Leslie Belcher and her sister, Shelley Harper turned adversity into prosperity and inspiration. When life dealt them a series of events beyond their control they came together to start anew and recreate careers in which they could thrive.
At 45 and 47 respectively at the time, the girls had to reinvent themselves in order to move forward and begin again. Out of the ashes, they are now following their passion and playing to their strengths with a dream business that taps their creativity and touches the lives of many in a positive way.
Dear John Letter
Let’s start with Leslie’s journey from the corporate world where she had a seemingly secure career as a Regional Manager in the merchandising industry. With high profile clients like American Express and Home Depot, Leslie also had the luxury of working from home most of the time managing 120 employees and traveling when needed to roll out customized promotional campaigns for her clients. With a background in display and merchandizing, she was very deadline oriented and took pride in the excellent service she provided for her accounts.
Then one day, the wake-up call came in the form of a Dear John letter. Her bosses didn’t even have the courage to call and share the difficult news that she was being let go – they put it in a letter! Leslie always had great rapport with her clients and eventually pieced together that her lay-off was due to the fact that her company wanted her to be more loyal to them than the customers. They were threatened by her professional relationships with all the account reps and cut her out of the picture suddenly and without warning.
No Time to Waste
A mild panic set in since Leslie did not have the financial wherewithal to take her time figuring out her next career move. Her husband shed some refreshing light on the picture and said:
“OK, don’t tell me what you don’t want to do – tell me what you do want to do and let’s make it happen!”
This directive gave Leslie the courage to not get caught up in the past and to have the clarity to think about what she really wanted in order to move forward in her career. She always envisioned a family business and since her sister, Shelley was dealing with her own personal tragedy – what better time than the present to join forces.
The girl’s lost their mom in 1989 which was a transformative experience and brought the sisters even closer together. They are just 2 years apart in age and Leslie describes them as “Two bodies with one mind.” since the girls finish each other’s sentences, and serve as a support system for each other.
Shelley’s life was turned upside down when her husband, a high profile dentist took his own life. Dealing with the emotional tragedy of losing a spouse was hard enough but she also had to sell the dental practice to stay afloat financially even though she had a career of her own with an insurance company. She was at a breaking point and moved to a small mountain town in New Mexico to find solace and anonymity.
While both sisters were dealing with their own tragic scenarios it was clear they both needed a change for the better. From the darkest place of despair came an opportunity to join forces and start over with a business that tapped their creative skills.
According to Shelley – “It is never too late to go after your dreams. If you can create them in your mind, the universe will do the rest. But you have to put it out into the universe first. Working with my sister is so much fun. We offer each other support both emotionally and creatively. This makes our business union even stronger.”
Shelley and Leslie both have art backgrounds in weaving, fiber art, glass art, and fashion respectively. They wanted to use their artistic talents but also wanted to create a solvent business that would be sustainable financially.
Taking a quantum leap forward, no baby steps for these women – they decided upon a jewelry business capitalizing in Shelley’s training in glass blowing. Their mom collected Depression glass and the girls were surrounded by the stuff growing up so it seemed fitting to begin their new jewelry line using glass to create wearable art.
Keep in mind the sisters don’t live in the same city, let alone the same state. Shelley is still in New Mexico and Leslie is in Florida so with one by the desert and one by the sea, they give their own distinctive mark to the unique adornments created by flame and hammer. Shelley is the metal smith and glass artist and Leslie is also a glass artist and the two bring a strong business sense to the operation.
Shelley reflected fondly about their mom:
“Our mother would be so proud of us that we are able to create together and be successful in business. When we would fight as kids, she always told us to kiss and make up. We always begrudgingly did this, but I can see that she just wanted us to always remain friends.
What I particularly enjoy working with my sister collaboratively is that we live in such diverse areas from which we draw inspiration for our designs. Les gets all the great blues from the oceans and I bring in the earth tones from my surroundings in the Southwest. That is why I love working in copper. I can bring in all the colors of a sunset by just adding some heat to the metal.”
Their business is called Accessoreez and features contemporary torch worked borosilicate glass focal elements, utilizing semi-precious gemstones, freshwater pearls, sterling silver and other fine material for each unique jewelry piece.
Play to Your Passion
The duo first began selling their unique jewelry on EBay and later expanded into the wholesale industry. But Leslie recalls the early days of “hemorrhaging cash” when they were trying to find their niche. Eventually they found their footing and solvency in the retail market and began selling at art shows and via their website. In the days before collecting email from your customers to establish a marketing campaign was a given, the girls used Constant Contact to communicate with their customers. This technique still serves them well today in addition to Facebook, Twitter, and their company website.
While often they took the throw the spaghetti at the wall and let’s see what sticks approach, the sisters now have a solid business plan that includes a future in international sales and celebrity clients. The celebrities are already lining up to purchase their wares and the website showcases a myriad of high profile clients wearing Accessoreez creations including Natalie Cole and Vail Bloom to name a few.
Leslie shared: “When your passion allows you to make a difference that is when you are operating on all cylinders. While selling a piece to a celebrity gives you an instant rush, it’s the everyday customer who owns her self confidence and walks a little taller wearing an Accessoreez creation that really makes it all worthwhile.”
As entrepreneurs, life has changed from the rigid corporate culture to being totally authentic in their choices and decision making for both sisters. When you deal with tragedy it really makes you look at what is important in your life. “If you are in the workforce and unhappy – don’t think about a change – do something about it or you will remain unhappy. Get clear about your alternatives because you always have options.”- Solid advice from Leslie who never imagined that she would be so happy and fulfilled in her new career.
Both sisters shared that they feel liberated in their new careers and empowered at middle age to be who they really are and comfortable in their own skin. Living an authentic life is fabulous but it is a process. “When tragedy happens, the first thing you lose is the belief in yourself.” according to Leslie. So this new business and these new lives continue to be a journey for these women but their priorities and values have shifted to reflect what is most important in their lives right now. The joy is evident in the creations they make but the sisterly bond is something that we can all learn from. Their reinventions are truly inspiring!
Leslie & Shelley’s Advice and Action Steps:
- Put money aside now regularly to plan for a change you might want in the future.
- Lead an authentic life.
- Someday will become never if you don’t act on something you want – make it happen.
- No amount of money or success can fill your life. Do what makes you happy.
- It’s never too late to go after your dreams.
“After a tragedy, it takes time to gain your SELF back but it will happen. Have courage.”
“It is never too late to go after your dreams. If you can create them in your mind, the universe will do the rest. But you have to put it out into the universe first.”
Savor the Success: www.savorthesuccess.com