What a great time for female entrepreneurs. We are delighted to share with you features and essays written by super women with inspiring careers and businesses that are reshaping our economy and the way we consume. They share their journey, the process it took them to get to where they are now and what they’ve learnt along the way. Welcome to Modern Mentors.
I grew up in a small town in South Jersey and spent a lot of time in Philadelphia to visit family. That’s where I ended up going to school The Art Institute of Philadelphia. I worked hard and have since had what feels like every job on the planet, starting with working in sales at our family business at a very young age. I moved on to hold positions in retail, hospitality, design (floral, garment, small business, corporate), management- you name it. But throughout my work journey, my mom and dad were my role models, as I watched them run a business and balance a family. It wasn’t easy.
My interest in Jewelry peaked and I came up with the idea of starting a business after moving to New York. In the process, I moved away from garment design and into accessory design and found myself yearning to create a highly inclusive product.
I went ahead and started Reigning Grey. Being self funded is not easy, so a lot of my resources were and continue to be from self-education and discovery: podcasts, networking events, books, tutorials, and collaborative efforts. We became an LLC just over 2 years ago with help from one of our clients. Since then, we have worked on building relationships with shops and other female owned businesses, to continue growing and learning.
Being self funded is not easy, so a lot of my resources were and continue to be from self-education and discovery: podcasts, networking events, books, tutorials, and collaborative efforts.Torey Lehman
Creative yet financially sound
Never underestimate the power of people especially in the age of rapid technology. I’m very resourceful and that has affected our business frequent business decisions. Although I am creative, I get a rush when I see profitability margins on a spreadsheet. Our first sale at Reigning Grey jewelry was in person from friends and family when we did a pop up for our first collection in the city. In general any sale feels truly amazing for me and I feel like I have been chasing that feeling for success ever since I was young with my entrepreneurial projects – lemonade stands, friendship bracelets, etc. Creatively, I design to bring out the individualistic and inherent beauty that lies within each of us.
That startup life
Entrepreneurship- it is the LEAST glamorous occupation! It is stressful. Sure at the collection parties we love to dress up, drink champagne and celebrate but what you don’t see is the half eaten kind bar shoved in our dress pocket, which was all we managed to eat that day. You are faced with big decision making in every department each day. Where to allocate your profits from the month- is it marketing, production, photo-shoots? Would you rather pay yourself or reinvest that into the company?
Making tough decisions
One challenge I faced, actually just paid off in success. Two years ago I launched a collection that caught Vogue’s attention. They wanted to feature us but for a significant amount of money which I did not have. It was heartbreaking for me to decline their offer but I knew it was the right decision at the time. Fast-forward two years and we’re featured without financial ties from a recent shoot that we did. It was a great learning lesson on how to make non-emotional based decisions that helped our business in the long run. I followed my gut and believed in my business. “They’ll be back” was my mindset. You need to have faith in your business and growth process, that’s what keeps entrepreneurs going.
Torey Lehman is the founder of Reigning Grey Rework– a program based on sustainability and inclusion. The brand follows the principles of recycle, renew and reign. Reigning Grey sends its customers a prepaid shipping label for them to send in any unwanted, old, or broken jewelry they wish to donate. These pieces are then repaired and reworked into new designs named after the customer. Torey’s mission is to cater to the independent spirit through unique, modern and sophisticated jewelry.