Dorian Webb the founder of Dorian Webb Lifestyle, creates intentional semiprecious and precious jewelry, artwork, and bespoke home décor that celebrates women, the beauty of connection, and African American culture.
The company, which Dorian began while studying at Yale University, found early success at its first trade show where Neiman Marcus purchased the line for their stores, and a stylist featured Dorian Webb earrings on the cover of Essence.
This success led Dorian to expand into home décor. Not just utilitarian objects, Dorian’s chandeliers were shown in museums in a 7 year, nationwide traveling exhibition that showcased African American polyrhythmic art. Recently, a solo exhibition of Dorian’s most recent sculptures and paintings opened at the Thelma Harris Art Gallery in Oakland.
Community service plays an important role for Dorian Webb who often donates the proceeds of her designs to charitable causes. To encourage networking and mentoring opportunities for women of color, Dorian launched the “Women in Business” series for the Alameda County Small Business Development Center, now in its 5th year. A frequent lecturer at universities and conferences, Dorian was also the recipient of the 2019 Madame CJ Walker Entrepreneur Award.
A former board member of the Museum of the African Diaspora and a founder of the Yale Arts Alumni League, Dorian has written columns on design and life from an African American perspective for trade and shelter magazines.
Dorian is one of six recipients of the Natural Diamond Council’s 2021 Emerging Designer Diamond Initiative which supports BIPOC jewelry designers to develop a diamond collection. Dorian’s 18 karat gold and diamond collection, entitled Quality || Equality launched on October 15th, 2021.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Create intentional pieces
- About Dorian Webb Lifestyle
- Latest collection
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:06] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in the Bay Area. It’s time for Bay Area Business Radio. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Bay Area Business Radio, and this is going to be a fun one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Leah Davis, coaching inspiring women of color to claim their wealth legacy. Today on Bay Area Business Radio, we have Dorian Webb with Dorian Webb Lifestyle. Welcome, Dorian.
Dorian Webb: [00:00:39] Hi Lea, so glad to be with you today.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:41] Well, I am excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Dorian Webb lifestyle. How are you serving, folks?
Dorian Webb: [00:00:47] So I create intentional jewelry and home decor. Intentional meaning pieces that have meaning that speak to the idea of celebrating women. The power of being in the moment and also my African-American heritage.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:10] Now what’s your back story? How did you get into this line of work?
Dorian Webb: [00:01:13] So I started my company when I was a junior at Yale University, and after spending a semester in in Italy, which I absolutely loved with a limited skill set, I decided that there are some way that I could find a reason to be able to go back to Italy six times a year. And so I kind of constructed the jewelry business around that. And then over time, that morphed from not only using Venetian glass, but then incorporating sterling, silver and semi-precious stones. And to my latest collection, which is now 18 karat gold and diamonds.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:54] Now, when you’re getting involved in that kind of work that’s in and around lifestyle, that it’s a kind of a nice to have product rather than a must have product. How did you decide to kind of position yourself in the marketplace?
Dorian Webb: [00:02:09] Well, I mean, I think for me, the the the thing I think that differentiated me early on was my use of color, which is very kind of celebratory. And I think also in some ways kind of speaks to African-American culture and that love of just really strong colors. Interesting color combinations and polyrhythms within the designs. And I think that people just really, you know, just really kind of responded responded to that.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:43] Now, what about in terms of pricing, how did you decide on what price point you’d be selling it?
Dorian Webb: [00:02:50] Well, I think a lot of that was determined by the materials that I was, was using or am using. And because I am, I mean, for me, it was a conscious decision to enter the kind of the luxury market because I think there’s something meaningful about having items in your life that surround you, that are of quality and that sustainability is not only about kind of recycled metals, which I which I use, but but it’s also just about purchasing things that you love that can grow with you over time and that kind of almost, you know, develop or with you so that there’s always something that you can kind of gain from, from using those, those items. So for me, that was that was kind of the driving influence and just knowing wanting to create things that people would, would love. And sometimes that comes with a without a sort of an elevated price point.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:54] The reason I’m asking is that a lot of folks, they don’t choose that route. They they choose a lower price or in order to reach more and more people. And I just. Is there any lessons for folks out there because I am on your side, I think that it’s OK to be a high priced service or product. I believe that that is in a lot of ways easier because you can find your clients a lot easier and you’re signaling certain types of value that when you’re lower priced, it’s more difficult to stand out. Can you just share a little bit about your thought process? Was that a hard decision for you? Was that just something that was just part of your confidence and your character? So then that wasn’t that big of a decision to go that route?
Dorian Webb: [00:04:46] Yeah, I think that there was a little bit of there was a little bit of trepidation. But I mean, I think in some ways that happened organically. In other ways, it was a very. It was a very calculated decision, and I say that it was organic in that when I did my my first trade show, Neiman Marcus picked up the line for their stores. So already there was kind of, you know, sort of validation that what I was doing had an audience and that had a very kind of specific audience. But I also just think that, you know, a lot of times when people start out beginning a business, especially if they haven’t had any experience in in running a business at all. Similar to my background, the inclination is to kind of draw people in with a lower price point. And it just so hard for people to. And I’ve done actually a significant amount of business consulting. And one of the things I always kind of underline in that is that it’s just so hard to compete on price because those customers that you get on being the cheapest are those are the same customers who will leave you if they find something else, that’s that’s a slightly cheaper. So what you’re doing has to be about more than just price point. You really have to give value. And I think that that also in kind of carving out your your niche in the market, you know, price has to be has to be a part of that. And it also has to be a part of the story that you’re that you’re telling. And I think again, you know, here is where perhaps the my African-American heritage kind of comes into play. But there is a lot of times an assumption that the things that I would be creating with my racial background would be kind of lower end. So it’s, you know, in some ways, it’s also just very. It’s, I think, just just, you know, kind of taking a stand on what I’m about and what my culture is about and ways that are not always typically seen or acknowledged.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:20] Yeah, I think a lot of people struggle with this in terms of having the confidence to charge what they would like to charge. And I think that a lot of people’s default position is to always their first move is to go cheaper. And I think that that’s a mistake in when you’re selling anything, whether it’s a product or service. And when I’m working with people and coaching them about this, I like to tell them at least the starting point is a rate that you can look at yourself in the mirror and not laugh. You know, you have to have the confidence to say that no, without blinking. And it’s just matter of fact. And a lot of people I find just instinctively don’t go higher. They go lower and it kind of drives me crazy. So I celebrate you and you have the the confidence to go after the price that you want to go after. I mean, a lot of this stuff is subjective. So why be subjectively cheaper when you could be subjectively, you know, have more deliver more value? So I say, you know, kudos for you for going there.
Dorian Webb: [00:08:34] Yeah. And as I said, it’s also, you know, the part of what I enjoy is the personal connection with my with my customers. So a lot of times that involves custom pieces that involves searching out particular stones, that involves, you know, again, the use of 18 karat gold or, you know, kind of finer materials and that sort of thing. So that’s also kind of part of the part of the advantage of of selling a luxury product is being able to also provide a luxury service that goes along with that experience.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:13] So now at the beginning, I guess your work was inspired by your love of Italy and wanting to go back there several times a year. Has what inspired you kind of evolved over the years?
Dorian Webb: [00:09:26] It has. It has. I think now I’m very much, and I think this is in many ways sort of a large part of what we’ve a result of, what we’ve all kind of been been going through the last year and year and a half. And so my work has become even more, even more intentional in terms of wanting to take a stand on certain social justice issues, inspiring women to vote, creating pieces around the Black Lives Matter, creating pieces around the idea of hope. And then the latest collection that I did quality to equality is still about that idea of using quality materials and the idea of having that access to resources are part of kind of leveling the playing field.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:31] Now in your work, jewelry is obviously an important component, but there’s also the art and sculptures and paintings. Can you talk about how that are those kind of hand in hand or is that kind of a different part of your brain that’s working on those kind of larger pieces?
Dorian Webb: [00:10:50] Those also tie in to just the idea of again, wanting to have things around you that are meaningful and eye, the paintings in the sculpture were part of a larger project that I called the marriage project and that was featured in a local gallery. I had a solo exhibition and and those pieces again, are kind of color driven. They use a lot of the elements of the of the jewelry in terms of incorporating semi-precious stones. And then the paintings are all kind of larger scale pieces that that just talk about the experience in the various stages of marriage and what it’s like for women kind of moving through that that space.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:40] Now, in a I guess a part of your work is to inspire and mentor others. Has were you doing that, you know, since day one or is that something that’s just kind of started happening lately?
Dorian Webb: [00:11:55] That’s something that, you know, I started my business of a fair amount of time ago, and I guess it was during after the recession, I closed my close my business for a bit and moved to from from New York to the West Coast. And at that time, I helped my employees kind of start their own businesses before leaving. And then when I moved to the Oakland area, I started teaching Low-Income women how to start their own businesses and then moved on to other types of business consulting. So that definitely has been kind of a part of what I’ve been interested in doing for for quite some time because I just think that there’s no reason for for anyone to kind of reinvent the wheel. And if there are those resources out there that you can access and then then you should. And people who have those resources, whatever those may be, I think, have a responsibility to share that, that information and those and that those opportunities with with others.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:03] So now when you’re talking to those women that are just starting out, what are you seeing? Are you seeing something or are they optimistic? Is this something that they were kind of born to do? They had an itch that needed to be scratched or they kind of just frustrated by the job market. So this is kind of just something they feel that that that they have more control of their destiny. Like what is kind of behind these women that are kind of going forward and kind of trying to carve their own path?
Dorian Webb: [00:13:36] Yeah, I think that it seems like lately that people have been leaning towards just I think again with after sort of going through all the things we’ve we’ve all been going through recently that that there’s a there’s almost a recognition that nothing is guaranteed that life is short and that you really if you have a talent or if there’s something that you really wanted to explore that that this is the time that that there’s no better time than than the present to kind of get started on those on those things. And and I think that there’s also to a greater realization of the resources that are out there and there is a little bit more support for businesses and women owned businesses, minority owned businesses, veteran owned businesses. So there’s there’s I think it’s a little bit. Um, I mean, it’s never easy, but it’s I think it’s a little bit easier in this time to really kind of be able to go to go out there and just start a business. And also with the recognition too, that there are a lot of places that rents are now lower. They’re more accessible and and people can start something that is that basically enables them to work a little bit more ways that are more streamlined with outsourcing help as well. So there’s there’s just all these support systems that are available now that I think that people are accessing, which is wonderful.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:14] So now for you, do you get the same rush of, you know, creating and selling a piece as if one of the people you’re mentoring, you know, has a victory?
Dorian Webb: [00:15:24] I do, I do, I do, I mean, I think it’s always that that that measure of excitement when you go take something from an idea to to a reality and then also realize that that that’s something that you’ve made is going to bring people joy, that there’s something in that that’s just that just pure magic each and every time it happens.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:48] Yeah, I’m of the mindset that the entrepreneur is an artist because they are creating something from nothing.
Dorian Webb: [00:15:54] Exactly, exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:56] Now what’s next for you? What is the end of this year and next year look like?
Dorian Webb: [00:16:02] So I’m excited to launch my my new, my new collection with a major online retailer modus operandi. And we’ll also going to be doing a kind of an introduction to the new collection on the here on the West Coast. We had just a launch last last week in New York. So very excited about that. And I’m also going to be putting into or giving life to a collection that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. That is that is based on Harriet Tubman. And they’re really excited about that collection as well. And yeah, just a lot of a lot of different projects that are kind of building on on the the the platforms that we’ve kind of laid laid thus far.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:56] Now, how has kind of the digital world impact your art? You mentioned this online partnership. You know, probably when you started, that wasn’t a channel choice for you. Do you think that that’s kind of expanded the reach of your work now that people all over the world can see or have the opportunity to see your work?
Dorian Webb: [00:17:17] Yeah, I think it definitely has. I mean, honestly, for me, there’s been a little bit of a of a learning curve because it seemed like this. Things change mightily when I was taking some time out and teaching and mentoring women. And so, you know, for me, it’s exciting to use these new this new technology to be able to access customers, to be able to kind of control the message, to not be as reliant on individual retailers, but instead be able to communicate directly with the customer. So that has been really kind of, you know, game changing for my business.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:06] And any advice for others that are in this kind of business have had to build that database and how to build those direct lines to customers that that way you do have access to them when you want to have access to them, rather than rely on other channels like, you know, Facebook or even, you know, the the retail stores.
Dorian Webb: [00:18:26] Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that that’s the mailing lists and your database is that’s that’s the key to your future. We all felt a little a little bit of a jolt. I guess it was a couple of weeks ago when some social media platforms went went down for five hours. And for some people, that that meant that they had no more access to their customers. So it’s always so important to be able to whatever platform you’re on, however, you’re reaching your customers to make sure that you are transitioning them into your database and that you are nurturing them and giving them information that they need on a regular basis so that you are the primary contact with, with those, with those with those customers. Because otherwise, you know, it’s like if you don’t have access to your to your customers, then you are forever beholden to someone else.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:30] Yeah. Amen to that. Now, if somebody wants to get a hold of you and learn more about what you’re up to, what is the website or the best way to get to follow you?
Dorian Webb: [00:19:39] Yes, so I am at my website is Dorian Web.com, and that’s web with two BS and I’m also on Instagram, which is at Dorian Web. And I also would love to extend to your to your listening audience a 20 percent discount on on my pieces from the quality to equality collection. And that’s with code biz, radio biz radio.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:14] Well, that’s a very generous offer and thank you for doing that.
Dorian Webb: [00:20:18] Sure. Sure, sure. My pleasure.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:19] And thank you for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Dorian Webb: [00:20:23] Thanks so much for having me on, Ali.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:25] All right, this is Lee Kantor. We’ll see all next time on Bay Area Business Radio.