business answers: part one

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your business is relax!

Last week I offered to answer any business questions that were lurking in readers minds and man, you all have some great questions! Specific, insightful questions tell me two things, 1: that there are some serious (or soon-to-be) business owners out there, 2: you all want some serious answers.

Below are half of the questions with their answers, the second half will post tomorrow afternoon.

Love walking in Chicago- such great architecture all around

Why Chicago?

I grew up in Rochester, Michigan and went to school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Having lived in the Midwest my whole life the obvious choice was Chicago for laid back people, bustling city, and Lake Michigan. I also knew I wanted to live in a city that had good public transportation.

Do you think that in the future you will need to move the operation to NY or LA as it gets bigger?

During college I interned in NYC with Macy’s in Product Development. Living in New York was great for four months. But the cement scenery, constant noise, and expense wasn’t for me long term. Though I have never been to LA, I imagine the weather and view is nicer, but it won’t hold a candle to my love for Chicago.

So no, I plan to stay rooted in or around Chicago regardless of the business. Because Chicago’s design scene is still ‘up and coming’ there are a lot of opportunities to get attention and great support.

At last fall’s Shop Chicago event

What do you think is the most important step in laying the groundwork for starting a business?

The most important step in starting a part-time business is to just start selling! A lot of would-be-great-designers hold off waiting for the perfect time to begin. But there is no perfect time to begin. So why not sell a necklace today? And maybe a bracelet next week? Start with people you know and branch out, open an Etsy store, print some business cards. There is something great about an organically grown company that expands along with your business acumen. For the purposes of this blog and small designers, I do not recommend launching a line full-time on day one, but to rather grow it on the side until you have an established customer base.

Take Jess LC for example: I sold my first 5 ankle bracelets sitting next to a pool to tipsy Canadian women without even trying! Then I learned to make new pieces, sold them to friends and teachers at school, studied business in college, and nine years later, launched Jess LC full-time.

Your top 5/10 tips for a jewelry designer just starting up?

1. Define your goals. Do you want to get into a ton of stores and sell mostly wholesale? Or do you want to make one-of-a-kind pieces with higher price tags for a small group of loyal customers? Do you want to be full-time or part-time? Know your goals so you can go about achieving them as quickly as possible.

2. If you want to get in a store, offer to do consignment. This is where the store puts your pieces on display and when your pieces are bought, you get 50% of the price. If they don’t sell, then you get them back. Buyers like this because they don’t have to risk anything by putting your pieces in their store. It is also good for you because you get 50% of the price which (almost) never happens in wholesale. This is a good option until you have successfully sold in about 5-6 stores, then begin to work with the buyers via wholesale.

3. Don’t take your own pictures. Unless you are a photographer or have taken classes, do not attempt to shoot your own pieces. Jewelry is small and reflective= very difficult. The first thing you should pay someone to do is photograph the jewelry for retail selling on Etsy or your own site.

4. Make a website. A great place to start is because it already has a huge following and you can upload and provide credit card charges without much work. If I was just starting up now, I would definitely have started there and moved my way to my own separate site over time. Another option is to pay someone to create your site. I suggest posting a freelance job on a local art school website to find students who will do it for less (same goes with photography, see tip #3). Or, if you are ambitious, learn how to use Dreamweaver – this is the route I took.

Know how to use your tools

5. Learn how to make jewelry. No one taught me how to make jewelry when I started at 15 years-old, and subsequently a lot of my (ugly) pieces broke. They got better as I went along, but I would have been better off going to a jewelry/bead store and taking a class or asking questions.

6. Wear your jewelry. This sounds obvious, but tons of people I meet say they make jewelry and don’t have their work to show me. If you aren’t wearing/carrying some pieces, customers have no idea whether they want to buy from you. Every now and then I wear vintage jewelry but I still try to remember to wear at least one Jess LC piece, just in case.

… to be continued tomorrow!

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