Leora Moreno, founder of Leo With Love www.leowithlove.com
Leo With Love is an all-encompassing brand inspired by empowered women, for empowered women. All the jewellery in my collection is named after a friend or family member who originally inspired the piece. The look on their face when they realise is second to none.Knowing how happy and special I’ve made someone feel is part of what drives me to do this. I regularly post empowering quotes from females to drive home the point what is truly possible when you feel the strength within yourself to reach your goals and dreams. When women wear my jewellery, I want them to feel as strong and confident as the ones who inspired me. It’s their symbolic armour to go and get things done today- no matter what they’re doing. They got this!
I started this company in 2016 when my sister and I made a pinky promise to each other that we would start our respective businesses together after she recovered from a near-fatal illness. My sister (the inspiration for the Zina earrings) came up with the name Leo With Love, and I loved it. Everything I make is handmade with love, just for you!
All materials used for my jewellery are sourced from Fairtrade certified suppliers, with many silver pieces made using 100% recycled silver.
What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career? On a personal level, I’d have to say ego. Working for myself and not having the expectations of a daydream I envisaged or realising when I’m talking to someone who really isn’t my customer, is a humbling experience! It’s given me the opportunity to grow into a resilient person and keep me grounded. Part of starting Leo With Love was to inspire others to know that their professional goals are attainable, so being relatable is super important to me. Professionally, I’ve had to sacrifice income-but that’s okay. It’s part of the fire that keeps me motivated toward the end goal.
Who inspired you and why? My parents, for sure. They immigrated from Mexico to the USA in the 70’s to become doctors. My dad regularly faced racism at the hospital he worked in because of his thick accent, but that didn’t stop him from delivering babies and saving their lives daily. Today, he has one of the oldest and most respected paediatric practices in his area. My mom went to medical school in secret and was one of only two women in her entire medical class to become a psychiatrist. She eventually worked at a prison where inmates were terrified of her (she has a knowing look and I don’t blame them for being scared of it) and was a whistle-blower on sexism in the workplace. It inspires me to know their resilient ambition is literally in my DNA.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace? Don’t be afraid to ask for things or speak up. I know, from personal experience, it’s easier said than done. But bravery is a muscle that needs exercising in order to grow.
Do you think women feel intimidated in business? I can only speak from my experience, but initially, yes. There were literally thousands of years where women were meant to be meek, demure accessories. Over time that ideology has become taboo, but that does mean there’s an initial reaction to flinch at wanting to ask for what you want, deserve and need in order to succeed. I’m definitely guilty of it now, but you have to lean in. When something scares me in terms of Leo With Love, that means it’s actually an opportunity to grow the company and it scares me because it’s a new situation. Eventually, things that used to be intimidating become the stepping-stones to grow as a brand and a person. In other words, embrace those butterflies in your tummy.
Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.? Having a coffee while cuddling my Pug, Oswald.
What do you love about your job? It has to be getting responses from customers who bought a piece as a present and express how much they love it. I’d made a bespoke ring and pendant set for a woman whose life took a 180 degree turn and these were the first pieces of jewellery she’d bought for herself in years. For the customer, the pieces became a physical representation of change and a reminder of who she is now – poised, exuberant and audacious. Another part of the job that I love is when I get a message from someone saying that I’ve inspired them to start their business. I want people to look at me and think ‘if she can do it, why can’t I?’. I didn’t have much confidence in myself at the beginning, and it’s still a struggle sometimes because I didn’t take the typical road travelled to get to this point. But when that unconventional journey inspires someone to feel capable to start their own business, it’s a wholesome and beautiful feeling.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made? Hiring my PR agent, I know she’s going to read this, but that’s not why I’m saying it! Her name is Becky and she really does have good hair. When you’re starting out, you try to wear all the hats in the business, signing up for online memberships to “teach” you how to do things. But my expertise is jewellery design and creation, so time cost is one of the most important factors when it comes to making a business decision. While it’s monetarily more expensive to hire someone to manage Leo With Love’s PR, it’s her expertise. The joy and sense of accomplishment I feel from seeing customers wearing my jewellery is matched with Becky’s as Leo With Love’s profile rises. And, that’s become a regular occurrence since PR isn’t something I have to spend my time worrying about anymore.
What’s the worst career decision you’ve ever made? No one decision comes to mind. However, I’ve made plenty of small mistakes over time that all come down to not speaking up when something didn’t feel right.
How do you organise your time? I wake up about 6:30/7 and the first thing I do is write down 5 things I’m grateful for. Sometimes it’s a word, a sentence, or a few. Starting the day programmed with appreciation has significantly decreased my stress levels and imposter syndrome. I wrote a document that is the Leo With Love story and what the brand represents, I read that every morning; that emotive daily reminder reignites my passion every morning. It’s bigger than just me, LWL means something and that passion needs to be shared, inspiring others to make the most of their one certain chance in life.Then, orders take priority. I’ll take a break for emails and social, but I also have time allocated to brainstorm ideas for brand strategy.
What do you think is your greatest strength? Resilience. I know I’ve mentioned it a few times this interview! However, we have one certain chance in life to live the life we’ve been given, so am I going to focus on what went wrong? No. I’m going to do a small cry, possibly scream into a pillow depending on stress levels, then dust myself off and do an Oprah by turning it into a teachable moment! When you bounce back from an off moment, and recognise you’ve done that more quickly over time, it nurtures a positivity and pride only you can ever be responsible for.
What do you think is your greatest weakness? I can be a perfectionist when it comes to my designs. This means I can really stress myself out if a design isn’t shaping up to what I’m envisioning.
How do you make decisions? I have my brand bible which I use to make decisions, it’s my official checklist as to whether a situation suits the brand. If I’m not sure, I’ll consult my PR agent so she can help me gauge my options.
What do you read? Usually psychology books, I love knowing how others/I tick. At the moment I’m reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong – its super inspirational!
What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve got to? Getting back to it, even if it feels hard some days. Looking at the bigger picture, recognising accomplishments and knowing when I need help with something.