Like so many entrepreneurs, Jennifer Hunt started her business because she was looking for something she couldn’t find. In 2014 this busy mother of two waited a little too long to order her custom holiday cards from a local print shop. She took to the Internet in search of an online shop offering customizable high-quality cards but found nothing. Armed with her background in accounting and art gallery ownership, in 2015, Jennifer launched Dixie Design Collective. The company sells customizable cards and stationery, designed by skilled artists, for the customer who wants a high-end product without a high price point and without a long wait time.
This year Jennifer was selected as one of 50 participants for the Tory Burch Fellows program, created to help female entrepreneurs gain the resources, connections, and education they need to succeed in business. Out of thousands of applicants, Jennifer is one of only three Southern-based fellows chosen to be a part of this year’s program. We’re excited to introduce this week’s FACE of Birmingham, Jennifer Hunt!
Tell us more about Dixie Design Collective.
It functions very much like all other online card companies — Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, Minted — but the end product looks very high-end, very custom, very much like you went out and hired an artist to create this artwork for you and then you had a really well-trained graphic designer set all the type for you and lay it out.
We commission artwork from our artists, and then we have an in-house graphic design team that does all of our beautiful layouts and all of our typesetting. All of our graphic designers are highly trained.
We do our very best to make sure everybody gets a personalized experience with us. Every time an order is placed, one of our Dixie designers looks at it to make sure it’s perfect.
What does being a Tory Burch Fellow mean for your business?
There were four days of workshops (at the Tory Burch offices in New York). It wasn’t until I got there that I realized how huge it was. I have never been so impressed with content and thoughtful details. The people they had come talk to us were industry leaders and powerhouses, people who’ve been in these various roles for years and years who bring amazing knowledge.
So much of the importance of being a fellow and the value it brings to the table is connections.
Also, we got a $5,000 education grant that can be used for workshops or conferences or classes — anything that you want to do that is going to further your knowledge of being an entrepreneur.
They split us up in five different groups, and each group got to go to a different site visit. My site visit was to O Magazine and to the Good Housekeeping Institute. I got to meet the creative director of O Magazine. I got to hang out with Gayle King for a little bit. She’s as sweet as you think she is.
Why do you think programs like this are needed?
They created this fellowship to empower women, ambitious women, and give them the tools that will help them succeed. The foundation has also created this small business loan program. It’s all about giving women owners of these businesses funding to help their businesses grow. Women in general have a much harder time making it than men do. All of the statistics are stacked against women being able to succeed in this world.
How do you feel your background in accounting has helped you succeed?
I will sing the praises of an accounting degree all day long because I think accounting is such a well-rounded business degree. I was in accounting for seven years working for a big public accounting firm and then working for Zoe’s Kitchen. That time at Zoe’s was super instrumental in me really learning how to run a small business. I also had an art gallery for a few years. I feel like I was able to do that because of the knowledge I gained at Zoe’s.
What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If anybody has a good idea I think they should go for it and not say, “Oh, I don’t have a business background,” or “Oh, I haven’t worked in a small business before.” Find somebody who has. There are a lot of people out there who are willing to help, especially if somebody has a good idea.
It’s always going to be scary. We just launched the wholesale division of our company. It is a massive undertaking. It is entirely different from how we sell things on our retail website. It’s almost like we’re launching this whole new business. It’s been a ton of work, and at times I’ve been a little bit scared about it.
Don’t make risky decisions without due diligence, but at the same time don’t let the fear of it keep you from doing it because everybody’s scared. Figure it out as you go. You’ve got to take the chance. If you don’t take the chance you’ll be stuck forever.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?
My very favorite thing to do is travel. As soon as I get back from one trip, I’m planning the next one. I’m a budget traveler, too. Part of the fun for me is figuring out the best places to go for the best price.
Last summer we took the kids to New York City for the first time. We spent a few days in the city and then we went to Shelter Island.
Two summers ago my husband and I went to France. We went to Paris and spent a few days there. I’m a little bit of an adventure traveler, so we rented a small yacht and we drove ourselves through canals in Burgundy.
My favorite trip that I’ve ever taken was to Peru. We hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
But I’m also a big three-day getaway person. Our go-to long weekend destinations include Rosemary Beach, especially in September when the prices and crowds drop but it’s still warm, and Florence, Alabama, a cute, artsy town with great boutique hotels and a Marriott resort on the Tennessee River. Good food and shopping!
Do you have any favorite restaurants in Birmingham?
Bettola is super kid-friendly, and the food’s good. My favorite dish is the Sugo and I add Italian sausage to it. I also love OvenBird. I love their ceviche. I love going to Chez Lulu in English Village.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I recently heard “Today Show” host Savannah Guthrie say this: “Think big for yourself, and then just head in that general direction. Whether you arrive at the ideal destination is not even the point. The point is to be ambitious for your life and then just try.”
Name three things you can’t live without.
Coffee, ’80s and ’90s music and group texts
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