Today’s Jewelry Tuesday Interview/Giveaway is Lena Gott – Milan Jewelry Designs
What inspired you to start creating jewelry? I’ve made jewelry for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I made knotted friendship bracelets and seed bead flower necklaces and bracelets for all of my friends. I would spend hours making them and let all of my friends choose their favorite ones. After I graduated college and entered the workforce, I would make sterling silver jewelry to wear to work. After a while, I realized that this could be a real business venture, and started taking orders from co-workers. I slowly grew my collection over the years. I didn’t really think of my jewelry as bridal jewelry until a couple of years into the business. I gradually began to notice that over half of my orders seemed to be for bridal parties – I would get orders of 4 or 5 identical sets at a time. I had originally designed the jewelry to wear in a business environment, but when I stepped back and took a look at the collection as a whole, I realized that it was actually very appropriate as bridal jewelry. Recently, I drew a line in the sand and decided to pursue the bridal market instead of trying to branch out and market to everyone under the sun. I still wear the jewelry myself on a daily basis and sell to others looking to complement a business wardrobe, but I don’t market the jewelry that way anymore.
How long have you been making money selling your jewelry designs? 4 years.
Is jewelry designing your only business? No, I can’t focus on only one thing! ☺ I am a CPA by education, but recently left my corporate tax accounting job to stay at home with my baby girl. In addition to my jewelry business, I do tax and accounting consulting work, teach online college courses for Axia College of the University of Phoenix, and write personal finance articles for the online magazine Suite101.com.
Do you ever get in a slump in your creativity? Absolutely!
What do you do to get out of it? I clear my head, then focus on something totally unrelated. If I’m designing jewelry and find myself stuck, I first do something relaxing to clear my mind, such as take a walk or watch t.v. for just a little while ☺. Then I might work on something else like writing an article or grading papers until I feel like focusing on my jewelry again. When I’m on a roll, I can create several new designs in one sitting, but if I’m not feeling it, I just spin my wheels. I like to have several hours available to devote in one sitting because I like to take all of my materials, lay them out, and start tinkering until I come up with something that I love.
How do you sell your designs? Until recently, I mainly sold online with the exception of an occasional local fundraiser. Until I left my full-time job to stay at home with my baby girl full time, online sales were ideal for me because I didn’t have to worry about being anywhere at a certain time and could fulfill orders after work and on weekends. Now that I have time to devote to my business, I am venturing out into the real world, contacting and meeting with prospective retailers and participating in more fundraisers. Next weekend I am participating in Barbara Curran’s Shop for a Cure in Raleigh, NC and meeting with the owner of an online wedding shoe store.
Do you have a blog/website? Yes
What is the name of your blog/website? I have two online stores. The first is my main website, http://www.milanjewelry.com The other is my SHOP.com store – http://www.shop.com/Milan_Jewelry_Design-v228542-c!.shtml As an unfortunate consequence of not having much time to devote to the business until recently, my main website has only my older items on it right now; however, my SHOP.com store contains my entire line, every design in every color – over 300 necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and anklets.
Where do you advertise other than your website and blog? I created a Facebook fan page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Milan-Jewelry-Design-Elegant-Jewelry-for-Special-Occasions/21638475878 I am planning on advertising in some regional bridal magazines in the near future as well as through vendor partnerships with florists, wedding planners, and other wedding-related businesses.
Our own Barbara Curran has graciously agreed to let me hold a sort of “meet the designer” event at her retail location, which is actually just a few minutes from my house. We are still working out the details, but I’m excited about the possibility!
What are your future plans? My future plans are just to go with the flow. I like not knowing what’s in store for me tomorrow – it’s exciting! ☺ I definitely want to stay involved with fundraising; I like knowing that my business has a greater purpose. Other than that, I am testing out an independent representative program in addition to maintaining wholesale accounts and keeping the retail aspect alive. I would like to see my jewelry on brides and bridesmaids across the country. I couldn’t find jewelry that I absolutely loved for my own wedding party, and I think brides will appreciate the elegant feel of my designs as well as the affordable prices.
I’m going to continue taking small steps and working my business a little every day. I’ve taken a new “one thing a day” approach to building my business, and I’ve already started to see great results. I try to do one thing a day related to my business – and anything counts. This keeps me motivated and on track. Surprisingly, people say “yes” more often than not. I’ve found that all it takes is me getting over my fear of rejection and making initial contact.
What advice would you like to say to other jewelry designers? Of course, the CPA in me likes to give financial advice. ☺ In this respect, I have two pieces of advice. First, I would resist the temptation to invest too much money at once. The cost of jewelry components can really add up, especially when you are simply ordering components in order to try out new designs. If you purchase a lot of a single component and don’t end up using it in a design, you could end up with quite a bit of extra material. When you are first starting out, try to limit your cash outlays, but balance that with your ability to fill orders in a timely fashion. Second, set prices at what you’d be willing to pay, and you will instinctively know that your prices are right as well as have an inherent understanding of your target market.
I’d also like to add that along the way, you might encounter naysayers who think your jewelry is too expensive, too nice, not nice enough, you name it. Go with your instincts and keep your head up. Design jewelry that fits your personality and preferences, and you will create a collection that blends well together. If you believe in your own work, your passion will shine through when you go to market, and it’s much easier to sell something you really believe in.