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My First Cover 2009

Posted by Lea Church on

 
 

An Entrepreneur for Life

As the oldest from a family of six, Lea’s work ethic and entrepreneurship began early in life. “I have been an entrepreneur my entire life, from Christmas crafts and candies to my first true business, Five Fish Design, a vinyl graphic sign company,” she recalled. In 1996, during her sign business, she went wholesale shopping with a couple of friends for their business. “As I was looking around with my friends, I came across a jewelry vendor who sold sterling silver. I bought these adorable boy and girl pendants, representing the two children I had at the time, and made myself a necklace. The next day at church the response from my friends was overwhelming with requests for the pendants. Being the little business person that I am, I told my friends I could probably get them the pendants. From there I began selling the ‘puff kids’ and other jewelry to my friends,” said Lea.

It All Began with Sandwich Baggies and a Cardboard Box…

With just a few pieces of sterling silver jewelry in plastic baggies and a cardboard box, she began her jewelry ‘road show’ at companies in downtown Winston-Salem, eventually having in-home parties. “I had no idea what I was doing when I began. With limited jewelry, I would visit a group of ladies, sell from what I presented and take their requests and promise to visit again with more items they were interested in,” stated Lea. In May of 1997, she developed her business plan and incorporated her company, Simply Sterling, and hit the road selling silver through in-home parties and fundraisers.

As the business grew, so did her family. “Thank goodness for my parents who live in Winston-Salem. At the time I began my business, I was a recently single mother. If not for my mom, I would’ve never been able to travel like was needed. My mom was always there for me and still is today. I owe her and my dad a lot. My mom taught me how to be strong and determined and my dad taught me how to work hard and do a good job,” commented Lea.


2008 Award Winner, Lea Church Brendle, AKA “Alegria Lea”, Top Alegria Single-Store Specialty Retailer in North America.

After three years of juggling the vinyl sign business and the jewelry business, she closed her sign company in 1999. “It became quickly apparent that getting dressed up and going out to have a ‘Ladies’ Night Out Silver Party’ was more fun and more lucrative than making banners in my basement at 2 am with the camel-back crickets looking on. It was not a hard decision to make, but I did miss my clientele that I had worked so hard to build,” recalled Lea.

With her in-home jewelry parties growing, Lea was faced with hiring sales representatives to help with the quickly expanding business. “When I began it was ‘1-800-just-me.’ There was no company to call - I was it! I hired Renee Throckmorton as my first representative, and the fire was lit. Over the next three years, twenty one reps joined forces across the United States selling silver like mad women. Things were definitely rolling and I just kept wondering ‘Why me?’ and ‘Can I hang on during the crazy roller coaster ride called the American Dream?’ Our numbers continued to grow throughout the years and I have to give credit to Katrina Smith and my youngest brother, Brad, for all the incredible help and support they gave me” said Lea.

 
 

A Growing Business and a Growing Family

Lea later married Gray Brendle and expanded her family with stepson, Avery. “I had my two children from my first marriage, Madison, now 15, and Mason, almost 14, and Gray brought Avery, 11, into the family. Then we had Natalie, age 5 ½, and Hudson, born in 2007,” stated Lea. With her growing family, Lea’s business seemed to take on a life of its own. “As we grew, and as our recognition in Winston-Salem blossomed, many people assumed that we were a franchise, but we are not. Our customers have followed us from our in-home parties to our twice a year major events, in May and December. These shows have always been privy to Winston-Salem because this is where it all began. The two sale events were a way to say ‘Thank You’ to the area because without the support of my hometown, Simply Sterling would never have grown to the level it has. Those events were a lot of work, as we tried to set up a store environment in just a few short days, but our customers loved it, so we continued on. After the week or two sale, we would return to our regular method of business at our warehouse,” recalled Lea. In July of 2006, the opportunity to open a retail store and continue to grow her business presented itself and once again Lea, worked hard and prayed even harder, to take the big step of owning a ‘brick and mortar’ business. “I loved the challenge of opening the store and producing a place where women and men could enjoy shopping. I thrive on the visual aspect of my business, the ever-changing displays of the lines we carry, and having the opportunity to offer new merchandise through my retail store, web site and home shows,” stated Lea.

Simply Sterling & Co., Inc: The One and Only at Thruway Center

With the reputation of beautifully and well-crafted jewelry such as Waxing Poetic and Chamilia, as well as clothing by Three Sisters and Ivy Jane, and a shoe line, Alegria by PG Lite, Lea has quite a following of loyal customers. “Many of our customers have been to in-home parties and now shop with us at our Thruway location, but we also have people who shop with us out of the area.

 

I often receive the compliment that the store reminds shoppers of a big city store, with a small town feel. Our selection is fabulous, but the atmosphere and our sales team is what set Simply Sterling & Company apart. Our customers have become family in many cases and having them take the time to stop by when they need that perfect gift or accessory is something that I do not take for granted,” commented Lea.

In every aspect of her life, Lea Church Brendle is quick to ‘give credit where credit is due.’ “Keeping faith and family as a priority is definitely a ‘we’ and not an ‘I’ situation my husband Gray is so supportive and my perfect counterpart. My parents and in-laws are there whenever I need them to help with the children, and then my business, my staff and customers just add to my life. I am doing what I love and am using the gifts God gave me,” said Lea. The funny thing is, she signs most of her correspondence, Simply Lea and, as you can tell, that is an understatement.

Simply Sterling & Company is located at 304 S. Stratford Road in Thruway Center. Hours of operation: Monday – Saturday 10-7. For more information on products call 336- 896-0077 or visit www.simplysterling.com.


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