Let’s Chat with Adriana Carrig, Founder & CEO of Little Words Project

In the first interview of the Grassi Women’s Council (GWC) Let’s Chat series, HR Manager and GWC Lead, Arianna Savoca, sat down with Adriana Carrig, Founder & CEO of Little Words Project, to discuss her career, challenges and support of women’s advancement and achievement.

What gave you the idea for Little Words Project? How did you come up with the “pass it on” concept?

In college, I joined a sorority, which was my first experience of sisterhood and kindness among women. It was the first indication for me, that when women come together, and are kind to one another, they can do big things and grow while working together. This was new for me, because growing up I experienced negativity and bullying, and girl-to-girl cruelty. It was always one of my future goals to bring more kindness to the world and figure out a way to bring people together. I made my first batch of bracelets for my sorority. At the time, I called them “warm fuzzies.” They enabled me to spread kindness and love among my sisterhood, and it worked! The bracelets became synonymous with our sorority and our sisterhood. When I graduated, the girls were still loving the bracelets, and I thought, why not bring my bracelets and this sisterhood to the masses? This was the impetus for starting the brand!

The concept of “pass it on” was a core tenet of the product when I created it in college. I had no intention of starting a business; I was just looking to give something back to my sorority and keep the love circulating! It wasn’t until I graduated that I came up with the concept of the code on each bracelet. I felt like this could really have legs and be an “it” factor for the product. A unique code identifier is on the back of every gold tag, which is used to connect the bracelet to our website and the broader community, allowing you to share your story, why you chose that word, and how it’s helped you. When you pass it along to the next person, and they do the same, the story travels with it. You can see how the bracelet has affected people over time and connect the bracelet to its story.

Anyone who visits your website or makes a purchase knows your very authentic messaging about your company is Nice Nation. How do you define “authentic leadership” and how does one become an authentic leader?

For starters, I try to practice what I preach, and I lead with kindness. If there are moments where I am struggling with a team member, I try to bring myself back to center and remember what we stand for. I want my team to feel like they are heard and appreciated. Working at LWP means you put in a lot of time, hours and energy, and that is my expectation because we are trying to win in a landscape where other business are doing more with more – more funding, more money, higher product price points. Everything is less complicated when you have those resources, and this has been a long grind for us. I always try to give them that kindness, tell them how much I appreciate them, surprise them whenever possible, and give them job perks that other companies don’t offer such as two in-house therapy sessions per month, celebrations or fun activities like book club, workshops (we recently did memory jars and vision boards!), trying to make my organization a place of happiness and kindness.

Regarding how I present myself and lead outside of the company – the same thing applies! I practice what I preach, leading with kindness, remembering the core purpose of this brand, and finding community where I didn’t previously have it. I like to treat others how I want to be treated, getting back to people who message me on Instagram, and honoring opportunities that may not move the needle for LWP, but it could open doors and I could be helping someone else greatly by giving them my time.

Have you had mentors throughout your career? What women have influenced and inspired you?

Yes! There’s one woman in particular – her name is Kelly, and she actually might be a good person for you to interview next! She’s the founder of Lenny and Eva, which is a jewelry brand based out of Tennessee. Kelly believed in me early on when no one else did. I worked with her for about a year as a consultant, and she was someone I could call for any type of issue: figuring out how to be a leader or figuring out how to work with certain factories, things like that. Kelly really made a difference in my future abilities as a leader and business owner, especially in the jewelry space.

As far as who I look up to, I’m always talking to people including other female founders. I am continuously blown away by female founders, especially knowing how difficult starting a company is. I also look up to people like Sarah Blakely (Spanx), Katrina Lake (Stitch Fix), and Cindy Ramirez (Chillhouse). Many of these female business owners have had similar journeys as me, despite the difficulty, especially those who have children too. Women are absolute superheroes. And then to add the motherhood piece to it, it’s like it really blows your mind!

That is a perfect segue into my next topic – work-life integration! Which aspects of “integration” are the most challenging and what are your best practices for blending the different areas of your life? 

Work-life integration is a perfect way to describe what I do! I bring my children to work with me if I have to. I bring my work home, sometimes I can be breastfeeding and on a call at the same time. Also there are times I move away from my phone/email/meetings and do something with my family, like take my son to the zoo! I think it’s really knowing when to draw a line, even if it’s just for a moment. It’s okay to feel like you have so much going on, and to feel stressed. Recently, one of my friends and team members said, “You deserve some mental floss,” And I thought, that is such a great way of putting it. It’s okay to take a moment to shift gears, do something else, and come back refreshed and ready to work.

I’m certainly not one of these people that’s like, I shut my laptop at 6:00pm and then I spend time with my family. Yes, in an ideal world, I’d be able to do that, but that’s not the life I chose. I’m a business owner, and I feel like I’m making a difference, and I must honor that commitment. I think often about the flack that women get when they do this work-life integration concept – that they can’t properly bond with their children, or their children are always going to remember them with a phone in their hands, or whatever it might be. I think that people underestimate the power of a working mother and a mother in general. Multitasking is our middle name, so I’m a big proponent of that. And a big piece of my platform is sharing that you can’t always have a clear-cut answer. Sometimes it’s got to be a little muddy, and there’s real beauty in that muck.

September 15 – October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, also known as Latinx Month. The 2023 theme for this celebration is driving prosperity, power, and progress in America. Can you share why this month and theme are so important to you?

It’s important to me because it’s who I am. I look at my mother, who is a Mexican immigrant that came here when she was 18 years old with literally nothing but a duffel bag and her dreams, and she turned her life into something extremely prosperous through hard work, dedication and commitment to becoming a part of the fabric of this country. I have always looked to her as my example of hard work and what hard work and dedication can bring you.

There’s also the fact that my mom has been saying a quote that I’ve had in my head for years: “Querer es Poder,” which means “if you want it, you can achieve it.” She has said that to me since I was a little girl. It was what I wrote my college essay on. It was what she said to me when I was thinking about starting this business. It’s a mural on my wall at our office. So it’s definitely something that has been propelling me forward!

Regarding the theme for this year, driving prosperity, power, and progress in America, I do prioritize my Hispanic sisterhood and community when it comes to providing opportunities on my team. A good portion of our manufacturing team in the U.S. is of Ecuadorian descent, and they have pulled me aside on many occasions and told me in Spanish how much this job has changed their lives. It’s special. Every time I speak to one of them, it reminds me of those late nights, the stressful situations, the difficulty leading a team, and how all of the above is worth it. We are not only changing the lives of our customers, who may be using these bracelets to get through chemotherapy, for example. We’re also changing the lives of the people on our team who find opportunity for progress in working at LWP.

Why do you think it is important to celebrate women’s achievements and accomplishments, specifically Hispanic/Latin women?

Because if we don’t celebrate the achievements of those who may be underestimated, then who will, right? We need to provide a platform for those who maybe didn’t have that same starting point or resources that others had. Once they achieve their goals, celebrating them will only help them continue to feel like success is possible. And if they feel like it’s possible, they’ll believe in themselves. Then the cycle will naturally result in more people of Hispanic descent succeeding and thriving and contributing to a prosperous society.

Your business is clearly thriving! Nine stores, collaboration with Dunkin Donuts, and *NSYNC giving your bracelets to TAYLOR SWIFT! How are you keeping up with the incredible growth and success, and what’s in store for Little Words Project in the future?

So much! Regarding the VMA’s, we were definitely in shock. We knew that he had the intention of doing it, but we weren’t sure if he was going to execute and if it was going to be possible to execute. So we really were blown away when we saw it actually take place live. We’ve definitely been reeling over here from it and just trying to wrap our heads around how it all went down in the first place. It was an incredible and unique moment for us and felt very validating to see these powerhouses exchange this product. And that’s what it’s all about. On such a world stage, it was very cool to experience for sure.

A few other things we are excited about for the future include a higher-end product line launching next week. We will have 12 retail locations by year end, and more to come in 2024.

Overall, we are looking for more opportunities to connect with our community to engage and grow and welcome all people. We’ve also got wellness retreats at each of our cities that we’ll be hosting which is a great way to do this! I am looking forward to all of these incredible and positive changes to come, and to continue to inspire people to grow and make human connections.

About Adriana Carrig

Adriana Carrig headshot

Born in Los Angeles, CA and raised in Livingston, NJ, Adriana Carrig is the Founder & CEO of Little Words Project, a jewelry brand on a mission to inspire a kinder world through handcrafted, wearable affirmations. Motivated by years of being bullied by her classmates, Carrig started the brand in 2013 in her parents’ basement with a dream to create the community she deserved to experience in her youth.

Ten years later, Little Words Project is a multi-million-dollar enterprise with a passionate legion of supporters carried by major retailers like Target. The brand’s brick and mortar locations span cities across the nation including NYC, Miami, Tampa, Boston, San Francisco, and Georgetown with more to come this year. 

Outside of running a nationally recognized brand, Adriana also serves as the Founder & President of Herself Co., a non-profit organization developed to foster a thriving community of compassionate young women through its confidence curriculum and programming. The group’s aim is to enhance the self-worth and general mental wellness of tomorrow’s leaders.

 As a result of Little Words Project’s trajectory among the country’s fastest growing direct to consumer brands, Carrig has been featured in Forbes and recognized as Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 for the state of New Jersey. Adriana Carrig resides in New Jersey with her husband and business partner, Bill, and their 2 sons, Ford & Jett.