A naked drink inspired Lolita Healy to launch the gorgeous glassware company Designs by Lolita—and a multimillion-dollar empire.
How did you get your start, Lolita?
I loved my career in the fashion industry, working for some of the giants like Christian Dior and Donna Karan. I even helped launch the DKNY brand. I learned first-hand how a designer could create a product line that would make a woman feel special. And I knew that one day I would become a designer, too.
Designing is in my blood. After all, I’ve been an artist ever since I could remember. I created a cartoon character named Doodlebug and got first copyright at the age of 12.
You knew how to protect your intellectual property even as a preteen.
Then how did the glassware collection come to be?
I got pregnant and stayed home with my two daughters — but I still had a lot of dreams. I dreamt of what I could paint. I began shopping in gift stores; they were more attractive to me because of their mass appeal. I saw some hand-painted glassware, but it was all floral—not exactly appealing to everyone. Then one night, leaving the hubbies and kids at home, my friends and I had a Sex and the City-inspired Girls Night Out. Each gal pal ordered a drink that fit her personality to a T; one ordered a chocolate martini, another sipped on an appletini. I looked at their pretty drinks, including my own beloved Cosmo, and it struck me that the glass looked naked. It was in that instant that Designs by Lolita was born. And now it’s evolved into a socially expressive line that appeals to women.
What were your next steps?
I’m a color person so I would put a lot of thought into each glass. I would do a sketch and play with color. Each design can take more than a day and I always have a sketch pad with me, because you never know when inspiration will strike. (I created Girlfriends Rule on an airplane!)
I went from 18 designs to 50 in the first year because it just kept growing. I was hand painting on crystal in the beginning, and I would do trade shows. But after three years of painting hundreds of glasses, it got way too big. I developed a following because I found that customers wanted to collect the wine glasses. Ironically, the glasses not being dishwasher-safe never hindered sales — people understood that they were special.
What was it like to do this while your daughters were growing up?
It was an incredible experience. My daughters were seeing me create something from scratch and doing something that I loved, which I think is important for kids to see. It was hard, too, though. I would do trade shows, and sometimes one of them would get sick when I had a show.
What I love about the collection is that it just isn’t a pretty glass; there’s also a recipe on the bottom so that people can make the drink as well.
Thank you! Adding the recipe to the bottom gives the customer an idea of what kind of drink they can have in that glass. Not only was it a fun addition, but it became added value, too.
For someone who designs glassware, I have to ask: what is your favorite drink?
I love wine! And I love glassware, too. I remember being in painting class and the teacher said, “Draw what you want.” So I drew a martini glass — and the principal was called. [laughs]
Any advice for other entrepreneurs out there who are looking to launch their own businesses?
I regret not getting help with things I was weakest at. I remember being so exhausted all the time. Having a strong team helping you is so important. It takes a lot of time and energy to start a business, but when you’re doing what you love, it’s not a sacrifice.