Vital Stats: Lana Fertelmeister, 33, of Lana Jewelry in Chicago
Company: Lana Jewelry, designer of fine jewelry for everyday women
Projected 2008 sales: $6 million
Breaking the mold
Lana Fertelmeister thinks big--perhaps because, at age 6, she was brought from Russia to the U.S. by parents who taught her that anything is possible. Today, she's the founder of a dazzlingly successful fine jewelry company and has a vision to one day spearhead a luxury empire that ranks alongside Gucci. Lana Jewelry is making a lasting impression, with its jewelry line available in more than 100 stores worldwide, including Neiman Marcus; plans for major expansion into Asia and Europe this year; and ambitions to build out a line of luxury accessories, including home products like candles containing 24 karat gold flakes. Says Fertelmeister, "I would never want to have an average life."
Wearing her heart
Love was the inspiration behind Fertelmeister's first piece of jewelry: a heart necklace over a nameplate with her then-boyfriend, now-fiancé's name on it. A model and clothing designer but not a jeweler, Fertelmeister was stunned when so many people admired her creation. Delving deeper, she discovered that many women wanted sexy, affordable, unintimidating fine jewelry made of real gold and diamonds.
Heed the need
With hopes of eliminating the intimidation factor, Fertelmeister set out to deliver. In 2003, she launched her signature three-color gold jewelry in hip specialty stores worldwide. She currently introduces four or five collections a year and finds inspiration everywhere, from interesting shapes on high-end cars to ideas that come to her in dreams.
Lana Jewelry sparkles--especially when it's worn in the spotlight by its celebrity clients, which include Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz. The jewelry also makes regular appearances on ABC's new dramedy, Cashmere Mafia. But Fertelmeister stands apart by never giving her designs away for free. She says, "We make it very clear that no one is above anyone."