Meet the Maker – Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious
Today we’re excited to take you “behind the scenes” with Lucky Break client and Wholesale Matchmaker member Stephanie, who runs the artisan jewelry company Metalicious from her studio in New York, NY. Stephanie handcrafts family heirloom pieces from recycled metals and ethically mined gemstones – and the result is nothing short of stunning. Welcome, Stephanie – thank you for sharing your story with us!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?
Stephanie: My dad had his own computer business when I was growing up (hello, nerd family). I loved that he had the freedom to work on things he loved the most and that he could take vacations with us whenever he wanted. He was an incredibly hard worker and he taught me that failure is really an opportunity to learn how to succeed.
Growing up it seemed totally normal to be an entrepreneur, so even when I worked for other jewelry companies I knew it was only a matter of time before I had my own business. 12 years ago when my first son was born, I took a leap of faith and started Metalicious. I worked out of a small corner of my bedroom during his naptime and at night, and sold my jewelry at craft fairs on the weekends.
Over the past 10 years I’ve grown my online business to where I can rent studio space and have 2 part time employees. I feel incredibly grateful. Now it’s my own kids who think about what kind of business they will run someday. My little one loves to brainstorm ideas about how to increase sales. He even did a video “review” of my jewelry on YouTube.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Stephanie: When I first started Metalicious I didn’t have a plan (which is step 1 of what NOT to do). My jewelry was very geometric with hard edges and no gemstones, no color, just sterling silver, brass and bronze. I thought it was very chic and very “New York.”
Well, customers would ask me all the time to add gemstones and color, but I didn’t listen (step 2 of what not to do). After two years, my sales weren’t increasing so I finally swallowed my pride and opened myself up to my inner creativity.
The flowing swirls and colorful gemstones that now define my line brought in wonderful, new customers: people looking for alternative engagement rings and unique wedding bands. Metalicious.com is now the place to go for couples looking for something different from what’s already out there.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Stephanie: I create wearable art. Jewelry that tells your story. I feel so lucky to be able to hear the stories of my customers: the mom buying buying a ring for her daughter to remind her to be strong in the face of bullying; the couple buying wedding rings that connect them to their childhood when they walked through wheat fields together; the architect proposing to his fiancée on a mountaintop. Each story is unique and I am so grateful to be a small part of their journey in life.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Stephanie: Online exclusively at Metalicious.com – but I’m working on connecting with retailers so that more people can find my work in person.
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Stephanie: As a mom, wife, and business owner, it’s pretty hectic. I wake up at 6 or 6:30 and it’s a frenzy of eating, showers and getting dressed before my husband and I split walking our boys to school. Then I walk to my studio – everything is walkable in NYC and it gives me time to get into the right headspace for the day.
Once I’m at the studio, I read emails, answer customer messages, and try to get through my Inbox. My assistant Rebecca comes in 3 days a week, so when she’s there we’ll talk about the tasks we need to accomplish for the day, goals for the week, and chat for a little bit over tea. She is like my right arm at work and a wonderful person, so I really enjoy our chat time. Then depending upon what is due that week and what my goals are for the day, I will do some benchwork, work on the website (listing new items, working on photos, etc.), do research for a blog post, post on social media, plan out new designs, do “big picture” planning, etc. I work most days until 4-5pm, when I pick up my kids.
I try to carve out family time for the evenings and weekends and stick to that as much as possible. Establishing boundaries is really important for me – otherwise I could work. All. Night. The best thing I ever did was to start a ritual where I take 15 minutes before bed every night to plan out my schedule for the next day, which gets everything out of my head so that I won’t forget it the next day. It has done wonders for my productivity.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
1) What is your goal with your business? What is the reason for it to exist?
2) Is there truly a need for what you’re selling (outside of family and friends)?
3) Would you be happy spending 60-100 hours per week doing this?
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Stephanie: I think it’s a combination of things. Exercise helps me reduce stress, so I try to do small workouts 3-4 times a week. I also feel better when I have a plan, so I use a planner where I write out yearly, weekly and daily goals. When I feel a little lost, I go back to my goals and they help center me.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Stephanie: Hiring someone to help me with doing the things I’m not good at, or things that take me away from big picture thinking, is always a great decision. When I get to a point where I spend more time doing repetitive work and less time thinking about how to grow, then I know that I should look for someone to take some things off my plate. Rebecca’s position has grown from doing shipping and running errands to brainstorming marketing ideas, doing customer service, running reports, etc. You can always start by hiring someone just a few hours/week and go from there.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Stephanie: I was really resistant to learning about SEO, and got lazy about updating keywords. My business, which had always grown year-to-year, went flat. Luckily as a small business, I was able to make changes quickly, so I put in the time to learn about SEO and keywords, then updated my listings. Within a few weeks my business was back on track, and I learned a powerful lesson to not get complacent or lazy. You can always learn more and make adjustments in your business to stay on course.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Stephanie: Living in NYC, I literally walk past soup kitchens, homeless people and food lines every single day. So I’ve chosen City Harvest as my cause. They rescue over 150,000 pounds of food per day from supermarkets, restaurants, and banquets and deliver it directly to food banks and community shelters in over 500 programs across the city. They host mobile greenmarkets where they give away bags of veggies to families each week in 5 of the most needy boroughs. It’s an amazing program to volunteer for, and at the end of each year I contribute to them on behalf of my customers. Last year I was so grateful to be able to donate enough to feed 2,000 families. I’m so thankful for my awesome customers, who enable me to give back to my community.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Stephanie: 1) GoDaddy bookkeeping: Since my business is all online, I’m able to link all my accounts here so I can see a snapshot of how my business is doing (profit/loss). I check it daily to make sure I’m on track to hit my financial goals or to see if I’m overspending anywhere.
2) Endicia for shipping: I use the Dymo label printer with it and it changed my life. No more waiting on lines at the post office; we just print our labels and drop our packages into the mailbox. And Endicia gives free tracking, which helps me give great customer service.
3) Excel: I’m a spreadsheet maven and love analyzing my numbers. So I use Excel to create reports to track my social media, bestsellers, sales, and even to create pricing. I would kiss Excel on the mouth if I could.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Stephanie: In a few years, Metalicious will continue to grow as an online presence. We will have a small team of people working to delight our customers and create fresh, delicious jewelry designs. Metalicious jewelry will be available in a select group of retail stores across the world so customers can see and feel the jewelry in person.
LBC: You’re a member of our Wholesale Matchmaker program. Can you share a bit about how being a WMM member has affected your business?
Stephanie: I found Lela right before she opened Wholesale Matchmaker and I signed up as soon as I could. It’s helped me develop linesheets and has systematized my outreach. I feel like I have a solid foundation and have been contacting stores since December.
Since joining WMM I’ve put together gorgeous linesheets that I’m proud to send out to retailers. Having everything in one place makes it really easy to do outreach and follow up, and the email templates are not only helpful but they save me tons of time figuring out what to write. I also love the calendar with the reminders, it keeps me focused on building my wholesale business on a regular schedule. I’ve been working on outreach steadily and now that I have the support of WMM I feel confident that I can make it happen.
I also did a 1-on-1 call with Lela when I was designing my website. She honed in on what made my brand unique and gave me great, actionable tasks to make a website that I’m really proud of and that resonates with my customers. Lela is a generous, kind-hearted, super smart woman and I feel so lucky and grateful to have found her and the Lucky Break team!
LBC: Lela recently made the decision to retire her flagship “how to wholesale” program LBU Live, and is rolling that extensive curriculum into Wholesale Matchmaker. You were among the first to join the LBU Cohort within WMM! Can you tell us how you feel about embarking on this new experience?
Stephanie: I am really excited about the LBU cohort because I’ve already gotten so much out of the community in the ways of support and information from the other members. So the thought of having access to the LBU program at such a great price with the additional support of other members in the group going through the same hurdles I am is an incredible gift.
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Stephanie: It would absolutely be chocolate. It’s a big deal when I tell my kids I love them more than chocolate and if I wasn’t already married I would marry chocolate. It’s kind of scandalous now that I think about it.
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?
Stephanie: Helping my kids with their homework. I hated homework as a kid and would do anything to avoid it, so now that I have to help my own kids it’s like torture. Please send us a tutor!
LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?
Stephanie: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt… That one line helped me shift my mindset about self-confidence in a big way.
Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing with Sarah Swell, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re honored to work with you and we’re cheering you on!
Interested in Wholesale Matchmaker? Now is the time. The LBU Cohort offers 12 months of matchmaking + 12 months of wholesale education and support. A limited number of spots are made available just twice per year for 10 days – and the LBU Cohort just-so-happens to be open to new members right now! But don’t wait too long – the LBU Cohort is only open for enrollment through Monday, February 13, 2017. If we reach capacity before that date, then it will close up tight early and won’t reopen until June 2017. Click here to learn more and enroll!