Jennifer Guarino

A CEO of a leather goods brand discusses the value of hands-on learning and exposing students to diverse options and passions.

By Team XQ

VP of Leather, Shinola

Guarino earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma in 1986 and completed special study programs at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Early in her career, she focused on fashion illustration, creative direction, and product design and development at companies in Los Angeles. In 1998, she moved to business development as vice president of brand management for The Sak. In 2003, she became co-owner and chief executive officer of J.W. Hulme, a 100+ year old American-made leather goods brand that Guarino restitched and revived from near bankruptcy. In 2013, she joined Shinola in Detroit as vice president of leather goods and recently moved into the position of vice president of manufacturing. Guarino, 54, is also the founding chair of The Makers Coalition. Founded in 2011, Shinola is the first company in decades to produce watches at scale in America and the first company to be based within the College for Creative Studies, with headquarters—and the watch and leather factories—inside the college’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in Midtown. Shinola had nearly $100 million in sales in 2015, has 19 stores across the United States with TWO abroad in London, England and Toronto, Canada. Shinola employs 600 people (397 in Detroit), with more than 240 of those employees working in manufacturing. Guarino leads development for Shinola’s leather goods manufacturing efforts in Detroit. Since then, she has earned a 2012 Minnesota Manufacturing Award for CEO of the Year and was listed as one of Michigan’s top 100 Most Influential Women of the Year in 2016.