When did you first become interested in making jewelry as a career? Was there a moment when you just knew or did it happen more gradually?
It was definitely more gradually. When I (Sandy) was taking care of my mother I started making jewelry to pass the time since I had to quit my job and stay home with her. It wasn’t until the Hospice nurses who came to my house wanted to buy the jewelry— that got me thinking maybe I could turn this into a living.
Sandy is a self-taught jewelry designer and we hoped she could go into more detail about that. How did she teach herself? Were there times she wanted to quit? What are some of the big things she learned by teaching herself? What are her influences?
Well, I started making jewelry for fun about 20 years ago (when my eyes were better, haha). I was using seed beads back then just making jewelry for myself. Now that I’m a bit older, I got into many different styles of jewelry. I have tons of jewelry magazines and watching different tutorials on the internet. From what I see, I then try to make my own designs- whatever comes out of my hands is what is meant to be, in my eyes. There definitely have been times I wanted to quit, but my love for creating always gets me through it.
I think with being a self-taught jewelry designer, the sky is the limit. I think out of the box. My influences are styles like Audrey Hepburn and Janice Joplin- mixed. I think that’s a bit unique to mix those styles and love what comes out. But my all-time favorite jewelry designer is Miriam Haskell.
The mother-daughter dynamic in a business relationship is a bit of a unique one? How do you guys make it so successful? Does personal history help shape the jewelry? Are there occasionally times when you both want to wring each other’s necks?
Stevie: Believe it or not, we work really well together. We both have our own strengths and we just laugh a lot! That is how we work. We are a very close family (myself, my two sisters, and my parents) so our personal history together just makes us have fun the whole day while we’re working. Of course, like any family members working together- we definitely have our moments of wanting to “Wring each other’s necks” but it isn’t as often as you’d think. I think we’ve only gotten into 2 arguments over the past 3 years about Jewels For Hope business. I think that’s pretty awesome if I say so myself!
What is a typical day like for both jewelry designer and marketer? What are some of the intricacies about jewelry design that non-designers might not know about? What are some of the responsibilities that you guys take on every day?
A typical day for both of us is working from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. We are constantly either thinking of new designs, creating, promoting, or packaging.
Sandy: Some intricacies non-jewelry designers may not think about—is how much I get hurt, haha. Everyday I am cut by wire, stabbed by needles, covered in band aids so my fingers don’t bleed from using fireline! I love every minute of it- but most people don’t expect me to say that.
Stevie: No two days are the same for us. Our responsibilities vary constantly. Usually, I am promoting our products on our social media sites, contacting numerous reporters at local papers, tv stations, magazines, blogs, etc trying to get our story out there, along with making jewelry everyday. Both of us I feel do a bit of both. I know I love sitting at home creating new designs and I know my mother gets so happy when she is promoting on our Facebook page. We both help each other out!
Directed at Stevie, your education plays a big role in the job you perform now. What are some of the things you learned at FIT that you still use in your role today?
One of the things I learned at FIT that I use the most is how to make a press kit. I remember making my first one while in college and not really thinking much of it. At that point I still had no idea what I really wanted to do in life and thought it was just another class to get through. I absolutely love making our press kit now and still try to perfect it every time I have to send it out. I think having a background in advertising/marketing really gave me a good base on what to do today. If I didn’t have that, I think I would have had a really hard time 1. Making a press kit and 2. Trying to find people to send it to. At least having a starting point makes me feel like I can move on to the next step and get our kit into the right hands.
How did you make the decision to start your own jewelry design company, where did the motivation come from?
Sandy: As I said earlier, I made jewelry originally to pass the time when I took care of my mother. I decided to start selling online when I realized I had 50+ pieces lying around, haha. When the Hospice nurses made the lightbulb go off in my head to start selling I knew I had to just go for it. I started an Etsy shop originally and donated a portion of the profits to Hospice. I think the motivation came from wanting to give back. Hospice was so great with my mother that it is important for me to give back in any way I can. Now, Stevie and I have over 20 organizations we donate to- I’m just so proud!
Talk a little bit about the process that was starting your own business? What were some of the obstacles? How did you avoid exhaustion?
Sandy: Well, a main obstacle was making time for setting everything up. At that point I was still taking care of my mother, along with raising my 3 girls. I think I was exhausted everyday, but you do what you have to do.
Stevie: Once I joined the company with my mom (early 2010) I would say one of the obstacles for both of us is the book keeping. We both are more the creative types so that was a struggle for us. We are learning more and more everyday though and really try our best to keep up with it.
I also want to ask about marketing your business. As a new business? How did you find clientele? How did you get your name out there? What sort of marketing strategies did you use effectively?
Stevie: Well we were lucky enough to be accepted into The Artisan Group. A group that helps handmade artists get their products to celebrities. We joined this group in 2011- which was when we first started to really promote our company. From being in this group it really helped us get our name out there. I emailed every reporter in our area about being accepted into this fine organization and about us participating in their events. From those emails we actually made great friends with the reporters and some of them even wrote about us more than once for their newspapers.
Along with emailing press releases out to reporters, our social media sites have helped us find awesome customers. Some of the customers we have met through Facebook or Twitter are just so sweet and have been repeat buyers of ours and always promote our products for us. Social media has been an awesome (free) way to promote and connect with customers!
Does either or both of you have any advice or suggestions for aspiring jewelry designers looking to follow down a similar career path?
From both of us: Design what you love! If you design just for the money it won’t come out right and in the long run won’t make you happy. You have to do what you love! We both absolutely love making jewelry and it makes us so happy… that is really what it’s all about!