Moms in Business: Get to know Brandee Dallow
Mothers in Business: Brandee Dallow
To read the storied history of Brandee Dallow’s career is to take a journey through a number of newsworthy moments in the jewelry industry’s recent history—and the mom of two is just getting started. After years of working for a number of big-name companies (details below), Dallow has started her own company, Fine Girl Luxury Brand Building. Between her budding business growing a healthy list of clients and nurturing a young family, among other activities (did we mention she’s president of the Women’s Jewelry Association?), you could say there is no dull day in the life of Brandee Dallow. Here, she tells us all about it.
Team Ayva: Give us a quick overview of how you got into the jewelry business.
Brandee Dallow: Oh my, a short answer to a bigger question. My intention for most of my collegiate and immediate post-collegiate life was to be in radio or television broadcasting. As a matter of fact, I did a bunch of on-air work for each before I even began my true professional endeavors. But like so many young broadcasters, I was barely bringing in enough cash to pay for my gas to and from the studio. Ultimately, I took a job in PR because I had to, thinking I would go back to broadcasting when I had enough money in the bank. Well, one day, in the middle of a press conference, a recruiter called me and said, “Hi, would you ever consider a job in diamonds?” And like any smart woman would do, I said “YES!” That’s how I ended up working at J. Walter Thompson, alongside the finest, smartest group of marketers, advertisers, and publicists ever, on the De Beers account. And I guess one could say I’ve been in the business ever since.
TA: Where did you career take you from there?
BD: While at JWT/De Beers, I had the privilege of working on some of the most amazing campaigns one could hope to be a part of as a young publicist—3-stone (Past, Present, Future) diamond jewelry, “Journey,” the launch of adiamondisforever.com, Diamonds & the Millennium, fashion shows in the Louvre and press events in Cannes, and my most (personally) hands on campaign, Diamonds & the Power of Love, which we launched at the Ritz Carlton on Lake Las Vegas (I gave Celine Dion and Rene Angelil a private tour of our exhibit and collection of historical engagement rings!). I also had the extraordinary challenge of working with members of the World Diamond Council and De Beers to develop crisis communications strategies and content, as well as garner support from NGOs and government, to combat the well-documented “blood diamonds” media campaign.
It was when De Beers had begun their Supplier of Choice initiative that I first realized marketing was really headed “downstream” in our industry. So, when the Klein family formed Julius Klein, a world-leading diamantaire, and asked for help, I jumped on board. I ended up being Julius Klein Group’s first-ever marketing person and even more importantly, the first female executive in the company’s history.
I spent 11 years at Julius Klein but decided it was time to move on when the head of the North America Representative office for Rio Tinto’s diamonds sales and marketing position became available. This was a huge opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I spent from March 2014 until April 2017 at Rio, where we implemented the Diamonds with a Story umbrella marketing campaign, partnering with many of today’s most sought-after jewelry designers to create bespoke, diamond jewelry collections featuring 100% Rio Tinto diamonds tracked back to the mine of origin. Unfortunately, Rio Tinto decided to close my office in April of this year as a result of global cost-cutting measures (companywide), and that’s when I launched my own consultancy, Fine Girl Luxury Brand Building & Communications. I hope your readers get the reference there to the song for which I was named: Brandy by the Looking Glass.
TA: How many children do you have, and what are their ages?
BD: I have 2 extraordinary kids. My daughter, Jordan, is 13, and my son, Jakob, is 11.
TA: How have children changed the way you work?
BD: That’s kind of a loaded question as having children has changed everything about me—not just how I work. Since the day they were born, there isn’t a single decision I make (let alone a single thought I have) that doesn’t somehow consider each of them. Particularly with regards to work: the minute they entered into the world, I stopped working just for me. I began and continue to work for them, for the betterment of their lives, and in order to give them the best future I possibly can. They are the greatest gifts I have ever been given and there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do to ensure they lead happy (and healthy) lives.
TA: What’s been your biggest success thus far in your journey from being the head of Rio Tinto America to a successful business owner?
BD: I honestly feel like I am still so far from hitting my “biggest success”—I have been so lucky throughout my career. I know that ultimately my biggest success story has yet to be written.
I have spent almost two years as the president of the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA), which I would most certainly rank as the most important position of my career. And some of the things that we are building there are what I believe will be the cornerstones of my biggest successes. By the time this piece is written, we (WJA) will have launched our first-ever advocacy initiative, where we will be taking a deep dive into issues facing our female members: Gender-based workplace issues, including discrimination and sexual harassment. This is serious stuff, and we need to talk about it. I am really proud that we are beginning these conversations, facing what some of the harder realities may be and taking all issues pertaining to gender equality in the workplace seriously, including looking to find solutions.
TA: Tell us a little more about your company, Fine Girl Luxury Brand Building.
BD: Fine Girl started unexpectedly after Rio Tinto decided to close my office in early April of this year. I suddenly was without a job for the first time since I can remember (I believe since I was 13!). Luckily, my phone began ringing—buzzing, rather, because who calls these days—and my inbox was filled with inquiries from colleagues and friends about what would be next—I really didn’t know what to do next. But then came specific queries about how I could help with marketing this and branding that, and suddenly, I had my first batch of clients. One thing led to another and I found myself having enough people asking for enough help in the communications arena that I created an LLC and the rest is (recent) history. I am really enjoying Fine Girl thus far, as being a consultant allows me to work on the incredible breadth of business I have spent my career on, but with a larger and more diverse number of people. So far, I have helped build one new brand’s marketing strategy, written social media content for another, created a social media and publicity strategy for one, and have even started writing an HR handbook and training manual, among other things. Building Fine Girl has definitely been exciting and interesting to say the least.
TA: Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
BD: I wish you could see my color-coded calendar as that would really give you a sense of one of my days! Since you can’t, I’ll just say that a typical day is a big mish mosh of planning, talking, conference calling, strategizing, writing, implementing, and planning again—not only for my Fine Girl clients, but for my other full-time gig as president of WJA.
TA: What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you before becoming a mom or working for yourself?
BD: Learn how to forgive yourself. I say this in terms of both being a mom as well as in working for yourself, because in neither case can we be perfect. We can try as hard as we possibly can, but not only won’t we ever be perfect, we are going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. If we can learn self-forgiveness, or even learn to give ourselves a break when we mess up, I have a feeling we (or I, at least), would be a lot happier, if not a lot more content, much more of the time.
TA: What keeps you grounded?
BD: Being a mom, and therefore, my kids. My extended family. My group of 11 girlfriends, with whom I have shared a lifetime’s worth of adventures with since day one at the University of Buffalo. Listening to music. Walking in nature. Sitting on the beach, taking in the sounds of the waves. Reminding myself of just how lucky I am.
TA: Do you talk to your children about your career? If so, what do you tell them, and what do you hope they will take away from it?
BD: All the time and absolutely. My career is such a big part of who I am, and always has been, so how couldn’t I talk with them about it, you know? I also come from a family of working women: My grandma worked, my mom worked, my aunts all work, my female cousins work, so working is quite the norm in my children’s world. Most importantly, I talk with my kids about my career because I want them to know the whole me, and a big part of who I am is a focused, driven, passionate, and hard-working woman.
TA: How do you juggle your professional life with personal? We’d love to hear your tips on achieving a balance.
BD: Is there such a thing as balance? Because if so, man oh man please point me in that direction! Seriously though, it’s not easy to juggle everything, and if it was, well then everyone would be running around with smiles on their faces, 100 percent of the time. I find the key is simply to do the best you can and trust your gut as to where you need to be, what you need to be doing, and when. The crazy thing about being a parent is that literally the second your kid is born, you get these internal cues that, if you follow, are generally the right ones. The other piece though is that once you do follow that gut feeling, go all in. You can’t be in two places at once, so especially when you are physically with your children, be there mentally as well. Ultimately, all of you will be the better for it.
TA: What advice would you offer to new moms or moms that are also professionals in any industry?
BD: #1: Work your ass off, but also make play time, silly time, total nonsense time with your kids. Life is way too short not to enjoy the greatest gifts that we have been given. And there is nothing better in life than hearing the sounds of laughter coming from your children.
#2: Treat your kids as though you would want to be treated yourself. You may be extra tired from a long day at work, or extra frustrated because something didn’t work out your way, but never, ever let that effect the way you interact with your children.
#3: Make every attempt to bring your children on your journey, not the opposite. That was great advice I received about 15 years ago and something I still try to practice to this day.
#4: Tell your kids you love them, every single day. Even the nights you are working too late to kiss them goodnight, and even during the days you might be traveling and have no physical contact, always, always, always let your children know how much they are loved above anything else.
TA: What helps you to unwind?
BD: Listening to live music, without question. I have always been a huge fan of the art. Even though I can’t keep a beat for the life of me, I love to dance! Of course, a little Tito’s never hurt anyone either.
TA: What is your mantra?
BD: Think smart, think big, take risks, take action, lead as though you want to be lead, and never stop learning.
TA: Leave us with your favorite quote.
BD: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”—Jane Goodall