Prior to launching her jewelry company, VaVaVoo, Charlotte Lindemanis ’13 was an international business consultant for Capgemini. Charlotte worked with industry giants including Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, and Roche Pharmaceuticals on everything from digital marketing to supply chain management and improving the customer experience.
One of her last projects for Capgemini was with Estée Lauder in New York City, where she was exposed to the cosmetics and fashion industry. Around that time, subscription services were “taking off,” Charlotte says. This was late 2015.
Classically trained in drawing and painting, Charlotte not only enjoyed sketching and design, but was good at it. She saw an opportunity in the market for high-quality, affordable fashion jewelry, so she combined her skills in business and creative design to launch VaVaVoo.
“The goal has always been beautiful, high-quality designs at affordable prices,” Charlotte says.
VaVaVoo was originally a subscription service for personalized jewelry. Recently Charlotte transitioned the company to a multi-level marketing, social-selling model that engages women as salespeople.
VaVaVoo “stylists,” as the salespeople are called, throw in-home parties with product samples and earn commissions on everything they sell. It’s a flexible income opportunity for working women who want a “side hustle,” or for a mother who wants to earn money while staying home with her children.
Charlotte designed VaVaVoo to “eliminate all the pain points” that prevent women from succeeding in similar models with other companies. In particular, stylists aren’t required to purchase inventory and bear that financial risk. When each stylist signs on, Charlotte facilitates a one-on-one conversation with them to discuss their individual business goals and how to best achieve them. She says that personal connection is one of her favorite parts of the endeavor.
Charlotte also sells VaVaVoo jewelry to retail stores, in addition to her own online store
“We’re now in stores across twelve states,” she says. The heaviest concentration of stylists is in the Carolinas, Florida, and Texas. The company’s growth is through word-of-mouth, as VaVaVoo hasn’t yet created a budget for advertising.
And Charlotte’s designs are enough to keep people talking.
“They’re designs that any generation can wear,” she says. And she’s seen it happen—at one of her in-home sales events, a young woman, her mother, and her grandmother might all find pieces they love. The average price point for a VaVaVoo piece is between $30 and $80.
Charlotte says the only reason she felt comfortable launching this venture so early in her career was because her UNC experience and Morehead-Cain summers taught her the necessary business lessons, including both technical and soft skills.
Charlotte says her biggest challenge has been creating technology to support VaVaVoo’s needs.
“. . . Especially with the subscription model, because I wanted to give our customers everything,” Charlotte says. But she learned a lesson through that struggle:
“You have to start with something viable and go from there. When you have a startup, you have to compromise. All of the bells and whistles are great, but at the end of the day, you just need something you can take to market.”
Even today, her technological platforms provide only a fraction of the features she wants.
Wrapped inside that is another lesson Charlotte has learned through this experience: confidence.
“Early on, when I’d get on calls with potential investors or brand partners, I felt I had to run so much of what I was saying by my team,” Charlotte says. And not only her business team, but her family, too.
“My family has been so incredibly supportive,” she says. “I’d ask my dad what he thought I should say or do and finally one day he said, ‘Charlotte, what would a CEO do?’ And I realized, wow, I really do know what I’m doing here. I need to have confidence in my ability to lead my team.”
And yet, any great leader still knows when to ask for help. For Charlotte, a lot of that help comes from Morehead-Cains.
“My fellow Morehead-Cains are my best friends in the world,” she says. “They give input on website design, campaigns, investment, marketing strategy . . . I would not be where I am today without the Morehead-Cain Scholarship and will be forever grateful for what it gave me—lifelong relationships with an incredible group of accomplished, hard-working, motivated friends who challenge and inspire me every day.”