Building a Brand of Handmade Jewelry
I recently had the honor of being interviewed by Krystal, founder and CEO of EM/POWEREDbyWMN and Book of Bijoux. Below is an excerpt of that interview.
This interview focused on the growth and evolution of my brand and creating handmade jewelry since 2004. We talked about life, growth, and how I continue to create stunning handmade jewelry pieces all with a 4 year old in tow!
Read through a bit of my story, my struggles, goals, and my top tips for new/aspiring entrepreneurs!
How did you get started with your handmade jewelry business?
It’s such a weird path I feel like we all get on. I graduated with a double major in psychology and history. At the time, I had a medical condition and it basically put a hold on my life. All my friends were going out & getting full time jobs and new wardrobes. I wasn’t able to. So, I picked up jewelry as a hobby because I needed a creative outlet. (My mom was very crafty growing up – there was always a DIY hairclip or something I was painting.) I had no idea what I was doing. This was in 2003 – before YouTube. Now, you can look up anything and know how to do something. For me, it was trial by fire. I’d string some beads and if they stayed together, great. I was constantly learning how to make it better. I had old-school books that were terrible quality. I made a lot of cute designs and a lot of bad designs. Eventually I had so much jewelry, I applied to be a business. In about 2006, I thought about how this wasn’t what I went to school for. I really struggled with being creative on demand. So in 2007, I went back for my master’s degree in education but I still kept jewelry as a hobby. I graduated in 2009 & taught for 9 years – the whole time still making jewelry. Then when I had my daughter, I asked, “Why am I going to leave this delicious little nugget when I could spend time with her?” I left teaching behind me and jumped into jewelry full-time. It’s really cool because the flexible schedule allows me to do so much with my daughter and be home with her.
Running a business from home as a mom is tricky. How do you manage to get things done?
It’s a curse and a blessing. The other day, I had a list of things that needed to get done - a campaign, a restock, orders - but my daughter wasn’t feeling well. That takes precedence over everything. So, on one hand, it’s amazing to be flexible when things like that pop up. I don’t have to worry about whether I can bring her to a doctor. On the flip side, your business often gets pushed to the side. It’s tricky when you’re a mom, constantly wondering how you’re going to get things done. Then again, moms are the ones that get it all done. My schedule varies day to day. My daughter goes to school 3 days a week for 2 ½ hours. When she’s there, I get some things done. The rest of my schedule revolves around her. Some people schedule block & are super successful at it. I’m not. Currently, it’s a constant adjustment. But there’s no one-size-fits-all method. What works for me may not work for you.
When you took your business full-time in 2018, did you do any new research now that there was so much more accessible information at your fingertips?
I didn’t do a ton of research. I over think everything, so the more research I do tends to drive me bananas. When I started my business in 2003, I had no idea what I was doing. All my handmade jewelry pieces were one-of-a-kind, which worked for me then because I didn’t have a website and Etsy didn’t exist. I was getting all my money from in-person shows, but it’s an exhausting way to make it. In 2018, it’s been a slow change. I did take Marie Forleo’s class & also Danielle Spurge’s class about Etsy. I had created an etsy shop sometime before 2018 and was able to look at it through fresh eyes thanks to her course. A big thing Danielle talks about is not getting all your income from one platform. If something happens and Etsy shuts you down, you’re stuck - you don’t own your customers’ email addresses. So, when the world shut down in 2020, I took that opportunity to start my own website. I also took The Product Boss course with Jacqueline & Minna. They helped me realize the power of having more than one stream of income and that’s when I started dipping into wholesale.
How important do you think investing in courses like that is for entrepreneurs?
There’s an amazing amount of information out there for free. I was never a podcast listener and now I have all these business podcasts I listen to. I’m not a business person. I don’t have a business mind. I’m a psychology, history, and education person. Branding, marketing, sending and collecting emails – you can learn about all those little tidbits. But the free information can only get you to a certain point. If you want to take that next step, you typically have to do something to get there. Sometimes people are hesitant because courses can be a lot of money. Good courses are what’s going to get you to that next level. Do you want all the tips & fast track yourself or do you want to spend the next five years googling everything? But there’s a lot of people that give advice – some great, some terrible. If you don’t have somebody you trust that’s pushing your needle in the right direction, you can spend a lot of time doing absolutely nothing. It’s also a personality match. Some courses are definitely geared towards the “dude/bro” audience and that’s not me. My eyes will glaze over. It’s important to find a course that works for you. It could be giving you golden nuggets, but if you’re just showing up and trying to get through it and don't have that trust or reliability, you're never going to properly implement the strategies.
You launched your own website at the cusp of covid - what was that like?
At the time, COVID was hard in New York. Hospitals were maxed out. Meat lockers were being used as temporary morgues. So, there was an empathetic hesitation to tell people about my website. With this crisis going on in the world, how can I be excited about something, dare I say, silly as handmade jewelry. It was a weird mental place to be and it wasn’t just me that dealt with it. A lot of makers were asking, “What do we do? How do we act? What do we say?” I remember sending out an email to my email list just asking if everyone was okay – nothing to do with jewelry. Nobody had a guidebook for how to proceed in a pandemic. I took it day by day. Some days were emotionally heavier than others. Those were the days I took a backseat because that’s what I needed to do for myself. As a business owner, you’re constantly readjusting because the bar is constantly moving. We’re all growing and learning so much. It’s unprecedented times. It’s like, every time you take a breath, something else is happening in another part of the world and you’re left wondering how that’s going to affect you and your business. We’re separate but we’re all intertwined.
In a recent interview, it was said that your revenue jumped 45% in 2020 from 2019. How did you manage such growth in the year of the pandemic where the world seemed to shut down?
Part of it was a huge push for shopping small and local. A lot of businesses closed their doors or didn’t put anything out there. Then I saw a business that was on IG every day. The owner was in her store, by herself, doing live sales and was able to bring her business to the next level. I thought I could do a version of that and just kept posting. I created bead kits for families complete with directions and materials because a lot of my friends were wondering what they were supposed to do with their kids. We were making and selling masks because all the masks were being given to hospital workers. The rest of it was people treating themselves. We were all still thinking things would be better maybe by spring. I offered porch pick-up because nothing was open, but people still wanted to shop. All those things really attributed to the success that year.
How long can it take to make the handmade jewelry & how do you respond to the people that don't believe you're the one making it all?
Unlike Amazon, I don’t have a warehouse. Some people don’t understand why I don’t have 1500 earrings ready to go at any given time. So I try to show my face more and remind people that I’m a real person. I’m a mom and I make all the jewelry. There’s a bracelet that takes 15-20 minutes because every other bead has to be different. The other day I made about 60 pairs of earrings. That’s a lot to get done in a day and very rare for me to do just based on the other moving parts of my day. I take it day by day. It’s probably not the best business strategy, but it’s what works for me right now, so I’m going with it.
What are your thoughts on having your own website vs selling on etsy & which one brings in the most revenue for you?
I get the most sales from my standalone website. The next source of income comes from wholesale. I get the least sales from Etsy. There’s a lot of competition on Etsy and it’s a little tricky with the keywords and tagging and you have to think of how your customer would be searching. There are pros and cons to both platforms. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to get on both. The strategies you use for one are typically the same for the other. Product descriptions for example - once you have that ironed out, you copy and paste. Etsy’s a bit harder because of all the work on the back end, but everything else is kind of the same. That being said, that takes time. How much time do you have to duplicate that process?
What's your biggest goal for 2022 and how do you plan on achieving it?
Expanding our wholesale handmade jewelry line. I recently hired a VA (virtual assistant). It’s hard to be a mom and do all the things. My goal is to transition my VA to do wholesale outreach. That was always at the bottom of my list – to follow up and ask how the pieces are doing. It has been hard to give up control. I’ve been doing this since 2003, so it’s my baby. But I’m hoping my VA will help me reach that goal. It’s been a few months and I’m already blown away at all the things I can cross off my list because of her.
What are your top tips for new/aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you’re admitting it or not, we all need help with something. Also, don’t be afraid to Google your answers. Google is your friend.
- The people you surround yourself with is very important. They can make or break you. You could have the greatest idea in the world, but if you have a negative circle around you, you’re never going to get anywhere.
- Know who to listen to & who to shut out a little bit. You have to develop a thick skin. If you think you have a winning idea, you have to just jump in. The only way you’re going to know if it’s going to work or not is if you try. Don’t be that person that’s 70 years old regretting not trying.
To watch this entire interview on youtube, click here!
To check out other women entrepreneurs featured by , click here!
To check out Krystal's Book of Bijoux jewelry organization collection, click here!
Looking to start your own business and want to ask me some questions? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I would be happy to help if I can!
Looking to join our newsletter, the sparkle squad? Click here!