Stephanie Summerson Hall, the Founder of Estelle Colored Glass, Says to Set Every Table Like It's a "Sacred Sunday"
Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
Stephanie Summerson Hall tells stories through her Estelle Colored Glass collection, which started with one of her own. The founder and CEO's luxury hand-blown colored glass cake stand and stemware brand was inspired by her grandmother, Estelle, who she affectionately called "Big Mama." Growing up, she spent many days across the street at her grandma's house, where she took in all of the stunning, colorful, antique glass dishware used time and again to set the table for Sunday dinners. Those very moments shaped Summerson Hall's fondest family memories and her own vision for entertaining. She learned that preparedness is one of the best rules of hosting—her grandmother always had the roadmap for a meal, whether it was vegetables paired with turkey or another seasonal dish. And, of course, she always had her signature dishware ready for company.
"One of the things about this brand is that it brings me full circle. I'm talking about my family heritage and it's tied to a beautiful product. At the heart of it, I'm telling family stories," Summerson Hall shares. "As time goes on, life changes and all really that you have is memories. So, that's really what our brand is all about: Creating very happy memories." She adds that bringing joy to other families who use her vibrant pieces and form their own cherished memories around the table is truly meaningful. "It's very easy for me to talk about my close family, my grandmother, who lived a street over from me and just really helped shape every area of my life," the entrepreneur says. "She taught and demonstrated so many different things. I don't think you can you put a price on that. It's just something that will always be with you."
Here, Summerson Hall shares how she created her global brand—and how she keeps community at the core every step of the way.
A Luxury Idea-Turned-Business
Before launching her own company, Summerson Hall entered the business world in 2005 when she served as an absentee owner for an event rental company while simultaneously working as an attorney. In 2010, she decided to become a full-time entrepreneur to focus on the most important role in her life: motherhood. "I wanted to have more control over my quality of life, and the upbringing of my children, and just how involved I was going to be as a mother," she shares. "At the same time, I did not want to just put all of my experiences and all of the opportunities I'd been afforded on the shelf and forget that they happened; I wanted to merge the two and do significant things—but on my own terms." The idea that sparked Estelle Colored Glass came about while the entrepreneur was shopping for colorful antique glassware reminiscent of her grandmother's. She discovered, though, that the brand she sought as a consumer didn't actually exist in stores. "Everything had to be bought in the secondary market for me to build a collection," she recalls, noting that this realization was a lightbulb moment. Since she couldn't find any similar glassware in the marketplace, she dreamed up a plan to modernize vintage designs for today's dinner tables.
The business owner began reading up on colored glass and envisioning her first products: The Estelle Colored Glass Cake Stands ($225, estellecoloredglass.com). She worked with a designer to provide the sketches for the products, and from there, looked for a partner to produce them. After vetting about 30 potential makers around the United States, Summerson Hall couldn't find the right fit. Through an event rental connection formed many years prior, she got a recommendation from a contact in Poland, who introduced her to a 100-year-old glassware company (that she still works with to this day). With the perfect partner company in her corner, she crafted her first products for the marketplace in October 2019.
Color and Craft
Fashion and interior design have always inspired the colors seen throughout the Estelle Colored Glass collection. Summerson Hall drew inspiration for the lavender hue, which is featured on everything from the Estelle Colored "Vogue" Decanter ($185, estellecoloredglass.com) to the Estelle Colored Martini Glass ($95, estellecoloredglass.com), from an Elie Saab dress. The cobalt blue shade found on the glassware, such as the Estelle Colored Wine Stemware ($75, estellecoloredglass.com), has the same tint as a vintage Parisian sofa that caught the founder's eye. "I've spent a lot of time and thought creating these colors and making sure that they were pastels," she says, noting that quality was also paramount. These luxury pieces aren't just for special occasions, though: Summerson Hall wants every customer to use the glassware on an everyday basis, like she does for her family. "Treat these days like a sacred Sunday," she says. "Enjoy life and meals and make people feel special."
Connecting with an Audience
There are three main principles Summerson Hall says new business owners should follow. The first? Whatever you create—whether it's a service, product, or experience—make sure that it's going to add value to the marketplace. From there, tie your idea to your story. This direct connection will allow you to build a sustainable community. Lastly, remember to create content and be prepared to make yourself visible as the business owner. "You don't have to, but it's going to get you a lot more progress if you do insert yourself in it and become relatable to your community," she shares. Since this era is more visuals-focused, she says that you can help your brand gain more traction on social media by allowing your base to see what you have to offer (the entrepreneur's team, for example, shows the products in use on the brand's social channels to highlight their versatility). Plus, she includes a card in each delivery; it depicts a watercolor image of her grandmother, Estelle, instructions on how to care for the products, and a call-out to tag the business in the customers' photos on Instagram. As a result, the brand has fresh stream of relatable content and the team is "sharing stories, building and listening to our audience, and helping to amplify their stories," Summerson Hall says.
Supporting and Creating Community
The ultimate goal for this business owner? To be transparent about her journey in order to support others. "My mission is simply to show entrepreneurship as a great avenue to curate your own life for women in particular, who may have constraints in the traditional workforce. And in the African American community, it is a great tool for wealth building," Summerson Hall says. At times, entrepreneurial success stories show more highs than lows. She wants to break that trend: "I just want to be authentic all the way across the board in terms of who I am, what our brand is, and be that, even when we're very successful and when we have improvements to make in certain areas." As always, Summerson Hall is staying true to herself and her community. "One of the things that I'm very proud of is that our warehouse and our production is five minutes from where I grew up and where my grandmother lived. This is where I got my start," she says. "We're creating local jobs: About 75 percent of the folks that are here, live in the community." She aims to continue boosting awareness for her global brand, and to "keep growth happening" to "bring on new team members who are a part of the community."
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