THIS WEEK'S ANNOUNCEMENTS: Check out and LIKE our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheBeadCollection) and see our latest beads and pendants!
ONWARD to this week's POST:
Some of our readers have been asking: How did we start a jewelry supply business?
For us, it all began with our existing collection. My daughter (Shannon, co-owner of The Bead) and I always collected beads, gemstones, pendants, and charms – and love to explore shops whenever we travel. This love has turned into a fledgling 'dream career' – with our own successful business. Come to think of it, we won't call it a supply business – since we think we're really in the 'inspiration' business' – finding and providing inspiring and beautiful focal beads, pendants, gemstones and more for talented jewelry designers.
Needless to say, because of our previous habits, we had far more pieces than we could ever use – Shannon does design and make beautiful jewelry using some of her items, but we had both created a large 'inventory' without even knowing it. For a while, we just thought we'd keep things in our respective collections, but then Shannon and I both had life transitions around the same time, so we began to think in a new way. Shannon was in a career-change mode, and I was retiring from my 30 years of work at Santa Fe Community College. We realized that if ever the time was right to 're-career' for both of us, the time was now. And so The Bead (Shannon's idea for a name, which I loved) was born, and we set up (online) shop in September, 2012, the month after my retirement.
So how did we do it? How did we even know where to begin? Well that's where a little luck comes in. Since my last years at the college were spent as its president, I had experience overseeing their Small Business Development Center, Entrepreneurship Program, Media-related programs such as web design, photography for the online environment, and also the Fashion Design and Jewelry programs. I had no specific experience in running a business or doing any of these things, but I had a familiarity with all of the 'possibilities'! As for Shannon, she has a degree in Art (and Music) from the College of Santa Fe, training from the Gemological Institute of America, and years of experience in the realms of natural gemstones, jewelry design, and retail jewelry sales. We had the right configuration of talents to get us started, but even then, it took quite a leap of faith to really launch the endeavor!
Once we had some heart-to-heart talks about whether or not this would really fly and would be worth all the effort, we rolled up our sleeves. Here are some of the essential tasks we did early on:
· With the help of a consultant friend, we brainstormed, developed and wrote a business vision and plan
· Got help from another friend to design a logo for business cards, packaging, and web site
· Organized and expanded our inventory
· With the help of a business associate, set up a very affordable web site to feature samples and 'house' our blog – and started writing and posting on the blog
· Took a crash course in 'Photography for Art' a photography instructor at the college
· Taught ourselves the basics of Etsy (see Etsy.com if you're not familiar with this – a web site for handcrafted items) – which is SO helpful and user friendly; in short order we were able to upload photographs of our items and streamline the entire process of marketing, selling and shipping
· Taught ourselves how to navigate and link social media efforts for getting the word out about our store and items – LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, and more! (This one may be misleading since it's all on one line, but whew! It's a complex world, and that part took a lot of time and effort!)
At this point, we started connecting with people who were looking for what we offer. These days, it's not about trying to push your product to the world – It's about finding the people who are looking for what you're offering. I must say it's been delightful meeting all the talented jewelry artisans out there who are inspired by what we have to offer – one of a kind beads, gemstones, and pendants – for their distinctive, one of a kind designs.
Virtually all of our sales have taken place on Etsy.com, which I highly recommend. It's so easy to use for a beginner, and takes care of all the nuts and bolts for marketing, sales and ease of shipping/customer service. Naturally, we're still learning and growing the business. Right now we're exploring how to more effectively reach our target audience through Pinterest, which is a hot social network – and growing by leaps and bounds. We've benefitted from online training offered by Etsy and Pinterest colleagues, mentor friends and artists, group discussions on LinkedIn, Facebook business 'role models', and more. We are SO grateful to everyone who has pitched in to support us, LIKE us on Facebook, follow us on Etsy (and 'favorite' our items there, which gives us great exposure), and follow us on Pinterest.
Another new thing we're doing is to sponser 'Giveaways' – raffles for free prizes – on Facebook, in return for more 'LIKES' and traffic to our shop. We use Rafflecopter.com for that, and it's been fun to learn about that and start to engage more people in that way.
When we make sales (which is so exciting, because we get a little 'ka-ching!' sound on the i-Phone when that happens – and of course the income is nice as well) we take care to package our items beautifully in the boxes designed with our logos, include our business card, and ship promptly. We track how happy our customers are, and I'm pleased to report we have 100% satisfaction for our services and products. That's very important to us, as we know it's the key to any successful business.
I haven't even addressed all the other practical steps we had to take to create a business – such as working with LegalZoom to set up a Limited Liability Corporation, registering with the city for a business license, getting non-tax forms filed with our favorite bead suppliers, learning how to navigate the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show to find the vendors we wanted to get supplies from, setting up Quickbooks for bookkeeping and Intuit for taking credit card payments, and more. It has been a year of very, very hard work. I don't recommend this kind of endeavor for the faint of heart. Plus, I know that so many businesses go belly up within a few years of starting. We don't want that to happen to us, so we know that it is very important that we continue to learn, begin to develop new venues for selling (trade shows, festivals, gift shops, etc.), and just in general be flexible and responsive to the need to change.
To wrap up, I'd say one of the hardest things to deal with are the 'doubting Thomases' we encounter in our community of friends and acquaintances. It's hard enough to believe in yourself when you're struggling to do something this challenging and time-consuming – you don't need folks who are going out of their way to discourage you. So my advice is to ignore those voices and continue to believe in yourself. If you have the basic skills or are willing to learn/train to get them, if you have a drive to succeed, and if you are as interested in helping your customers find what they need as much as you're interested in your own success – I believe you WILL succeed.
I hope this has been helpful to those whose journey is just starting up. Ours is a very young company and our advice may be different as we mature – but that's what we have to say for now. In the meantime, thank you for your interest, and PLEASE continue to let us know what topics may be of interest to you.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy our earlier post, 'Checking in from Beadland'
p.s. The picture included here is one of Shannon's beautiful designs - a natural stone (beautiful Prehnite and Chrysoprase) necklace. We sell this and other lovelies at the Etsy shop, and will also do custom design work with our (or any) beads, on request.