Making the right choice for the future of your company can be tough. In the start of 2014, I was apprehensive about how I would grow my jewelry brand Porcelain and Stone. This year, my passion for the traditional beauty of ceramic jewelry started to morph and scale into an actual brand. From opening up a new studio space, partnering with retail buyers and museum shop owners, to starting conversations with big name brands, there are a few things designers in the early growth stage of their brand might learn from my journey from idea to fully operational company.
Telling a story through images
The fact is, I never had any experience in marketing and sales. My crash course in brand marketing started early and affordably. I had a camera and a rather dry opinion of working in an over-saturated jewelry market. I was attempting to educate folks on the traditional beauty of ceramic jewelry and reinvent the way they perceived ceramic items. From the start, I had begun to seed images to a Facebook page. It was unintentional marketing without a true end goal. I was simply filling up the online space to create a pretty destination and channel of information for my brand. Plus, Facebook was one of the few sharing tools I had at my disposal.
The most difficult part came a week into launching my Facebook page (and quitting my job) when I invited friends to “like” this page. It may sound like a small step, but asking friends for support was a bit intimidating. If I couldn’t even do this simple task, then how would I grow a company?
Share one thing a day that makes you proud
So, naturally, I found my way to Instagram at the same time. I began a daily assignment of posting one productive thing I was proud to visually share with an audience of very few. The challenging part was making the collection of images more cohesive in terms of colors and message while not too promotional.
I wanted my followers to realize I was human and not just a factory of handmade goodies. While I am making everything by hand and growing a business, I wanted to freely share my process. I even share my excitements and design questions freely with my followers. Being approachable and personally active on these channels helped boost and enrich my relationships with followers, many of whom I have now met, and would call a friend or business ally. I love getting my audience’s opinions as they are my business’ curated backbone. I adore their interactions with my brand. Through steady growth and moving forward despite daily hiccups, I discovered my community which is now over 10K.
Staying focused and gaining exposure
Through two very affordable outlets, I was able to grow connections with others who were interested in what I was doing through their own organic searches or through our shared love for jewelry making and pottery. These connections were small at first which made growth manageable. There wasn’t any funding done to conduct product testing or market research. My business grew organically as my designs quickly matured to fine karat gold. Luckily, I’ve been able to make quick design choices that work out for me and my growing base of consumers and buyers.
Nurturing Growth and Building Relationships
Another strategy I practice is making myself available to my consumers. Early on, and even now, I participate in some shows that many folks would consider a waste of time. They are only focused on sales at that event. It’s very important to see the bigger picture and long-term value of sharing your work, this may take more nurturing in the beginning. The fact is, I don’t look for opportunities to sell, I look for opportunities to connect with people who love my work. I love to engage folks in a conversation and have them walk away learning something new…along with a business card!
2014 turned out to be a huge year for Porcelain and Stone. My designs were published for the first time in a book called “1000 Beads” by Lark. I was invited to sell on One Kings Lane and I began selling on Newbury Street in Boston. Interestingly, I had my first celebrity customer inquiry at Brooklyn Renegade. My work was also featured in the Boston Globe and The Improper Bostonian. Participating in a luxury trade show, an early Javits Center trade show and the big International Gift Fair Trade Show now known as NY NOW in partnership with Etsy Wholesale was very exciting.
My items typically aren’t for a quick sale. They aren’t fast-fashion items. I recognize that my pieces are an investment for customers to value and pass down to their loved ones, just as most people would care for fine gold jewelry or even sapphires and pearls. I’m not in the market of comparing my work to big box retailers, so my expectations are not geared up with a fast selling attitude. Owners of Porcelain and Stone jewelry recognize this value and that’s what I love most about my customers.
Too often, I hear folks in the craft market circuit wishing each other luck on sales or post-show sadness for the lack of sales, etc. Focus on what makes your business special and invest your time in the things that matter, like the people who care about your designs. They won’t care unless you share those special moments with them. Building a relationship with my followers is definitely what makes my business stick. Never lose sight of the bigger picture.
Derek Gleason of Workshop Digital said it most succinctly. As an SEO Analyst, he writes: “In fact, the only way to beat them [large retailers] is to focus your online and offline efforts, not just your blog, on the things mega-retailers don’t have: a local and personal brand. Pair those advantages…and you will develop traction.” Read his advice here.
I’m proud to own a company that can stand strongly on two feet without chasing people down for a sale. I have always cared more about the person than the package. I want my followers to discover the right piece without regrets. Sharing day-to-day happenings inside and outside of the studio, while somewhat curated, makes my reality a bit more accessible so that my followers can understand the stories behind the pieces, and maybe fall in love with them as much as I have while working in this medium.
Be honest, stay productive, and celebrate the small things
Finally, I might as well leave you in the hands of Tony Hsieh, known for his work in making Zappos a happy company that we all might strive to be one day. Happiness is definitely one of my strong suits. It’s not that I don’t see the negative, I just don’t care to waste time complaining about it. I choose to be productive even when I’m worried about one month’s performance and how the next month will fare. While I do have underlying worries, I prefer to come to a rational approach or find ways to mitigate those concerns by pushing to reach milestones and goals. It’s easy for me to remember why I’m designing, so there’s always a steady stream of happiness humming in the background. I mean, essentially, I play with clay all day!
So if you ever feel like sales are slow or aren’t growing, it might be time to step back and look at the bigger picture of how you present your business and see the reflection of your brand. Are you being honest and consistent with your online and offline efforts? What message are you sending to the people who are helping you live out your dreams?
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