1. In a sentence or two, could you tell us what you do?
I create jewelry and hair accessories for ladies who like to express their artistic and wild side. My one-of-a-kind pieces aren’t made to blend in or help girls stay invisible.
2. How did you get started?
I’ve been beading since forever (I literally started when I was about 5 years old). My grandfather was into the Native American beading techniques. He gave my older sister and I some how-to books and some seed beads to get us started, and it’s been an addiction ever since.
I taught classes at a local art gallery when I was in high school, but ended up taking a break from beading during college. My discovery of Etsy soon afterwards had me clamoring to pick it back up again.
3. What three words best describe your personality?
Passionate. Smart-ass. Introvert.
4. What’s your favorite part of your creative business?
I love connecting with such fantastic people from all over the world. It’s such an amazing feeling to know that someone in France is wearing one of my necklaces on her wedding day, or one of my rings is being shown off on the other side of the country. Heck, the fact that people even want to pay me money for the stuff I make is freaking AWESOME.
5. What’s a typical workday like for you?
Well, I do have a M-F day job (that I love.) So I pump out graphic designs 7 to 4 (I bring my beading and work on projects during my lunch break), then I’m home to focus on the business. I do a lot of scheduling in advance and planning to make sure I am maximizing my time so my business is growing, but so that I can still escape to a night with my girlfriends or watch a movie with the hubby every now and again.
I tend to do a lot of bulk work on the weekends (like writing a half-a-dozen blog posts and then scheduling them out for the week ahead), and I stick to the daily stuff for weekday evenings, like packaging and shipping, responding to customer requests, etc. I’m always working toward developing habits that will make me and my business more efficient, and result in a better experience for my customers.
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I gotta admit, it comes from everywhere. I have to reject a lot of my own ideas and prioritize down simply because there aren’t one hundred million gazillion hours in the day.
I do think that some of the best ideas tend to come from outside of my industry. For example, I’ll think of a choker design while reading about poetry, or come up with a blog post while listening to a Broadway musical soundtrack. Sometimes, when we’re stuck for something, the best thing to do is stop trying to think about it altogether. If we focus our mind on something else, or allow ourselves to meditate, the solution will almost always pop into our brains when we least expect it. Our subconscious is sneaky like that.
7. What’s your creative process like?
Sometimes I start with the sketchbook, doodling up an illustration I want to turn into a design. Then I’ll plug that into the computer and use InDesign and Illustrator to create a beading pattern. This is when I’m doing a more picturesque piece, such as my Masquerade necklace or Coffee & Donuts bracelet.
For most of the rest of the time, I simply dig out some supplies that I think look good together, and make up my pieces as I go. This is usually the case with my embroidered barrettes and hair clips.
8. How do you balance family, friends and business?
I schedule all of my must-dos via the amazing Google Calendar tool. I set their deadlines on the last-possible day they can be finished, that way each day is filled with a minimal amount of tasks. Then, when I inevitably have extra time to work on more stuff, I can “work ahead” on my up-coming to-dos. This frees up time so I don’t feel guilty taking a night off every now and then to care for the all-important, in-person relationships.
9. What advice would you give to someone who would love to do something similar to you and sell jewelry for a living?
As with any business, the first step is to decide who the customer is you really want to sell to, and focus on making products for that person. Yes, there are going to be people who think your stuff is over-priced/weird/boring, but it doesn’t matter what they think if they aren’t the customers you are going for. Jewelry really isn’t the saturated market you think it is when you start to divide it by niche. There are so many different kinds of people who buy jewelry, so if you focus on who YOUR people are first, everything else from marketing to product development will be easy to decipher.
10. What’s the best creative business advice you’ve ever received?
I can’t help but think of those words of early encouragement, back when my pictures looked like crap and I was charging nothing near what my stuff was worth. They really pushed me forward. Those first few positive feedbacks which raved about how much they loved their new treasures, or those first few blog commenters that told me to keep writing. These things are so vital to creatives when we are first starting out, scared and unsure of ourselves and wondering if we’re crazy for even trying.
11. What’s been the most difficult thing about building your creative business?
The hardest part is the uncertain cash flow. Yes, I also have a day job, but it alone isn’t enough to pay the bills. Before I really started to invest time in my business I was also working 3 or 4 part-time jobs IN ADDITION to my regular, full-time job. When I finally managed to overcome my scared lizard brain, I quit my part-time gigs so I could devote more time to my business. So far it’s worked out okay, and I haven’t had to pick up another part-time or seasonal gig for a couple of years now. Here’s to hoping that trend not only continues, but becomes less and less of a possibility!
12. If you had to pinpoint one thing that has helped your business more than anything in the past year, what would it be?
I’m a HUGE fan of blogging. Unlike other social media marketing, blogging is a permanent platform. For example, I still get traffic from posts I wrote over a year ago. You won’t get that with Twitter or Facebook, where updates are fleeting and disappear within a matter of hours or days. Plus, it’s really given me the space to let my followers get to know the REAL me and my brand.
13. What books or magazines are you currently reading?
I’m a major Stephen King fan, and I’m the middle of his Dark Tower series right now. As far as business books, I recently finished Jonah Berger’s “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” which was incredibly insightful regarding viral marketing campaigns and why people talk about certain products via word-of-mouth more than others.
14. What are your top three favorite blogs?
I read and love so many its hard to choose! Of course I love me some BlacksburgBelle, but if I have to pick the top 3 I eagerly gobble up new content from I’d have to go with:
15. What are you currently working on? Anything new coming up?
Oh, I always have a million new things coming up. But right now the thing I’m most excited about is partnering with some fine artists, and creating pieces that feature their work surrounded in my beadwork. I just love the idea of wearable art, and I really want to create some pieces that will also give exposure and monetary value to some of the awesome artists out there.
I also recently started a blog for my fellow handmade creatives, Beading for Business, so I’m excited to see where that takes me.