Welcome to the Joyce Luck Club!
Last month (I’m so behind on this post!), I convened the #JoyceLuckClub, my own riff of The Joy Luck Club, the sisterhood of women from Amy Tan’s famous novel. It was one of my favorite books growing up. It was the first book I saw myself in. Not just as an Asian-American woman with a complicated relationship with my mother, but as a woman who wanted to be seen for who she really was.
I love the idea of a circle of women who help each other make their own luck and fortunes in life. My modern-day version of the mahjong club is a conversation series for women breaking new ground and writing their own rules—in life, family and career—to share stories and talk in person. It’s so nice to be able to share the accomplishments and wisdom of your friends with others—and to make new friends at the same time. (With cocktails, cheese, crackers and custom Get Go fortune cookies of course!)
For the first panel discussion, co-hosted by Jenni Kayne at their effortlessly chic store in Tribeca, I invited Sylvana Durrett, the founder of Maisonette, a luxury retail site for babies and children, Cayli Cavaco Reck, founder of Knockout Beauty, an exceptionally curated beauty destination, and Jordan Salcito, founder of Ramona, a fizzy cocktail beverage that’s utterly irresistible and tastes like summer in a can (though I’ve been known to drink it all year!).
Each of these women embody qualities that I try to channel throughout my own start-up journey. Although more progressed than me, they still are in the early stages of developing their businesses and brands. As I baby-step my way forward with the Get Go, I love hearing about how others got their starts and learned to walk. Here are some takeaways that I’ll keep repeating to myself as I keep the Get Go going…
YOU ARE CAPABLE OF MORE THAN YOU KNOW.
Sylvana had worked at Vogue Magazine as one of Anna Wintour’s most trusted deputies for many years. Her life from the outside was enviable: A glamorous job, a beautiful family. But to Syl (who was once my intern and I’ve known since she was a teenager–her older sister, Daniela, one of my best friend’s from college), having a great-looking life wasn’t the goal. It had to feel satisfying.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something hard,” she shared. “I wanted to prove that I could handle the business, that I could create something that combined the things I loved—fashion and my children. Hopefully, my kids will be proud of what I built one day.”
Self-satisfaction is the ultimate metric. Creating a business for not only you, but to inspire your children is the most noble mission of all. There’s so much pressure in starting up and so often we are dissuaded from doing things because they’re hard. What I admire most in Syl is her steady, unflappable determination. She takes every twist and turn in stride. It’s the sign of a real leader.
YOU ARE YOUR OWN SECRET WEAPON.
“So I thought to myself, what am I good at? I’m not that funny,” Cayli said about how she came up with her business, Knockout Beauty. “But I’m charming and personable. I can cheer people up and make them feel good. What can I do with that?”
For Cayli, the business—a jewel-box of a beauty story on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a pop-up in Bridgehampton, and online destination–is an expression of herself. It’s charming, cozy, bright, meticulously curated and perfectly appointed. A beauty dream come true. When you walk in, you’re greeted with warmth and treated to such thorough customer service. It’s a place where feeling more beautiful is possible because of the amazing selection of products and being welcomed into a fun, juicy insider conversation the minute you walk in. I’ve never walked into either location without immediately joining a lively conversation in progress with other customers and staff.
The thing that comes most naturally to her is the thing that makes her business and brand stand out from the others.
BREAK THE RULES ONCE YOU’VE MASTERED THEM.
The world of wine is one of the most rarified worlds. As the director of special wine projects for David Chang’s restaurant group, Momofuku, Jordan is one of a few young female stars. When she didn’t pass the Master Sommelier exam, based on subjective judging, she decided she’d make her own product based on new rules of her own definition.
“Ramona is irreverent—in name and concept,” Jordan told the audience firmly. “Why should I or any woman be ashamed of enjoying a bubbly, sweet beverage when we’re not in the mood for wine? Why shouldn’t it be excellent quality with integrity of ingredients just because it comes in a can? Why can’t it be seriously well-made and fun too? Why do we have to drink seriously? Why shouldn’t a drink like Ramona have a place at the table? Why should only men have seats at the table? Who gets to make these rules up?”
But as serious as Jordan is about the quality of her product, the signature of the brand is how playful it is. The packaging is bright and bold. The taste is zippy and light. The attitude is uncomplicated and fun.
Named for Beverly Cleary’s classic children’s book character, Ramona Quimby, a tomboy little sister who’s constantly getting into scrapes, Ramona, the beverage, is a grown-up antidote to the scrapes of adult life. Crack open a can of Ramona, and you can’t help but take life a little less seriously.
I’ve always believed that you need to learn the rules to break them. Jordan breaks them so cleverly and with such finesse, it’s a masterclass in the art of rule-breaking. Her secret: She knows exactly what she’s doing because she paid her dues, learned the rules and is now making her own game.
SHARE THE LOVE AND WISDOM.
This one’s mine. I think stories and the people who tell their own are powerful forces. Stories of how we take a risk empower more people to believe they can do the same. Stories of how we endure and stick it out through the challenging times help others feel less alone. Putting a face behind hard work, success and even failure or a slump show that nothing is impossible and there’s no shame in the ups and downs of life.
Here’s to creating our own luck and fortunes, with a little help from our friends.