I personally love rings and would look like a crazy gypsy if I didn't have to work with my hands every day; every finger would have 2-3 rings on it. But I also like to wear earrings and necklaces since I don't have to take them off as often. I feel like my outfit isn't complete without earrings, a necklace and rings. Oh, and I love looking down at my wrist to see my silver and gold initial hearts that I made to remind me of my boys. So I love earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets. Gypsy!
I feel the same way. If I could keep up with them, I'd have at least 3 rings on each hand at all times. What is your biggest seller?
My biggest seller is my Wrought wedding set. It's interesting because I've sold this to men who are buying it to propose with, or married women who are buying it as an alternative engagement ring set, and also single women who just want a cool gemstone ring without the matching band. It resonates with lots of people and that makes me extraordinarily happy.
Do you sell at craft fairs?
Last year I gave up doing craft fairs. It was really hard because I missed meeting my customers directly. But I realized that there was a disconnect between the lower-end work I sold at fairs and the higher-end work I sold online. No one wants to pay $300 for a ring at a craft fair, but those are the kinds of pieces I love to make. So I gave it up fully last year and worked really hard on building my online sales. It was a leap and I was nervous it wouldn't work. But once my focus was solely on my online business, my sales doubled and more than made up for the income I got from fairs. I feel so much happier making this kind of jewelry. Plus, I get to spend weekends with my family now.
That was another courageous move. You saw that something needed to change and you took a chance. Good for you! What about wholesale?
I still have some wholesale accounts, but selling direct to my customers and hearing their feedback is really what I love to do. I have a plan to design a wholesale line that doesn't compete with my online work, and roll that out in early 2014. It's written on a paper plate here somewhere...
Do you have a blog?
Yes, but it's woefully neglected. I prefer to talk to people on Facebook. We have a lot of fun there!
As you know, I visit your fan page often and share your designs with my fans. I prefer Facebook to a blog, too. This leads me to marketing. Marketing is always challenging. How do you approach marketing and advertising?
Ugh, I'm the worst. marketer. ever.
No, no, I think I am. Really.
It's so hard, isn't it? I hate talking about myself; I worry that promoting my work will seem like I'm bragging. But I also know that if I don't put my work out there, no one will know it exists. So I try to do it in a nice, happy way.
Marketing gurus always talk about knowing your customer. It seems you have figured that out. Can you describe one of your typical customers?
It took me a long time to figure that out. My customer is a lot like me: non-traditional. They love colorful gemstones instead of diamonds, they don't need all their jewelry to be matchy-matchy, and they have strong opinions about the environment. So they love this wedding set because it combines all of those things. They'll buy the Wrought necklace usually in different color from their ring, or they'll pair it with some squared bands. My customers love modern, elegant jewelry, and that's what I strive for in each piece.
Also, I'm a Gemini which means I have lots of different interests and personalities. I love modern, sleek, simple, edgy. But I also love country, flowery, girly-girl. And those are two very different customers. It's really hard because if I promote one of those looks, I lose the other customer, so I'm moving toward incorporating the two sides of me. It's a process.
A smart friend of mine, Lenny of the Etsy shop Lenny Mud told me, "Your customer is you." And she's right. (Why is she always right?). As a craftsperson, I make what I like. So why wouldn't other wives/moms and edgyish/modernish/flowery/sentimental women like my work? Duh. My advice is: take a good look at yourself because you are your customer.
I've never thought of it that way. That's kind of brilliant. Have you been able to join the "quit your day job" club? Is your business self-sustaining?
Yes, my business is self-sustaining and contributes to childcare, food, bills, etc. My day job was being a mom, so you don't really ever quit that. :-)
Lucky you! Your hard work and dedication has paid off. Let's talk about the tricky issue of pricing. Just let it rip.
There are formulas, but I like to think about 3 things: income tax, cost of goods, and profit.
1. Income tax: it will differ depending upon your tax bracket, but you still need to pay it, so it needs to be part of your formula.
2. Cost of goods: metal, gemstones, my labor, utilities/rent/supplies, packaging, shipping.
3. Profit: how much I need to pay for my family to eat and live and go on vacation? (Wait, what's a vacation?)
I think a lot of people forget about income tax and actual profit. And you don't make vacations a financial afterthought, even if you haven't had one in a while. I adore your photos. You do your own photography, correct?
Thank you so much. Yes, I do my own photography. Second to marketing, photography is my worst subject. It has taken me 5 years to get to the point where I don't hate my photos, which is directly related to my boost in sales. I am selling online, so my photos need to be impeccable. Once I stopped making excuses as to why I can't do it, I just tried hundreds of times until I got it right. Hundreds of times. I'm not even kidding. My hard drive is sagging under the weight of my mistakes. If something isn't selling, I re-take the photo until it looks as good as my best-selling ring set.
You're right about it being a process. Where do you live? Do you have a dedicated studio?
I live in Chelsea with 2 boys, my husband, and 2 cats. The space is small, but we keep it minimal so that we don't feel cramped. In February I moved my studio out of our bedroom into an office building a few blocks away. It was a big deal for me because whenever I'd dream of what success meant, it was to have my own studio space outside of the apartment. I still can't believe it. It's really helped me separate my work and home life; I had to get used to wearing shoes once I moved out. And there's no laundry or dishes to do during the day now; they patiently wait for me to get home. Isn't that nice of them?
Yes, that's very nice of them. It's great you found a space so close to home. We've talked on occasion about our mutual vegetarianism. Has being a vegetarian affected your business and your aesthetic? How do you handle being the sole veggie in your family?
I think being concerned for things outside my own bubble definitely seeps into my business. Being passionate about making my company as eco-friendly as I can is directly related to my own vegetarianism. I don't want to do harm to others if I can help it, so conserving resources is key to my business model. Being the solo veggie in my family is really hard. But I was forced to eat meat as a kid, so I don't want to do the reverse to my kids and force them to be vegetarians. They know I'm vegetarian, but it's not a big deal. I've been veg for 22 years so it's become just one part of who I am. Just like I don't expect them to become jewelers, you know?
I've been vegetarian and mostly vegan for even longer. My family doesn't share my plant-based lifestyle, but they help me with my business in many ways. How does your family help you? Do your cats contribute?
LOL! My cats couldn't be less enthusiastic about my work unless it has ice cream on it. But the rest of my family is incredibly supportive and I'm really blessed. My husband has a job with health insurance. He reminds me to look at my profit and loss every week. And he tells me when I've posted something non-Metalicious-related on Instagram usually via a snarky e-mail. My kids are also supportive of my work. They're still young and don't really know that most moms don't have their own businesses. I'm hoping that changes and it is definitely becoming more the norm thanks to Etsy. GO, MOMPRENEURS!
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I hope to continue to make handmade work for my customers. There's only so much business that I can handle as one person, and only so much that my family needs. I would love to work with a non-profit to make donations on behalf of my customers. I'd also like to increase my wholesale business so that I can hire other artisans. That would mean that I'd have to share my CD player and I'm just not there yet.
Lastly, how has being part of the Etsy NY team helped you?
Being an entrepreneur is lonely. The connections I've made with other artists here in New York has given me the ability to have the camaraderie of an office, except our water cooler happens to be an online Google group.
Stephanie, interviewing you was a joy! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are an gifted jeweler, an unstoppable force, and an inspiration to us all.
The Etsy NY team's 2013 Spring Handmade Cavalcade on Saturday, May 4! If you're looking for the best handmade market in the New York area, look no further. And later in May, I'll bring you another thrilling installment of "A Crafty Life." This is Birdy27 signing off. Please support the handmade community. Successful creative artisans can change the world! Chirp, chirp!