Lizzie Fortunato Designers

In The Present Tense: Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato of Lizzie Fortunato

"As a founder you’ve always got to be moving and knowing that something's on your tail."
In The Present Tense: Kate Freeman of Encirkled Jewelry Reading In The Present Tense: Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato of Lizzie Fortunato 9 minutes Next In The Present Tense: Shibani Shinde Patil of Ri Noor

1: What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage it?

Kathryn: I'm really bad at being still, which I think may be rooted in the fear of getting behind. For example, my best friend is a zero unread email inbox. You could say I’m happiest when I'm working and I think I managed that fear of complacency, by never being at rest and always moving forward. As a founder you’ve always got to be moving and knowing that something's on your tail. So I’d like to think I’ve harnessed my fear of being still into an asset that pushes my business forward.

"try and fire yourself from every job you currently do."

Lizzie: My greatest fear related to our business is the fear of micromanaging and not being a good leader. I love to be in the weeds. I'm a perfectionist and a very textbook Virgo, so I fear that sometimes I get too deep on the micro and don’t put enough focus on the macro. I manage this fear with a mantra that my entrepreneurial husband leant me years ago: “try and fire yourself from every job you currently do.” What this means is that it’s always better to eliminate yourself from a role and instill other, very competent people in your place, instead of dwelling on the same tasks and never being able to move on to anything else.

2: How do you define success?

Kathryn: This one is more of a mix for me. In the first few years of being in business, people would always ask us what we wanted. And for a long time I didn't know what success looked like. Did it mean selling your business? Did it mean hitting that certain revenue goal and then all of a sudden you'd be happy and you would accomplish everything you needed to? People still ask us our end goal and today we say we want to be sustainable. We want to be sustainable both environmentally and in terms of the actual business itself, while still maintaining product integrity, team happiness, and client happiness. So for me success is creating a business where we can all pay ourselves, take vacation, spend time with family, feel super duper proud of our product, and overall just have a well-rounded, balanced life.

"...success is creating a business where we can all pay ourselves, take vacation, spend time with family, feel super duper proud of our product, and overall just have a well-rounded, balanced life."

Lizzie: I agree with Kathryn on that definition of success. We're on our 15th year of the business and I would say for the first decade, which was also coincidentally pre-children, there was very little work-life balance, but we were happy to indulge in the work. We're both hard workers who definitely took pride in how much we worked. But as we’ve gotten older and started families, we just don’t have the same energy that we used to. It’s also just become more of a priority to be more present in the things we do outside of work and to recognize that other things outside of work can also be fulfilling. Like knowing it’s ok to watch a movie with your family without having your email open simultaneously.

Kathryn: We’ve learned that scheduling your downtime is so important because otherwise it doesn't happen. We gotta take it when we can and be very intentional about marking our calendars for the things that are important to us.

3: Who are your real-life heroes?

Lizzie: This one is easy - our mom is the most remarkable person we know. She is not only poised and elegant, but also was a stay at home mom for 15 years before returning to work when we entered college. She was able to create this remarkable career and a name for herself in the food and philanthropy space. She actually just retired this spring from her role as the first female head of the foundation at the Campbell Soup Company - a Fortune 500 company. It’s rare for women to re-enter the workforce and dominate their career at this stage of life, in fact, it’s typically men who are dominating at that stage of life in business, so that says a lot about her.

Kathryn: Another thing about our mom that’s remarkable is her love for connecting people. And I wouldn't even just call it networking, but more like taking pleasure in connecting people who might benefit from knowing each other. Nothing makes her happier. She’s just this incredible combination of a badass in the workplace and loving grandmother who bakes coffee cake, gardens, and teaches the kids how to swim. I aspire to be just like her.

"...our mother inspired us to host these creative women’s dinners in different cities, where we bring together women with different backgrounds, such as creatives, young professionals, doctors, and chefs, to break bread together, connect with each other, and collaborate on how to support one another."

In fact, our mother inspired us to host these creative women’s dinners in different cities, where we bring together women with different backgrounds, such as creatives, young professionals, doctors, and chefs, to break bread together, connect with each other, and collaborate on how to support one another. There needs to be more of this in the fashion and jewelry space, as our industry gets a bad wrap for being more competitive and less friendly. Lizze and I really strive to be the opposite of that.

4: What is the best gift you've given yourself?

Lizzie: Aside from all the very wonderful blessings that I'm fortunate to have, I would say one of the best gifts I've given myself is a handmade chair from a female woodworker in LA. I just completed a home renovation and I customized this investment furniture piece to be exactly what I wanted it to be. This will be a piece that gets passed down to my kids, and will have had so many memories made on it and stories read on it. It was made domestically by a female artisan and she upholstered it in fabric that I had brought back from travels in India, so it feels really authentic, and really personal to me.

Kathryn: Lizzie and I will both be 40 next summer and as we’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the best gift I’ve given myself is carving out time and budget for self care. So whether that's more regular massages, exercise, facials, or even travel. Just more time for the things that leave me looking good and feeling good. I really want to be more present and invest in the things that matter to me, and I’m realizing that in order to do that, I actually have to be more intentional about doing that. It’s funny how hard it is to set aside the budget and time for self care, it seems as though these are the first things we deprioritize when other things come up. We almost convince ourselves that it’s not that important to prioritize self care so it truly takes discipline to make sure we’re prioritizing that self care regularly.

5: What was the last win you celebrated?

Kathryn: We've been celebrating all year long. The end of 2023 marks our 15th year in business. Today we've got a team of over 16 people, a really sunny, beautiful studio in Soho, and we still get to do what we love every single day. Those are the ultimate gifts for us. But it’s been a year full of celebrations this year from amazing collaborations, limited edition launches, and other really cool press and product moments. It’s been a win and a really humbling experience just getting to reflect on all of this - everything that we’ve achieved this year and over the last 15 years.

Lizzie: So that home renovation I mentioned previously, well Domino Magazine covered it and shot it this summer. And that felt like celebration for me personally because it kind of blends my creativity with my very personal life. I love sourcing and focusing on small batch production, whether it's the pieces that we make or supporting other artisans who do similar things. I was really proud to share this renovation with the world, but the celebration really came full circle for me because I now get to live in a space that serves as daily inspiration that pushes me to create things.

 

About Lizzie Fortunato:

Twin sisters Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato create whimsical jewelry that celebrates diverse cultures and places. The duo’s vibrant designs feature ahead-of-the-curve details that are influenced by fine art, vintage styles, and their travels across the globe.

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