Interview with Leora Moreno, founder of Leo With Love

Find out how her sister’s near-terminal illness inspired Leora Moreno to finally realise her business dream and launch handmade jewellery business Leo With Love.

What’s your career background?

I was working in a very corporate job in an international company as a marketing executive; I still do some social media contracts on the side today.

When I had some important issues come up with my family, it really started to put things into perspective. Do I want to keep doing a job I hate for the rest of my life? Do I want to find another job that I am going to hate?

I am just not built for an office, there is nothing wrong with people that are, but it is just not who I am.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The idea was born in 2016, back in LA, where I’m from. My sister was recovering from a near-terminal illness and we were talking about how you only get one certain chance in life, so you have to LIVE your life.

I always knew I wanted to start a business and loved making jewellery as presents for people but had never thought to put the two things together. 

How did you move from idea to actual business?

My background is in marketing and I’ve always had super corporate jobs, but the experience with my sister’s illness helped me see what was important.

So, I saved up for months at a job I hated but was a necessary evil, working on branding and designs in the evenings. After a few months, I was at a point that Leo With Love could get my full attention.

What’s your USP?

I believe it is a combination of little details that make the customer feel special and will keep them coming back; particularly being authentic as a brand and having the jewellery represent something.

Each piece of jewellery tells a story of its incarnation, but it is the customers to create new chapters with. I hope that each piece will come to represent a particular time in the customer’s life that they can smile upon and remember fondly when they wear it.

I also like to imagine each customer is someone that I’d want to be friends with, so that has definitely set the tone for Leo With Love. 

Who’s your target audience?

The young at heart, risk-takers, who are empowered by their sense of self and success; and those who are inspired by them.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Mostly through social media, word of mouth and stylist loans for celebrity dressing and shoots.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Over lockdown I created a campaign that allowed shoppers to buy one piece of jewellery and get one free. This meant they could send a piece of jewellery to a loved one to remind them they were always thinking of them, even when they couldn’t be together.

It got a lot of attention in the press and was featured across a host of incredible outlets, such as You online. It made me happy to bring a little light in a difficult time.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome? 

Imposter syndrome. I didn’t take the typical road to becoming a jewellery designer and maker, so I didn’t feel up to the same standard as other designers. It made me realise that being an entrepreneur isn’t just working on your business, it’s working on yourself as well.

Being the owner of a growing business requires perseverance and putting yourself in new situations a lot. Learning to handle things that scare you in a healthy way is super important.

It’s okay to get anxiety, be overwhelmed, and feel fear- it’s how you deal with it that matters, because they aren’t one-off moments. Your business is ever evolving, and you need to be able to adapt with it. 

Having a support network in various facets is super important as well. Those who understand you, and all the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur in your industry, gives a sense of relief that you’re not alone in this and you can get through it together.

Supportive family and friends always help of course, not giving you a hard time for late nights or missing events because you’ve got goals to reach and dreams to make into a reality.

I started seeing a counsellor that specialises in business mindset because I was worried about self-sabotaging my success – making excuses to not take opportunities out of fear.

Learning to recognise when you’re letting fear cloud your judgement is a massive breakthrough for anyone. 

And your proudest moment so far?

Having my earrings worn on the red carpet for the Star Wars premiere!

Why is work so important to you?

Because it expresses who I am and what I believe. Getting responses from customers who bought a piece as a present to say how much they love it – it makes it all worthwhile for me.

I’d made a bespoke ring and pendant set for a woman who’s life took a 180 degree turn and these were the first pieces of jewellery she’d bought for herself in years. For the customer, the pieces became a physical representation of change and a reminder of who she is now – poised, exuberant and audacious. 

Another part of the job that I love is when I get a message from someone saying that I’ve inspired them to start their business. I want people to look at me and think ‘if she can do it, why can’t I?’.

I didn’t have much confidence in myself at the beginning, and it’s still a struggle sometimes because I didn’t take the typical road travelled to get to this point. But when that unconventional journey inspires someone to feel capable to start their own business, it’s a wholesome and beautiful feeling.

Who inspires you?

My parents, who are both Mexican immigrants in the US who have their own businesses. They always worked irregular hours, so it was ingrained in me from a young age to make my own path. They weren’t really surprised that I moved to another country and started a business!

How do you balance your work with your family?

My partner runs his own business as well, so we both manage to ensure our time is balanced. 

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

1) Embrace the adrenaline

Being an entrepreneur with drive means meeting a lot of new people, new experiences, and perpetually being out of your comfort zone. When you embrace the butterflies in your stomach and your heart racing in these situations, new experiences become a part of your comfort zone.

2) Unfuck yourself

By that I mean don’t hold yourself back by your own limiting beliefs. Think about the person you want to be, what your optimal self would look like. Then, take an honest look at who you are and give yourself permission to change the things that make you unhappy to become your optimal self. 

3) Create your brand bible and read that every morning

It’s an emotive daily reminder which reignites my passion every morning. Bigger than just me, LWL means something and that passion needs to be shared, inspiring others to make the most of their one certain chance in life.

Find out more about Leo With Love.