Jenine Lepera Izzi is creative director of the New York Jewelry Design Institute, the city’s leading boutique jewelry design institute, located in the center of the Diamond District on 45th Street. Jenine began her career in corporate sales positions in the biotech and finance industries, building a loyal client base along the East Coast from Boston to Miami. But she also maintained a passion for art, quality design, as well as living and working in New York City.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Lepera Izzi decided to change the direction of her life. “Our firm lost many people as well as clients,” she says. “Things would never be the same. It was very difficult decision to walk away from my career and go back to school. But I felt it was something I needed to do – to explore my other passions for art and design.”
After studying in Florence, Italy, she returned to the U.S. as a jewelry designer, combining her sales and business acumen with her jewelry design skills to teach what she knew. Lepera Izzi began offering classes to the new entrepreneurial generation that she saw coming to life, as the Great Recession took hold. Her natural people skills and one-on-one warmth soon brought her a following as a teacher, and the New York Jewelry Design Institute was born.
“When I look back,” says Lepera Izzi, “I realize that it may not seem as if each step I took built on the one before it,” she continued, “but they all helped me understand and meet the needs of each and every student at the New York Jewelry Design Institute, students whose backgrounds are as varied as the pieces of jewelry they design.”
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
My inspiration came from traveling through Europe and living New York City from all the beautiful art and design surrounding me everyday.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I love the creative aspect of developing the program and watching it grow into something unique and filling a niche that did not exist.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I left the corporate world in sales and when back to school to study interior design in New York and Italy. I was also trained as a bench jeweler. I felt like the design process that I used in interior design was missing in the jewelry industry. So I applied what I had learn as an interior designer to jewelry design. There was a lot of similarity between both fields.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
I found most people to be encouraging. The more I progressed and they saw the development come together, the more people supported my ideas.
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
I did make a career change but I never doubted my decision. The road I chose had many twists and turns along the way until it lead me where I am today. Then you realize one day, that all your experiences come together and nothing was wasted. It was all part of a bigger picture.
When did your career reach a tipping point?
I am right on the verge of my tipping point.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
Everyday working and living in New York City can be a challenge. The one big challenged I was faced with was finding the right location for the school. Once I did that everything started to fall into place.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Taking the plunge and making the career change and not letting fear hold me back.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
Learn as much as you can about the things you love and enjoy the process along the way.
For more information, go to the website for the New York Jewelry Design Institute.
Photos courtesy of Jenine Lepera Izzi