “To me, that meant creating opportunity for women through our flexible income, which for a lot of women is a dream job.”
Herrin is also active in charitable efforts supporting educational opportunity for women, breast cancer and autism awareness. Through her Stella & Dot Foundation, she has helped raise more than $2 million to date in support of largely female-focused causes.
Says Herrin: “For other women who are in different places in their life, we are privileged to use the success that we created as a company to enable them to move forward towards their dreams.”