How This UPenn Engineer Started A Jewelry Business

Lea Nowack for GEM for Smart Girls GroupLea Nowack has the ultimate college job. She is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and is a superstar Merchandiser for  Chloe + Isabel’s GEM program. Chloe + Isabel is a fashion jewelry brand based in New York City and the GEM program provides college students with the opportunity to break into the fashion industry and develop their entrepreneurial skills. Smart Girls can build their bank accounts while building their resumes with real world sales, marketing, merchandising, and social media skills that will help them land their dream job.

When she is not running her jewelry business, Lea is studying Chemical Biomolecular Engineering with a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. We sat down with this Illinois native to learn what it takes to be at the helm of your own business while conquering college. Read on for some serious insight and inspiration.

Ready to jump start your career with the GEM program? Apply for the GEM program by April 30th for their May class! Spots are filling up fast so apply today!

What attracted you to the GEM program?

I first learned about  Chloe + Isabel when I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. My friend had joined the company and was displaying her boutique. When I started to learn more about the company, I was so entranced and loved the mission.

I always wanted to start my own business. GEM gave me the experience of starting a business while having the backing of a super supportive community. You know when CEOs of companies talk about when they first think of an idea and they just know it’s going to be the next big thing? That’s exactly how I felt when I first heard about GEM.

What is your favorite thing about the GEM program?

My favorite thing about the GEM program is all the freedom and support. I loved that through GEM I could work with fashion, develop a business skill set, and get support from merchandisers around the country. GEM allows me to be my own boss and make my own decisions.

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If you had one million dollars, what would you do?

That’s tough. I’d invest it in my education and future endeavors. I’d like to pursue an MBA and start a business that empowers people. I’d love to donate the money right now, but I feel that investing it in the future will bring forth the most good. I’m a big nerd for investing – I’m one of those people who enjoy reading investment books for fun.

Where is your ideal travel location?

I love traveling to Asia. My mom’s side of the family lives in China, so I love to travel there and Japan. They both have such rich, abundant cultures and that awesome juxtaposition of rich history and a rapidly progressing future.

How has your life affected your fashion?

My life choices are mirrored pretty well with my fashion. I’m one of those kids growing up that went through a lot of “phases.” I’ve been through phases where I’ve dressed punk, prep, fob, etc. I think what’s important to me is that I never hold myself back and am always open to trying new things. There are many paths in life – why restrict yourself?

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How does your experience with GEM help you prepare for other facets of life?

I think by far the most important is building AND maintaining confidence. Before I joined GEM, it was hard for me to ask people for help. With the support of mentors and fellow Merchandisers, I’m now able to reach out to people and talk business. I’m so glad I’m now able to properly and confidently speak my mind and not let any opportunities pass me by. But not everything in life goes perfectly, and GEM has helped me to discover how to learn from rejection in order to succeed.

What are some of your top tips for time management and efficiency?

Always make sure to be conscious of your time. It’s easy to let time slip away without noticing. ‘One more episode and then I’ll start.’ That’s deadly. But also keep in mind that a well-rested, healthy body will always produce more quality work in a more efficient amount of time than an overworked, stressed body.

What do you think it means to be a Smart Girl?

Being a Smart Girl means being ambitious, being strong when learning from failure, and always smiling in the face of success. A Smart Girl will not shy away from great opportunities but move towards them. She doesn’t undermine their accomplishments.


Want to secure the ultimate summer job like Lea? Apply to Chloe + Isabel’s GEM program by April 30th to join the May class! For more information and to apply, click here. To shop Lea’s boutique, click here.

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Anna Wan

Anna Wan attends high school on the East Coast. She is active in science, and her projects have earned recognition regionally and statewide. She enjoys playing the piano and the cello and is a classical music enthusiast. Along with these activities, she takes great pleasure in volunteering at museums and libraries. :-)

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