A career in jewelry wasn’t something Leigh Batnick Plessner intended to pursue. She was a stationery buyer with her own stationery line before she moved to New York City in 2005.
Soon after relocating, Leigh met Rony Vardi at a trade show. Rony had just started Catbird, a Brooklyn-based jewelry line and boutique that has since developed a cult following for its delicate and unique pieces. That day at the trade show, Rony put in an order to sell Leigh’s stationery at the shop.
Months later, Rony sent out an email sharing that she was opening another shop and needed employees.
“I marked that email and kept toggling back and forth, thinking about it,” Leigh says. “I was doing stationery at the time and working from home. It was hard to be accountable only to myself.”
She also admits that she wasn’t the most self-disciplined.
“I wasn’t [always] good at holding my feet to the fire by myself,” she says. “I’m bad at bookkeeping and hadn’t sent our orders. I knew I could stand to get out of the house one or two days a week and that this job would give me some structure.”
With a push from her biggest supporters—her mom and her then-boyfriend/now-husband Kevin—Leigh reached out to Rony, which soon led to her shutting down her stationery business and starting to work at Catbird a few days a week.
Over time, her role and hours spent working at the shop grew. She realized she felt like she’d found a place that let her use all of her strengths.
“It became more rewarding to work with Rony and to be part of a team,” she says. “I liked that way more than doing this thing—stationery—on my own.”
Leigh is proud of the time and energy she put toward entrepreneurship; she’s also happy she eventually made the move to Catbird, where she gets to be creative and leave the bookkeeping to someone else.
“We’re always doing new things, whether it’s working with a new designer, which I find really invigorating, or preparing to celebrate the new Little Women film (coming out this winter).”
Throughout her 14 years as co-creative director of Catbird, Leigh, 40, has thought often of her time as a Brownie growing up in Long Island, New York.
“When I think about what I’m trying to build with the brand, it’s rooted in what I learned in Brownies,” she says, “including steadfastness, [the value of] knowing yourself, hard work, discipline, and ultimately ethics and kindness.”