What was your entrepreneur moment -- when you knew 1) that you wanted to have your own business, and/or 2) it was going to be a success/good decision.
I grew up in a family business. We owned and ran a gift shop in Upstate New York, so I've always had the entrepreneur spirit in me. I remember trying to sell my drawings at age 6 to visiting tourists. When I started designing jewelry, it was natural for me. I thought, Oh hey, I make something, so I should sell it. From there it slowly grew, and then a store carrying my work said I should really do this wholesale tradeshow in Las Vegas. It was a huge success; we signed on 20 stores, and I've been going full speed ever since.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
Finding capable people to help you. I thought I could do it all myself: the photography, shows, production, and writing. Now I have a great group of people I work with, but it took me forever to let go and find the help I needed.
How have you competed with others in the marketplace knowing that jewelry is a saturated market?
Jewelry is an interesting market, and at times I've found it very supportive and at other times extremely competitive. I try to be the best I can be, especially when it comes to customer service. Our goals include getting orders shipped in less than 24 hours and responding to e-mails with lightning speed. We also love our customers and let them know with Instagram shout-outs. Our customers are seriously the best and deserve to be treated as such.
Do you have a great piece of equipment (app, smartphone camera app, any tech tool like a credit card scanner, a great home printer) that you couldn't live without?
My phone is superbly important. I use it for everything from Square, the CamScan, e-mails, and Uber. I mean, in the past, how did people do business without phones?
Complete this sentence: I can't work without ...
My staff. They are truly amazing. We work hard and play hard, and they know me so well. We have a saying in the studio called "go mode," which happens when a big show is looming or it's December 10th and we have a hundred orders to get out the door, and everyone knows it's time to buckle down and get the work done. We have a lot of fun doing it, as well as plenty of Thai food.
What was your biggest surprise (good or bad) when you started your business?
My biggest surprise was how much it started to grow. I started my business never thinking, I want to be in X amount of stores; it just kept on growing and growing. If you had told me when I started this business that one day I would have four employees and my pieces carried in 200 stores, I would have said you were nuts.
Do you have a mentor? If so, who?
Our studio is in a building filled with supportive artists, so I have a lot of mentors whom I am lucky enough to work near every day. We are always sharing information and rooting each other on.
What's the hardest part about being an entrepreneur/starting your own business?
The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is knowing every decision you make, good or bad, rests on you. Those decisions can shift the success or detriment of your business, and that's a lot of pressure. But it can also be quite exhilarating.
Do you have one single tip for success? What's the one characteristic someone needs?
You need to trust yourself, but also trust others. And listen to the people you trust, to those you believe in and ones that believe in you. These are the people who will help you take your business to the next level.
How did you fund your business when you first started? Did you have a business plan?
I was so young when I started the business that it was honestly funded on a little bit of credit card debt. Which definitely isn't the best way to go about it. But when you are young and just starting out, even having a business plan might be really hard, especially if you don't have any collateral.
Do you attend any conferences or retreats geared toward entrepreneurs?
I attended some jeweler conferences and workshops in the beginning, but nothing really geared toward entrepreneurs. I have been thinking of going to the Fast Company conference. This past summer, however, I went to an event called Adult Summer Camp that was put on by the amazing Ashley Morken of Unglued, a store based in Fargo, North Dakota. It was the most inspiring weekend I have had in years. The camp was full of makers and doers, and I think we all left that weekend feeling like we can do anything. It was honestly the best thing I had done for myself, personally and professionally, in a while. A complete recharge.