Surround yourself with people who are talented in ways that you are not. I was told early in my career that I was hired because my strengths were the exact opposite from my colleague. Complement your own skills and learn from those around you. Collaborating with people that have other strengths will make you and your organization so much better. Be open to learning, growing and challenging yourself always.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Kaplan.
Sarah Kaplan is the founder of VUE by SEK, a handcrafted jewelry line created out of a love of art and expression of authentic self. The term VUE comes from the french word for view; meaning, it is important to us that our jewelry helps you express your unique view in life and reflect who you are. That is the VUE by SEK philosophy. Before launching VUE by SEK, Sarah worked at the National Gallery of Art in DC. The art catalogs collected during her time at the National Gallery are often a point of inspiration for her designs and always a reminder of the beauty found in art. Sarah now resides in Charlotte, NC with her fiancé where she designs and handcrafts jewelry for VUE by SEK.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have made jewelry in some form for most of my life. I always loved art and majored in Art History in college. After my first job out of college at a tech startup, I started working at my favorite art museum in DC. It was incredible to be surrounded by such talent and beauty. I often think of the large scale Alexander Calder mobile that I passed every day at work, morning and night. You can’t help but be inspired. It was during my time there that I was feeling called to create art. For me, jewelry has always been my art form. This desire led to a long process of self teaching, to metalsmith classes and experimenting with new designs, all while working in development in the arts and education until VUE by SEK officially launched. I look back at where I have been in my career and all of these experiences lead me to where I am now. Having a creative career is hard but it’s something I appreciate everyday. It is dynamic and challenging in all of the best ways.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
VUE by SEK is not your average jewelry brand. We value authenticity and helping to express your unique perspective. Instead of being a brand that tells you how you should look, our main mission and commitment is to help encourage people to be their most authentic selves. Most companies have been told to market to an “ideal” customer and tailor everything to fit this unimaginative vision. These same companies turn around and tell their customers what is cool and what they should look like. We are trying to break that mold. Our jewelry is art and isn’t art for everyone? Our curated jewelry collection is wide ranging so that every individual can pick the piece that is meaningful to them. It is about elevating each of their own unique perspectives and distinct styles through designs that are timeless and versatile.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have had such strong female mentors, especially during my career in DC. They pushed me and believed in me that it would be hard to share just one story. I think back on my journey and how lucky I was to have those that I respected so tremendously. I also have enjoyed a great mentorship with a fellow jewelry designer. To have the support and insights of someone who is excelling in her field has been invaluable.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1- Your unique voice is an advantage. My first job out of college was at a tech startup. We were on the phones all day and I quickly noticed I was not the loudest on the phone. My tone and approach were different and I was told to emulate those around me. It was very unnatural and to be honest I was never very good at faking it or elevating the sound of my voice to match that in the room. While in a training session for a promotion, I admitted this “flaw” that I didn’t sound like everyone said I should. The gentleman conducting the session was a leader in the company, and to my surprise, he told me my “flaw” was why I was succeeding. My voice and my approach are unique and authentic, therefore it will stand out. I should never try to sound like anyone else because that wouldn’t work for me. It wouldn’t be authentic and it will always sound artificial. Throughout my career, it has been at times tempting to fit into another mold or follow the trends but I always come back to this conversation. Even at times when I doubted my unique style or my voice, being yourself is the advantage.
2-It is ok to hear “NO.” It will happen a lot. It doesn’t matter how many times, everyone will hear NO throughout their journey, but it makes the YES so much better. Trust me!
3- Surround yourself with people who are talented in ways that you are not. I was told early in my career that I was hired because my strengths were the exact opposite from my colleague. Complement your own skills and learn from those around you. Collaborating with people that have other strengths will make you and your organization so much better. Be open to learning, growing and challenging yourself always.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I have a lot of ambitions for VUE by SEK and I’m excited to see how my designs evolve, what inspires me next and how we craft the conversation around authenticity. In the immediate future, we’re launching a Bridal Bundle with a fragrance company. Like many couples out there, I had to postpone my wedding as a result of the pandemic. The Bridal Bundle is my little nod to those going through the same experience.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
NPR’s How I Built This. Their founder stories are striking and candid. There are such a great variety in founders and companies and it always leaves you with a new idea or renewed motivation.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
At VUE by SEK, we value authenticity and consciousness. If everyone valued all of our unique differences and attempted to live a more conscious lifestyle, I think the world would truly be a better place. There are so many important movements happening right now and my hope is that our mission supports the bigger picture and leads to a better future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, said, “There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” I can 100% apply this to my experience starting a small business. It’s the biggest learning curve because there is no one size fits all equation. What works for one company or executive might not work for your company or managing style. You have to be flexible and constantly striving for new opportunities to grow as an organization and as an individual.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow us at @vuebysek on Instagram and Facebook.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!