Behind the Brand :: Sweet & Spark

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I first discovered Sweet & Spark on Pinterest after eyeing off one of their divine pieces and was excited to see they were based in San Francisco!

I caught up with Jillian and Em, the creative duo behind Sweet & Spark, over a coffee at Jane {one of my favorite local spots and turns out theirs too!} and loved learning about their business journey and how they met after bonding over a mutual love of vintage jewelry.

With Jillian’s well-trained eye and business savvy, thanks to her background in fashion buying; and Em’s well-honed design skills and artistic flair after graduating from Parsons in 2012 and holding coveted positions at Kate Spade and Marc Jacobs - they joined forces to grow Sweet & Spark into a modern lifestyle brand with a feminine aesthetic.

What I loved learning from Jillian and Em is how they have created a successful partnership - by coming together and each bringing their unique skills and strengths to complement each other and as a result, their business is thriving!

Thank you ladies for being here today!


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Introduce yourself, sharing what you do and what you’re creating in the world.

Jillian & Emilee: Sweet & Spark is a feminine lifestyle brand for today’s modern woman, inspired by the timeless aesthetic and quality of fashion from the past.

With this romantic notion, we curate vintage jewelry, scarves and home décor from antique fairs and estates around the country, styling it with everyday clothing from our favorite contemporary designers like Line & Dot, Sanctuary, Endless Rose and Greylin.

We also recently launched a vintage designer collection with pieces from Chanel, Cartier, YSL and more. Launched in 2012, the brand continues to be the only authentic vintage company around with a feminine lifestyle aesthetic.

Let's put it like this, our dream is to become the Anthropologie for the feminine woman!

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How did Sweet & Spark come about?

Jillian: I originally started Sweet & Spark in 2012 after being burned out by my corporate buying job. I spent the first few years in business traveling around the country with my vintage loving dad learning how to identify and source vintage jewelry.

I always knew there was more in store for S&S but it it wasn't until I came across Emilee's blog and learned that someone out there loved vintage jewelry as much as I do.

That's when things really started falling into place; mutual friends introduced us in 2015 and we became quick internet friends.

By 2016, Emilee had decided to move from New York City to San Francisco. After spending more time together, we decided that it would be so much more rewarding to work on our passions together. Talk about serendipity!

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How are you each involved in the business, using your unique set of skills?

Jillian: For anyone familiar with the fashion industry, we are considered an iconic merchant and designer duo. I went to Syracuse University for Retail Merchandising and then worked as a buyer at Gap Inc. and American Eagle Outfitters.

Emilee went to Parsons School of Design for Fashion Design and then worked as a jewelry designer at Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade. So this means that Emilee manages the creative vision and execution for Sweet & Spark while I manage the business and product strategies.

By bringing our different experiences and strengths to the table we’ve been able to take the brand to the next level by solidifying our feminine aesthetic and venturing into new product categories like clothing, vintage scarves and home décor.

Both coming from corporate backgrounds, we manage the business very similarly to how a large company would. Emilee kicks off each season with an inspiration board filled with gorgeous imagery and a color palette.

From there we align on what the weekly product stories will be and how everything will tie in together cohesively. That’s when we start buying product, scheduling photoshoots and creating content to tell our weekly stories.

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Em - you went to Parsons School of Design - Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?

Emilee: Short answer, yes! My Grandmother was a seamstress and my Mother was an art director, and saw that I had the same creative gene.

I was always involved in art camps as a little girl, and my focus throughout grade school was art, photography and graphic design. Parsons was an amazing environment where I was able to grow as a fashion designer and create my very own personal aesthetic.

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Take us back to the early days of getting your biz off the ground - was there a tipping point when you knew this was going to be a viable business?

Jillian: Honestly, there isn't one specific thing that's made Sweet & Spark what it is today. It's all of the little things over the past 6 years together that have gotten us to this point!

All the coffee dates, late nights listing products on the website, packing and shipping orders to thousands of people, traveling to antique fairs and building a team have been worth it.

Also, I'm a big believer of always following your intuition- when you know, you just know. Listening to it might ask you to do some hard things but it will never lead you astray!

You both work out of Jillian’s home studio in San Francisco - what does a typical day look like for you?

Emilee: There is no typical day! Even though the two of us manage different parts of the business, there are a lot of tasks that we do together.

Sometimes we’re working on 2-3 different seasons at one time, exactly like a large corporate company would function. That means Jillian is listing new items on our website and managing the marketing side of things, while I’m concepting and photographing seasons to come.

On an average week, we juggle our time between photoshoots, website & social media maintenance, meetings around San Francisco, buying trips, antiquing and shipping orders.

In addition to all that goes into the work week, we can often be found hosting  pop-up events around San Francisco on the weekends.

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What are you favorite tools and apps to stay organized and keep on top of everything?

The tools we use daily are google drive, Trello, Slack, Dropbox and Planoly for laying our our Instagram grid. Other than that, we rely on our internal seasonal calendar to keep us on track with deadlines.

S&S began with antique jewelry pieces and you’ve now expanded into apparel - was this always part of the vision for the brand or did it evolve naturally?

Jillian: I've always known that Sweet & Spark was going to be so much more than vintage jewelry but everything starts somewhere and then evolves naturally from there! We used to get asked all the time where the clothing that was styled with the jewelry in our photographs was from so that sparked the idea to start selling our favorite clothing brands directly.

Not to mention, I'm an ex-buyer by trade so establishing relationships with the brands and managing the buying process wasn't as overwhelming as it could have been.

Being able to style the clothing with the jewelry really helped bring the entire brand to life and offer our customers a completely feminine yet, individualized look.

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How has running your own business challenged or changed you? You share any obstacles you’ve had to overcome in order to build your business into what it looks like today?

Jillian: Fear never goes away. You have to learn how to carry it with you and still have the courage to move forward and learn new things. Also, learning how to let go of expectations has been such a gift and makes this entrepreneurial journey so much more magical!  


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Quick fire: jillian

What’s your dream breakfast and who would it be with?

Coffee with Seth Godin would be a dream!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Defy mediocrity.

What’s the big dream you’re secretly {or not so secretly} most excited about making happen?

We would love to bring Sweet & Spark to life in person someday with a few stores around the country!

Quick fire: Emilee

What’s your dream breakfast and who would it be with?

Pastries with Victoire de Castellane, jewelry designer for Chanel and Dior.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

So you're a good artist, there's a lot of good artists. What you do with it is what matters.

What’s the big dream you’re secretly {or not so secretly} most excited about making happen?

We travel all over the country for our vintage inventory, traveling abroad to buy would be such a treat one day!


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