So, why me?
I’ve been in the business of jewelry for so long I can’t even tell you when I began. My current company was incorporated in the state of Texas in 1995, but it goes so much farther back than that. I bought for and managed a small store – Opus III – dedicated to pieces in the semi-precious arena for several years. We handled beautiful lines like M.J. Savitt, Great Falls Metalworks and countless individual artisans. Prior to that I was a jewelry and accessory buyer for my mom’s upscale clothing chain, O’Ney’s, juggling fashion lines like Monet, KJL and Coach. If you think working for my mother was easy – you never met her. There were far easier ways to learn the business, but none better.
At 17 I was taking the Metroliner from Baltimore to New York
…on my own, navigating 5th Avenue from building to building, scouting lines and writing orders. I knew the JCK shows like the back of my hand at a very early age. But even earlier than that, at 14, I’d been running the craft show circuit with my own line of semi-precious beaded jewelry. I’ve done county fairs, state fairs and Renaissance Faires, indoor, outdoor, upscale and down.
Today I run the premiere pageant jewelry design company in the USA – Stefanie Somers Inc. Pageants have been my main niche for well over 10 years, and I’m sought out by competitors at all levels for both my “Ready-to-Wear” and Couture jewelry, and even attract business from Europe, Australia and Japan. I’ve seen and done it all.
So why me? What can I do for you and your business?
I’m not a former Fortune 500 consultant. I’m not the scion of a wealthy family that started a business with seven figures to back me. And I’m sure not gonna tell you that you can work two days a week and have the life of your dreams.
…nearly 40 years down the road, after working my tail off, doing a lot of things wrong, and doing a lot of things right. Surviving a lot of stupid mistakes, and a lot of what life sometimes just tosses out, but always landing on my feet. After learning both ends of the business, as a buyer and as a maker, in retail and in wholesale.
I’m you, walking back down the road I’ve walked, offering you a hand so that you’ll have it a bit easier than I did – and wishing I’d had someone like me back then to smooth out at least a few of the bumps for me. I can’t fix everything, but I can help you fix an awful lot, with the prescience that only comes from having been there, knowledge hard won over a lifetime in and around this business that can save you years of struggle, missteps, and even expense. Things like:
Positioning – What? Positioning is the definition of what your business is, what you are, who you serve. What is YOUR positioning? “Jewelry” isn’t enough.. You need to be specific… Jewelry of “what”, for “who”, for “why”? Serving a niche will make your marketing more targeted and effective. This is important for your brand identity, your presentation, SEO, so much of how you present yourself to the world – and how and IF you get found depends upon it. We’ll explore how you find – or make – your niche, and settle on your positioning. We’ll also discuss something no one else talks about, a “dirty little secret” that has a huge impact on your positioning. Ignore this distinction, or get it wrong, and you could sink your marketing ship.
Sourcing – Sourcing is so vital, and so many aspiring designers get it so tragically wrong. With the amazing tool of the internet, it’s easier than ever (imagine what it was like back in the dark ages, when I started!) but some of the best sources still lie just hidden from view, very much in a “who you know” world. How do you know if you’re buying at the right level on the “food chain”, how do you get higher up on it, and what do you do until you can? How do you vet a supplier, and how do you find the hidden suppliers, the ones no one talks about or shares? The word “wholesale” doesn’t always make it so – and its absence isn’t always fatal either. The internet changed everything with sourcing, but you still have to do your homework.
Pricing – If Sourcing is the lifeblood of your business, Pricing is the metabolism. Pricing is both a science and an art, involving both spreadsheets and a little gut instinct, but if you don’t have a firm grasp on the “Why”, you could be dooming your business to a death spiral you don’t understand before you even begin. You have to get your hands dirty with pricing, no glossy “Here a miracle occurs” kind of fly-overs. You must learn to price like a ninja, accounting for every penny of costs, with a fair margin that allows room to breathe and grow. I’ve made every mistake in the book in my career, from the “I don’t want to rip people off” school of pricing, to the “oh crap, you mean I have to figure in my computer in here?” lesson that you really do need to account for ALL of your costs when figuring your overhead. Come young Padawan, you too can be a Pricing Ninja!
Collection Metrics – What a collection is, what it means, how it functions. The difference between a “line” and a “collection”. Why designing “up” can be just the ticket to propel your line forward – even if it scares the pants off you; this is something I’ve done numerous times with great success. When you need to intro new designs, when to keep designs “evergreen”, and how your market segment and positioning affect these decisions. Design tricks to expand your ideas into a collection that buyers can relate to. Hint: it’s easier than you think it is! How wholesale buyers view your collections vs. how retail buyers see them, and why we need to design and show them differently for these two audiences.
Psychology of Interaction – Wow, this sounds huge, doesn’t it? It’s so freakin’ simple. The more sensitive you can be to your buyers rhythms (wholesale or retail), the more successful you’ll be.
Learning how to play to your audience can be a dance, but one that requires mastering before you can take over the floor. I used to BE a wholesale buyer, so I know how buyers think, and what they look for (and what irritates them. Hint: it doesn’t take much) Retail buyers are looking for that One Thing. They have a specific need, or sometimes they’re browsing for something that catches their eye – but they will still have a very fixed set of personal parameters. Wholesale store buyers – they’re an altogether different animal. They’re looking at our lines with an entirely different set of eyes, and if they’re good, it doesn’t especially matter if they personally like them, only if they believe their clientele will, and it fits their matrix. They’re concerned with how it will merchandise in their store(s), and with whether or not we’ll deliver as promised.
Presentation – Presentation, whether it’s your packaging, your booth, or your showroom, is everything. It’s how your line speaks for you. And what it says can make or break – It’s your first impression, and as they say, you only get that one shot at it, so you have to get it right. Too many artists shortchange their packaging and presentation in the mistaken belief that it’s only the jewelry that matters. You’re not selling jewelry – you’re selling an experience, with an object at its heart. And you thought you could give the creativity a break once you stepped away from your bench… Sorry, no! So much to do here, from packaging to show booths/showrooms to linesheets, all part of that all-important BRANDING!
Communication – We’re artists. We live largely in our own heads. Lots of us are pretty introverted types. Communication can be downright scary. I get it. But if you want to sell your sparkly things, and eventually break free and make a (gasp!) living with it, you’re going to have to take this dragon by the horns and ride it. Yes, you. About finding your “Voice” (what the heck does that mean anyway?), how to use that voice, both online, in print and in person, and how to craft your “Message” (huh?) in your Voice – It’s really not that hard once you break it down. Grab your throat spray and your fluffiest diva boa, sweetie, ‘cuz it’s your turn to shine… (Hint: There’s another word for Communication, but it’s gotten a bad rap in the art world: Marketing. Marketing is nothing more than grabbing your message and your megaphone and getting the word out there about what you do so your Clients & Patrons can find you. So hang on, this ride is gonna be wild!!)
Tech – Websites and Profiles and Streams… Oh my! Do you go into full tilt overwhelm when you look at all the different online footprints a lot of designers juggle? Not sure which ones you need, how to set them up, how to maintain them? Feeling a little out of your wheelhouse? (I’m an artist dammit, not a code jockey!) I get it. As much of a tech nerd as I am, I’ve been through my own Voyage of the Damned with my website, and came out the other side whole. We’ll explore the current state of available technology and what it means for YOU, in a way you CAN UNDERSTAND. We’ll get specific: the good the bad, and the ignore-able. What to do when new tech pops up, how to respond, how to size it up, when to jump on, when to bail. How to vet a marketplace platform, who to avoid, and should you have one? What’s a “marketplace platform” anyway? Just how DO you approach the whole website thing… We’ll explore both DIY methods and the professional hire-out; angles to look at, questions to ask, what options are available. SEO, what it is, why you absolutely cannot ignore it, and must bake it in from Day One. (Truly, if you don’t take anything else to heart, listen to the info on SEO!) I take this stuff personally because of what I’ve been through, and I’m going to make sure you understand what you need and how to get it.
Care – As in Client Care. How to determine what level of service you’ll give your clients, and how to go above and beyond that level and why you should always do so. What’s Red Carpet service, and is it right for your business? (oddly enough, not always) What points of contact should you have with any client? What’s the difference between automated contact and initiated contact? How do you set up automatic contact so it doesn’t “feel” automated? What about the problem client… How to train yourself to look for the “Yes” in every situation. What to do if you have to say “No”. Why firing a client is occasionally a healthy thing for your business and psyche, and how to go about it, and why I look back almost fondly on the small handful of clients I have fired over the years, and why I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Sound like some useful stuff?
Then we have something to talk about. Hang around with me for a while. Pop your info into the boxes below to make sure you don’t miss anything.