Please welcome back Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato of Lizzie Fortunato Jewelry! (Twin sisters and business partners that we have featured as FREDA Girls in the past.) We have been long time fans of their accessories and style, so it's been really inspiring to get their take on what makes their “work wife” relationship work so well.
We love that you are twin sisters and business partners. Can you briefly describe each of your roles at Lizzie Fortunato?
Lizzie: I am the creative director and head up the design. I am constantly sourcing new materials and trying to innovate with regard to silhouettes and styles.
Kathryn: I head up the operations and sales. Fortunately, with our growing team, I have support in these departments but I am constantly fielding requests from wholesale accounts, placing production orders and overseeing the "business" side of Lizzie Fortunato.
FREDA was also founded and run by two women, so we'd love to hear what makes your partnership work so well?
Kathryn: I think the reason our business works so well is that we have a really clear division of labor. I have no interest in design and so I don't step on Lizzie's toes when she's being creative. And Lizzie trusts me with business decisions so there's not often a lot of back and forth when it comes to making decisions. She makes the creative ones and I make the financial ones.
What do you cherish about your "work wife" relationship and why do you think it sets your business apart?
Lizzie: When we first launched the business and it was just the two of us doing everything it was easier to bicker and get frustrated with one another... whenever we faced challenges it was easy to take our frustrations (and exhaustion) on the other person. But as the business and team grew we definitely hit this point where we realized the other person was our best advocate, best friend, and best asset in running the business. I really try not to take Kathryn for granted and try not to take out my small business frustrations on her because ultimately I know she's the only other person who's as invested and who works as tirelessly as I do. That's pretty invaluable.
What is next for Lizzie Fortunato?
Kathryn: FW18, which we just showed to buyers at NY and Paris fashion weeks marks our 10 year anniversary collection. The first collection we presented to buyers was FW08 and there have been so many in between; it's hard to believe we've been doing this for so long! We have some cool celebratory plans for this milestone year!
Any advice for other female entrepreneurs?
Lizzie: Don't forget to take care of yourself. Time for exercise, meditation, or a walk around the block is often more valuable then the extra few minutes at your desk. As women so much is expected of us and it's important to remember to take care of yourself.
Kathryn: Don't be scared to negotiate or challenge people when it comes to finances and business. I think a lot of the male vendors that we deal with see us and assume we are kind, perhaps demure, women. Perhaps they even think that we can be taken advantage of when it comes to money or that we will not push back -- then they meet me! Ha! In all seriousness, do not be afraid to have frank conversations about money. I am always calling vendors to ask for better deals and negotiate and I don't think the fact that I'm a female should for a second make anyone feel like I don't want the best deal or that I can be walked on when it comes to making financial decisions.