PRESS NY Enterprise Report: All In The Family
All in the Family: An Interview with
Tamsen Fadal & Shannon Elizabeth
The cousins and co-founders of Shansen Jewelry talk to NY Report
By: Michelle Court
March 30, 2012
Cousins Tamsen Fadal and Shannon Elizabeth both have a lot on their plates. Tamsen is an author, journalist, matchmaker, relationship coach, and WPIX-TV morning news host, while Shannon is an actress best known for comedies like American Pie and Scary Movie. Tamsen is working on a new book; Shannon’s just launched a new blog website, thiswondrousworld.com, and her latest film, American Reunion, comes out on April 6th. Oh, and in their spare time? They’ve also started their own jewelry company, Shansen Jewelry. NY Report associate editor Michelle Court talked to the cousins and co-founders about business branding and the pros and cons of working with family.
Michelle Court: Can you tell me about your company, and how it was started?
Shannon Elizabeth: It kind of came about organically. We both had a passion for jewelry and accessories and clothes. I have a ton of jewelry and I love crystals; everything has a vibration, everything has an energy. I really wanted to start making that my own, and we talked about the different ways to do that. It kind of just developed from there to where we started buying stuff and just putting it together and loving what we were doing and having fun.
Tamsen Fadal: I think that accessories really determine your mood of the day and I think they make a statement about who you are. There are things that I’ve worn from my mother over the years that make me remember her, or I’ll fiddle with a necklace and it makes me think of Shannon. I think that’s what jewelry means. It means a little bit to both of us because I think it defines you. You put it on every day, we touch it, fiddle with it. And especially with the jewelry that we have, what was important to us was to have different properties that are part of our lives. Some of our jewelry is handmade, some of it is vegan. As Shannon was saying, the crystals have different properties that are important across the board. And it starts on kitchen tables and floors, so it really is organic. It was important to us to not go into a manufacturer and slap our name on a product that somebody else was making, designing, and feeling. And that was a big deal to both of us and that was why that was important, so you’ll see us trolling the jewelry district a lot.
MC: Your company used to be called Spiritual Awakening Jewelry and now it’s Shansen Jewelry. Why did you change your name?
SE: We were getting some feedback that people thought it might have a religious angle to it, and we felt that to go into some of the stores that we had talked about, we just needed to be a little more mainstream. It just came to us one day.
TF: Our parent company is still Spiritual Awakening LLC, because for both of us, there is a spiritual meaning behind a lot of this, not necessarily a religious connotation but what each person deems is important to them. And we didn’t want to segregate it to one group or another and make people feel like they wouldn’t be able to be a part of it.
MC: Has it been hard to rebrand your business?
TF: No, I think surprisingly it’s been relatively easy.
SE: I think people really respond to it and we did it early enough that we were able to make it happen. We sat down and did it all across the internet, all on our logos, everything, in one afternoon.
TF: On the floor with five dogs.
MC: You’re both well-known for having other careers. What made you decide to take on the additional responsibility of owning a business and being an entrepreneur?
TF: Shannon and I grew up in Texas together and then we went our separate ways and did our careers. When we came back together as adults, we were both coming together at the same time from different paths and we thought it would be nice to work together. That’s the truth, and I think that the family aspect makes me feel so good when I take off my anchor hat and I turn to this, because this is really important to me. I don’t feel like it’s taking on so much responsibility as it is doing something that I’ve had a lot of passion for for a long time, and working with my cousin, it just makes it that much nicer.
SE: And I think also that we’re both at this point where we don’t want to be depending on other people for whether we work, when we work, where we work. We want to be those people that are able to hand out jobs and hire people and help people.
TF: Our dream is to be able to travel around the world and help bring other women into this and have other jobs and bring some of their products into what we do. Because both of us I think, in our own right, look at other women as mentors and examples. We want to be those women to others one day.
MC: What would you say is the best part about owning a business with a family member?
SE: For me, I just love that it makes it so that I talk to Tamsen so much. Because before we might have just talked maybe once every few weeks, once a month, and now we’re talking pretty much every day and I love that. I don’t think there’s anybody in this world that I get along with better than her.
TF: Neither one of us have ever had sisters and I feel like I have a sister now for the first time ever, so that’s nice. I don’t worry that I’m not going to be partners with her one day. With regular businesses you never know if you’re going to have a falling out with somebody. I was like, “Sister, you’re stuck with me because we’re blood. We’re going to be together forever!” So that’s kind of nice.
MC: When you disagree about something, does the fact that you’re cousins make it easier to patch things up?
SE: We’ve never disagreed.
TF: We haven’t disagreed yet and we’re scared because people are asking us that, so we don’t want to put it into the universe! I think that both of us have certain talents in the business and that’s what makes it a little bit easier. For me, I run the website and work on the technical and the social media aspects of it, and the marketing. Shannon works on the marketing and the real creative part of it. She’ll look at the website and give me some feedback, and I’ll look at the different pieces and give her feedback. So, it works out better that we’re not both trying to nudge each other in the same place, wouldn’t you say Shannon?
SE: Yeah, absolutely.
TF: We’ve commented about that to each other and I think that makes it nicer than trying be in charge of the same thing. I think that’s what makes a business successful in general, you have to bring different talents to the table of whatever your business is, whether it’s a dog walking business or an accounting business or a jewelry business. You have to bring different skill-sets to the table. And our goal is to have a long term lifestyle brand with the different things we believe in that encompass our lives.