Marla Aaron – Founder and Designer of Marla Aaron #lockiton
When I met you we both had kids in kindergarten. You were a single mom in your thirties, you were working I believe in marketing and not too happy with it. Today you have a super successful jewelry line, a happy second marriage, and our kids are heading off to college. So that would mean you are now fifty with a thriving business that appeals to all ages, a happy marriage, and well-raised boy/man. Very impressive!
- How did you make the change from the job you were not thrilled with to starting up your own company?
This was not an overnight sort of thing. I was making the jewelry – spending my lunch hours on 47th street harassing people and basically fantasizing about what it would be like to have my collection come to life. After one particularly bad business trip, I decided the time had come. I told my husband I had to do it. He was supportive but concerned. Everyone who loved me mostly registered concern—the way you look at someone who you don’t think is quite all there. The first year I spent consulting in marketing and doing my jewelry “on the side”. And I’m here to tell you THAT is a total waste of everyone’s time so do not do that if you can when you are starting a business. After a year had gone by I realized how little I’d accomplished and I stopped consulting and focused 100% on my collection—like my life depended on it—because it actually did. I needed to earn an income.
- Was there a specific moment when you knew you had to take the plunge or was it a slow build?
I wish I had done it sooner. Like much sooner in my life. I hated the work I was doing. I realized I could not do something I hated any longer. I felt completely stifled. I was able to perform my job but it took a kind of effort that is difficult to explain. When I look at what I accomplish now versus in my jobs it is so obvious to me.
- Women often say they can’t start something, they don’t know how, they don’t have the funds, there are a lot of “I can’t because” walls they erect. Did you have any of those? If so, how did you overcome them?
I have trillions of those. Every day. So much I do not know how to do. It truly is about breaking it down. I am a highly disorganized distracted person. But when there is something I have to figure out how to get done, I get it done. I find a way. I find the help I need to get it done. I am relentless.
- What are your strengths as a female entrepreneur and what are your weaknesses?
I am open. I think being open is the most important piece of this. I start from a point always that I do not know what I’m doing. I’m trying to figure it out. I truly feel I have no idea what the right way to do most things are so I’m open to finding the best way for my company. For me.
- Did you study jewelry design or did you just think I can do this? And if so what made you think that?
I have taken a couple of very basic courses. But when you say studied jewelry design—I probably “studied” it more than I studied in my years of college and graduate school. Because I’m passionate about it. Because learning things about jewelry and design, in general, doesn’t even feel like studying—there are not enough hours in the day for me to do this
- Why do you think you’ve been able to make this work so well?
Because my passion aligned with my ability and I worked hard and I had some luck in that people liked the work. I think the collection touched an emotional chord that I did not expect.
- What advice would you give women who have a dream but are holding back from pursuing due to a variety of concerns?
It can’t just be a dream. A dream is not real. I had a passion and interest in hardware and jewelry and I began making it. I made the first one about 15 years ago. At that time it did not occur to me that it could become a business. It was just something I was doing in between my obligations.
- Start small or start big? What is your feeling?
I think you have to find a way to make a tiny piece of your dream a reality before you take the leap. Like, start making stuff on your lunch hour. Or (as I also did) make things into the night. Make lots of things. Cook. Draw. Knit. Literally, I truly believe that the more you make of anything, the more you want to make—any movement forward is good. Everybody has the capacity to create—it is not relegated to “creative people”
- I know Instagram was a big feature in the building of your brand, many women, especially those over a certain age shy away from social media.
They should try not to look at it like “doing social media”. Try and look at it like going where their audience is. You know the saying…”If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”….If you are in the business of making something for people to experience then you have to find a way to get it to them. The most entertaining, cost-effective and best way to do this right now is social media.
- I have something I call the pull of purpose that I think is driving more and more of us. You give back portion of your company tell us about it and why and how did you start it?
I was a single mom from the time my son was 1-6 years old. Then I met my husband and together with our children we made a family.
I cannot fully begin to describe how difficult this time in my life was. Let’s leave it at — it was tough. It was specifically difficult on Mother’s Day. When you have a small child and it’s Mother’s Day and virtually everyone around you has a partner who is celebrating their “motherliness”… well, it feels a bit sad.
So…On Mother’s Day 2016 we decided to give away 50 special edition Baby Heartlocks in sterling silver to single moms. We did it on Instagram and the response was good.
We actually gave away more than 50 but the idea was 50. The stories we heard were beautiful and hard and courageous and loving. So I didn’t want to stop giving when Mother’s Day was over. It was that simple. And we are still giving. To date, we have given away hundreds of locks to single moms all over the country. Getting to give these women (and some men)these locks is my greatest joy.
- Working mom, working wife, working from home until recently, what is your secret for balancing it all?
I’m terrible at the balance. There is no real balance but I let lots of things go (like my house for now) But my office closes for the most part at 6:00 PM and I have dinner with my family almost every night. I think that is important. I cook dinner because I enjoy that but I also think having dinner as a family is very important. I genuinely enjoy my work life so I don’t feel the need for more “balance.” If I do I will hopefully have a plan. I made the decision to have my business be in my home because I wanted to be around more and this forced me to be. Granted we stayed in my house a bit too long but for me, it was important simply to be around my kids even if I was working.
- Do you have a spiritual or workout practice that keeps you centered?
I consider taking care of myself critical so I work out regularly and pretty intensely. I do HIIT workouts and yoga. On the weekends my husband and I take the dogs to Central Park which is a long walk and a good place for us to talk. Netflix of course. I don’t spend as much time with my friends as I would like and I plan on doing more of that but there are so many hours in the day….
- What has been the greatest lesson?
The greatest lesson is that there will be a network of people in the world who will help you that you would never have expected. And you will be surprised by some whom you thought would have helped you who just offered skepticism. You need to accept the former with open arms and shrug off the later.
- The greatest reward?
Tracey, as you well know, there is no better reward than making something (anything) conceiving it…and having it come to life and having people enjoy it. This is very rewarding. The most humbling experience? How smart, hardworking, and generous the people who work with me are. I am truly humbled by their efforts every single day. I don’t have words to express how thankful I am that they believed enough to work with me to bring the designs and the business to life.
Follow Marla on Instagram @marlaaron