I first met Jill Marinelli at Providence’s STYLEWEEK last fall, completely appropriate for my first meeting with Jill, a personal stylist, public speaker and style correspondent for CBS Providence’s The Rhode Show.
There is no denying that Jill is incredibly fashionable, confident and poised. But she is also accessible, warm and human. From our very first coffee date, it’s evident to me that though Jill’s beauty, style and presence is magnetic and compelling, she is still totally relatable. Within our first few words, it is clear that she treats everyone with grace, care and unwavering acceptance. You find yourself talking about everything with Jill, from your wardrobe and style stress to your most personal workplace and family pressures.
We are so excited to welcome Jill as a featured speaker at our next Women in Leadership Nexus chapter event, “Intentional Leadership: Own Your Potential,” taking place September 27. I sat down with Jill to talk about everything from the way she helps her clients up-level their confidence to the reason she jump-started her own business in the first place. Learn more about Jill below!
I am so excited that we get to have you as a speaker for our upcoming Nexus event. You will be talking about how to dress for the life you desire. As we count down the weeks to the event, can you tell our readers about your business?
I had just left Manhattan—where I was working in advertising—and moved to Rhode Island. I had my first son and then my second child and decided to stay home with my kids for about four years. I had just come off of working 80+ hours in New York City and knew that when I decided to go back to work, I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted to do something I loved.
When I was starting to think about going back to work, I thought about my experience living in Manhattan. As someone who came from a small town in Rhode Island, one of the first things I noticed when I moved to NYC was how good and stylish people looked. It also really stuck out to me how differently people were treated based on how they dressed. When I decided to go back to work, I wanted to do something with style so I got a job at Anthropologie in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. I wanted to be around beautiful things and do something completely different, and so I became a personal stylist for the store.
During that time, I started working with a lot of women in their 30s who were just like me. They had just had babies, their bodies were different and they were going into dressing rooms getting upset. I decided that I wanted to help all these women but didn’t want to be limited to just one store.
In 2009, I found a stylist in San Francisco and went out and spent four days of training with her. That time together was awesome, and it began to change my perspective from thinking that how people dress and what they look like is trivial, vain and silly, to the fact that it could actually be a powerful tool and change the way people think about themselves, particularly in these times of transition—getting married, having children, getting divorced, gaining weight, etc.
I have always related to these women and I think that’s what has differentiated me. When people hear the term “personal stylist,” they conjure up an image of a stylish girl who dresses celebrities. I see myself as a regular woman who seeks to empower other regular, powerful women.
I just gave a talk for 1,500 women who work for Swarovski reinforcing that exact same message. I am a personal stylist who dresses the regular woman who does not have an unlimited budget. I style people just like me. Moms. People with mortgages. Women who are busy. If you are running around like a crazy, busy woman and you want to look good while doing it, I am your stylist!
Over the last 11 years, I have been able to witness the difference the right wardrobe and style can make in the way that people feel and relate to others, and that is my true passion. My work is about helping women use style as a tool to affect critical areas of their life from work to relationships to leadership. I help them find their own unique style so they can walk in a room and feel like they own it.
You work with mostly female clients helping them feel just as confident on the outside as in the inside. What are some of the areas you see women struggle most with, perhaps more than men?
After I spoke at Swarovski, I did three meet-and-greets over the weekend where people could ask me questions. It makes me sad reflecting on this because almost every woman who spoke to me talked about body insecurities and needing to lose weight. Women, more so than men, struggle with weight and body issues. That’s 90 percent of what I hear with my clients.
When someone reaches out, it’s typically because they are struggling with their weight and/or self-esteem. Some women feel like they have never had it quite right when it comes to style but are at the point in their life where they are willing to invest in themselves and in feeling more confident. My clients realize that they can outsource help in this core area and start to strengthen how they feel about themselves.
You must meet so many amazing women. You must also learn a great deal about entrepreneurship each and every day. What are some things you have learned along the way?
Patience, patience and patience—which I am not good at! In the early days, if I did a TV segment, I assumed my phone would be ringing off the hook. Or, I would run into someone at a networking event who would say they want to work with me and then I would wait by the phone. I have learned to have patience as a business owner. I try to remember that successful business owners spend time cultivating trust with their clientele, before they ever become clients.
People need to see you, hear you and build trust in you to hire you for something as personal as style. My business is a little bit unusual in that people are still getting used to the idea of the concept of a personal stylist. It’s a very vulnerable working arrangement! You are talking to me about your body and changing your clothes in front of me. Over the years, I have found that I need to be patient and develop my clients’ trust over time.
What has been the most rewarding part of running your own business?
Going from a stay-at-home mom to a business woman, it has been important to me to hold on to my flexibility. I want to be able to chaperone my kid’s field trip one day, deliver a corporate presentation the next and still find time to meet my girlfriends for lunch. I love being able to make my own schedule and craft my life in a way that works for me.
As you have been in business more than a decade, and you are working with women across all types of leadership backgrounds, how have your own thoughts and definitions around leadership evolved?
For me, leadership is about being a good person, giving back to others and trying to help others through their journey. I have a mentor who is 20 years older than me and a mentee who is 20 years younger than me, and it’s cool to be able to be vulnerable and authentic with both and learn from both.
I am happy to see that leadership today can look a lot different. It can be about being compassionate and treating others with kindness and gentleness. So many of us still think of leadership as masculine. It’s one of the reasons I love working with female leaders and learning from them and being reminded that we can be feminine and still be strong and powerful and leaders.
In a similar vein, what is one hope you have for female leaders in the next decade—what continued and new advancement do you hope to see?
I experienced firsthand a real challenge in trying to figure out how to come back to work after being out of the workforce for a few years. I hope that we continue to address the issue of what happens when a mom chooses to stay at home with her kids and how do they get back to work afterwards.
I had my first child when I was 30 and decided I would stay home. It never occurred to me that if I stayed home for more than a year that it would be difficult to get back. I would like to see more opportunities for women to step aside and take a break if they want to and not be so incredibly punished for it. In my own situation, getting divorced made it 1,000 times worse because I needed work fast and regularly, but I had been out of work and I was at a severe financial deficit. I’d love to see women not being put at such a disadvantage if they choose to pause their careers.
What an amazing thing to hope for; I, like you, hope that we see changes in this in the years to come. OK… final question, what can we expect from you and your business in the coming months/years?
I have always been passionate about the psychology behind what we wear and how it makes us feel and act. The way I see it, what we may think of as a minor part of the day—getting dressed—actually has the ability to define our day. We can decide to be a badass, artsy, a girl boss. You get to create your look every day, introduce it to the world and have it change how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. I geek out on the science behind “enclothed cognition” and love diving into research on how clothes affect our behavior and will continue to focus on that.
I am also looking forward to continuing to bring my work to larger audiences, whether it’s a corporate workshop or a keynote presentation. A few weeks ago, I did a high-level corporate workshop for people who had been selected by their C-suite executives and I talked about the science of style and how they can use it to become better leaders. That’s my passion right now.
I look forward to continuing to bring my work to thousands of women and helping them feel ready and able to show up with greater confidence.
To learn more about Jill’s styling, coaching and speaking programs, click here.
To register for the upcoming Nexus event, taking place Sept. 27 from 8:30-11:30 am, featuring Jill, click here.
Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as VP of Marketing for Trilix. Carrie is a 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” honoree and a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.