Meet the Maker – Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

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.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

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.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

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.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

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.

 

ethical-crafted-metals

 

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!

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

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.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

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!

 

Meet the Maker – Sarah Greenberg of Sarah Swell

Sarah Swell Jewelry

Sarah Swell Jewelry

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re going behind the scenes with the loveliest of handcrafted jewelry artists: Sarah Greenberg of Sarah Swell, who nurtures her burgeoning jewelry brand from a stunning studio/showroom space in Sausalito, California. Welcome, Sarah!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Sarah: I think I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. I almost feel like it was the only choice for me. I’d say the leap began after dropping out of art school to pursue a career as a jewelry designer. It’s been a very long road for me because of various obstacles that presented themselves, but the end goal has always been clear. Sometimes after a bad day/week/month, I think about closing the business, but then I realize that what I’d want to do is just start another business anyway!

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Sarah: I hoped that I would become one of the designers at the forefront of the handcrafted jewelry movement. We’re constantly working towards that goal.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Sarah: We create handcrafted precious metal jewelry that exemplifies casual luxury.

 

Sarah Swell Jewelry

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Meet the Maker – Melissa Camilleri of Compliment

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the lovely Melissa Camilleri of Compliment. In addition to being an amazing maker, Melissa knows her stuff when it comes to Instagram, and I had the honor of hosting her in an Expert Interview for my Brick House Branding Course. Welcome, Melissa!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Melissa: It was kind of a perfect storm.  I had launched my business while I was still teaching high school full-time.  I thought it would be a good fundraiser for student scholarships, but I didn’t really have a gigantic desire to be an entrepreneur.  I thought I’d teach forever.

But between May and November of 2012, my personal life was really rocked.  I got divorced, moved schools, moved homes, and then three people in my family passed away unexpectedly.  I was dealing with so much grief and change in such a short amount of time, I took a leave of absence from the classroom to re-establish a new life.  During that time, I immersed myself into my business, learning all I could about e-commerce and trying to make Compliment grow.

Within about 5 months, I was forced to decide whether or not I’d return to the classroom, and I just didn’t feel ready.  I didn’t have a great plan.  I didn’t have a year’s worth of savings to back me up.  It probably wasn’t the most responsible choice I’ve ever made, but it was necessary and really strengthened my faith and my persistence.  The fear of NOT following this new dream was greater than the fear of failing.  So I just leapt and trusted that I’d figure it out on the way down.  That was three years ago and I’ve been hustling to make it all work ever since.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Melissa: I envisioned Compliment to be defined as a jewelry brand that was about so much more than the jewelry.  When I first started, I didn’t know any other jewelry brands that were including compliments or mantras or words of any kind along with their jewelry. I was writing notes to my students who had purchased the first batches of the jewelry I was making, letting them know how proud of them I was.  I’m a natural encourager, and this brand was just an extension of me.  It was intuitive, but not yet intentional.

So in the beginning I thought Compliment would be defined as jewelry with meaning.  I think it continues to fit that definition, but now that space is crowded and I’ve gotten a little more specific with my branding as Compliment has evolved to include other gifts beside just jewelry.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Melissa: I create “gifts to uplift.”

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Melissa: At www.shopcompliment.com and in independent retailers throughout North America.

 

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Melissa: I wake up around 6:30 and often while still in bed, I’ll quickly scroll through my emails and social medias to see if there are any pressing issues I need to give my attention to.  I get to my studio/office around 8-8:30 am, make myself a cup of tea, and sit at my computer and begin answering emails.

When my team arrives at 9, we will usually have a quick meeting about what’s happening or on the horizon, and then they go into the production room to make and ship any orders that need fulfillment.  I head back to the computer and work on business development.  Depending on the week, it might be writing newsletters, designing new products, online meetings with clients or contractors or collaborators, or emailing.  I feel like so much of my day is spent emailing now.

Some days we all eat at the office and take a little lunch break together.  Other days, I take my team out to lunch.  I employ high school and college students + college grads who were former students whenever possible and company culture is very important to me, so taking a break and eating together is one way I can foster a tight-knit team.  This together time is sacred to me.

After lunch, we get back to our work stations and finish up projects.  I check up on social medias, get updates on how shipping is going, and help trouble shoot any end of the day tasks, which often falls under inventory issues.  We are still working out a better system for restocking materials!

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Melissa: 1. Do you love what you’re doing so much that you are willing to stick with it – not just when the orders are rolling in, but when they slow down too?

2. How do you view failure? Do you avoid it at all costs? Do you even believe it exists? Are you afraid of it? What is your risk-tolerance?

3. Honestly assessing yourself, do you have a growth or fixed mindset? If you’re someone who is always learning and implementing, vulnerable enough to ask for help when you need it, and confident enough to not attach your self worth to how well your business is doing at any given second, then you’ve probably got what it takes. Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a ton of courage to create and stick with it.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Melissa: Meditation.  Always.  Then, talking things out with my husband.  I’m very lucky.  He’s my #1 supporter, and I’m so blessed to be able to bounce ideas off him.

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Melissa: 1. Listening to my gut since the beginning. I have a very strong intuition and have let that guide me, even when it may have seemed to an outsider that I was doing things in a way that isn’t status quo. I’m proud of my navigation skills into the unknown.

2. Choosing to host my site on Shopify early on. I was an early adopter in December of 2012. I compared a bunch of e-commerce platforms and just happened to like Shopify the best. Now, 4 years later, they have built a much more robust interface with so many more apps to help customize a store. I’m a huge fan.

I’m also a huge fan of my shipping program– Shipping Easy. I can’t say enough about their customer service. For 2 years, I was typing out each address on Avery labels, trekking to the post office each day, and mailing each package individually from the kiosk! Talk about time and money waster! Shipping Easy, paired with Shopify literally transformed SO MUCH for our internal systems.

3. Not following the crowd. I don’t follow a bunch of gurus or care to watch how other gift businesses are doing things, not because I don’t think I can learn from them, but because I know if I spend my time looking at others, rather than forging my own path, I’ll get caught in comparisonitis-mode which halts every creative urge I have. So I made an intentional decision 3 years ago to put on my blinders, and just keep doing what feels good in my own business.

4. Diversifying and bringing more “me” into the Compliment brand. I started off as a teacher but for the first 2 years of my business, I rarely talked about it. I realized that I was leading two separate lives – one as an entrepreneur and one as an educator at heart. In 2015, I had a spark of inspiration and decided to write a short e-course on building an engaged community on Instagram. I was able to now be a teacher in the business world– something that comes really naturally to me. By adding an informational product to my shop, I welcomed a whole new audience to my work, and quadrupled my income in a year. It taught me a lot about how I can combine my own special set of gifts and talents and be fully an educator and fully an entrepreneur at the same time.

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Melissa: I don’t really believe in mistakes – just learning experiences.  But one obstacle I’ve faced recently was choosing to do something “for exposure” rather than for the compensation I deserved.  I put my trust in someone who didn’t earn it and I went against what I suspected to be true about this individual.

This experience taught me exactly how I DON’T want to be in my business.  It showed me that business with integrity is everything and that if I’m not aligned in my purpose, and something feels forced, it’s not for me.  This is a value I’ve always had.  But this experience made me really get clear on who I will and will not work with.  It’s ok to say no and the fear of missing out should not ever be a reason to do something.  I’m ok with slow and steady growth if it means that my actions are always aligned with my values.

 

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Melissa: YES!  The Compliment Scholarship Program!  It’s the heartbeat of Compliment and the reason why we even exist.  We set aside 5% of our proceeds every single day to support educational equity for first generation college students. The opportunity gap in the United States is real and it’s not just about race, but about the haves and the have nots.  My mission is to close that gap, first in  my own community, and then nationally.  My entire career has been devoted to this cause, as I myself am a first generation college grad.  I firmly believe that education changes people– and helps them break free from the circumstances they’re born into.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Melissa: 1. Gusto for payroll. It’s so easy to use and way less expensive than traditional payroll systems.

2. Shipping Easy (see above!)

3. The workbook I wrote called “In Her Head.” It’s a 30-page workbook I developed based on the exercised my team and I do together before launching any new product, to really figure out who we are selling to.

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Melissa: In a few years, Compliment, Inc. will be a full fledged lifestyle company with two arms – products at www.shopcompliment.com, and education at melissacamilleri.com (which is currently in development).  Our products will be found more and more frequently on the pages of national publications.  Our educational curriculum will be implemented globally and serve hundreds of thousands of learners.

Our scholarship program will be an official non-profit foundation and have multiple companies donating to educational causes nationally.  Our scholarship will be renewable for 4 years and cover the full tuition for at least 10 students.  We will have a mentorship program established to guide these students with resources and community to support them through their undergrad careers.

 

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Melissa: Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Janet Jackson, Prince, and Justin Timberlake.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Melissa: Naps. Long ones.  If I could, I would nap every afternoon for a solid 2-3 hours.

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?

Melissa: To follow behind me in the morning and re-hang up all the clothes I pull out of the closet when trying to find something cute to wear.

 

 

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Shop Compliment, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Kacie Fleming of Katya Valera and KV Wishbox

katya valera

katya valera

 

Today in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Kacie Fleming of Youngsville, NC, who is the one-woman-show behind boutique jewelry brand Katya Valera. Kacie also runs a crazy-smart subscription jewelry box program called KV Wishbox. Welcome, Kacie – we’re thrilled to have you!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

In 2011, I was browsing Etsy in search of jewelry for my bridesmaids, and I fell in love with all of these clay rose pieces I kept seeing. A few YouTube videos later, I decided I could totally make some myself, and within two weeks I’d ordered supplies, gotten to work, and had ten pieces up for sale in my brand new Etsy shop.

It was all done on such a whim, and I had no idea what I was getting into, or how much I would love something I’d never thought of doing before. But I really am glad I just went with it, because overthinking may have held me back for who knows how long.

My jewelry has become an invaluable outlet for me, as chronic illness keeps me from being able to work outside the home. I started my shop not too long after I became sick but before I’d fully realized the day-to-day repercussions of chronic illness, and my shop has been a lifesaver in many ways.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Since it started as such a whim, I don’t think I envisioned a whole lot initially. I think I was envisioning elegant yet very affordable jewelry largely composed of those tantalizing clay rose pieces. My jewelry vision has definitely changed a bit since then.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

At Katya Valera (pronounced KAH-tyuh Vuh-LAIR-uh) you’ll find jewelry with an elegant, vintage-bohemian quality in a wide range of styles. I also offer gift sets of original poetry prints with matching sterling silver necklaces in my 3D Eloquence Collection. As of this year, I’ll also be releasing themed seasonal collections, which adds a new creative element to my work that I absolutely love. But what I’m most excited about is the launch of KV Wishbox, my seasonal jewelry box that lets you get in on the upcoming collection weeks before it’s released!

 

katya valera

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

You can browse my newest and most popular pieces at KatyaValera.com, and all of my jewelry is for sale in my Etsy shop. KV Wishbox is available at KVWishbox.com and in my Etsy shop. The Spring Wishbox will be available until February 12, and the Summer KV Wishbox will be out in May.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

For several reasons, my work day is definitely not the norm, and it varies based on which design phase I am in. For example, I just completed months of rather franticly-paced work gearing up for my first KV Wishbox and the Spring 2016 Collection. That phase included daily hours of planning and designing, to making the pieces and photographing them (dependent on the sun’s fickleness, for the latter), to wrangling with code to complete the KV Wishbox website. It was definitely my most intensive work period yet.

Now that the Wishbox is released and the Spring Collection is ready for its March 1 debut, my work days are a bit calmer, as I have a couple weeks’ break before it’s time to do it all over again for the Summer Collection.

In addition to all of that, my work “days” tend to take place at far different hours than most, as chronic health problems currently leave me with odd sleeping hours. My work times are often dictated by the whims of my body’s abilities each day/night, so most of my work is accomplished in the evening and night. The flexibility of being in charge of my own business is perfect for my health needs and varying symptoms.

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

1) If you can afford it. Of course every business undertaking involves some risk, but really think through how much each piece will cost you, how much you’ll have to charge for it, and if you’ll have the finances to keep it all going.

2) Your business name. As I mentioned, my shop began as a whim, so I started with a name that I had only thought about for a few days. A few months down the road, I realized that it needed to be changed, and I had to go through the trouble of rebranding, redesigning my shop, and getting new business cards, etc. The process was worth it, but it probably could have been avoided.

3) The legal side—licenses and taxes. This type of information oddly seems to be a secret in the world of small business, but it’s important. Find out if your state requires a business license (probably) and if you need to be collecting sales tax and paying that, along with regular income tax (also likely). Your state might have a small business association you can consult.

Tackling this confusing world is the price we have to pay for getting to be small business owners, and you have to do a lot of digging to get answers. But keep calling and asking questions until you know everything that’s required of you—the squeaky wheel really gets the grease.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Probably my husband. I tell him my problems, and just doing that helps. But I also bring myself back to focus by just doing my best, and then taking a break for a bit. I am glued to my computer probably 80% of the time, and am also a perfectionist with crazy-high standards for everything I do. So when I’m overwhelmed by tasks I need to accomplish, for example, I push through the ones that are most pressing, and then give myself a chance to relax. Then I can come back to my job with a clearer, calmer mind.

 

katya valera

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

One would be changing my business name and branding. I know Katya Valera is a bit of a risk in the realm of pronunciation, but I find it’s worth it because it is unique and has so much more meaning than my original name did.

Another has been deciding to offer remakes of my pieces. In the past I’ve made lots of one-of-a-kind pieces, which is fine now and then, but I would run into the issue of multiple people wanting remakes – and it’s harder to build momentum when only one of each design is available. So designing pieces in collections with multiples available has been a great decision.

And I can’t say just yet if it’s been the best decision, but I know it’s definitely been the most exciting and fulfilling creatively: Planning and releasing my themed seasonal collections, and the KV Wishboxes that precede them.

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

I made a mistake from the very start that seems like such a no-brainer now, yet is so common starting out: not taking my photos in natural light. Photos are possibly the most important aspect of selling online, and I can’t believe I thought taking them in my bedroom at night would work, but you live and learn. You simply can’t beat natural light.

Browsing other pictures on Etsy and reading online about how to improve my photography really helped, but my biggest improvement has just come from trial and error. I’ve taken thousands of pictures, dozens and dozens of each piece, just to ensure I get five awesome ones. My photographs are night and day compared to what they once were…literally.

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

I am definitely passionate about chronic illness awareness, for obvious reasons, and spreading the hope of alternative treatment. Life with chronic illness is very isolating and lonely, because chronic illness – especially at a young age – is not the norm. People also simply cannot understand what they haven’t experienced.

I am just one voice, but I do what I can to share insights into life with chronic illness on my blog in hopes that others will gain a better understanding of the struggles that we deal with, and what they can do to help. I also share what I have learned about the world of alternative treatments and holistic healing, in hopes that those who are suffering will also find the hope that I have found in options I once didn’t even know existed.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

1) My camera, of course, since it’s how I showcase my pieces for the world to see.

2) PicMonkey. I guess I could make it without it, but life would be a whole lot harder!

3) Google. There are few problems or questions I haven’t been able to resolve with a couple of quick searches.

 

katya valera

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

I would hope that my seasonal collections and KV Wishbox are in full swing, and I would probably have my jewelry for sale in additional online outlets. I would also love to be having customer-hosted jewelry parties several times a year, as I have done in the past.

 

LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

My first reaction is to go with plantains—plantain fried in olive oil and pink salt are out of this world. But the smarter option would probably be chicken, as it offers more variety. Plus, I’m all about meat. Will you smuggle me in some fries now and then?

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Music is one of the few things that I love as much as jewelry, so I constantly have it going while I work. I definitely go in phases of the same artists for weeks at a time, and lately I’ve been addicted to The Civil Wars. I discovered them after the duo had already parted ways, but I continue to be no less heartbroken over it. They powered me through the past few months of gearing up for the Spring Collection and KV Wishbox, along with Joy Williams’s own music. In my book, she and The Civil Wars are not only the perfect background for a happy workplace but also inspire me in my own music. I also absolutely adore Emily West—it’s about time to be stuck on her music again for a few weeks.

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but one of mine is Psalm 107:14-16: “He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”

These verses really blew me away a couple of years ago, for both their powerful imagery and their even more so powerful meaning—I continue to deal with many obstacles, particularly with my health, that are overwhelming and upsetting. But these verses can apply to much more than that, and knowing that God can conquer anything, no matter how huge, is so comforting.

 

Thank you, Kacie, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Katya Valera and KV Wishbox. We’re cheering you on…

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Makers – Jennifer + Melissa of The Vintage Honey Shop

The Vintage Honey Shop

The Vintage Honey Shop

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know best friends and sisters-in-law Jennifer and Melissa of Nashville, TN, co-founders of The Vintage Honey Shop, a brand founded on stylish, functional teething and nursing jewelry for parents + babies. Welcome, Jen + Mel!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneurs?

Jen + Mel: When we started off, becoming entrepreneurs was far from what we had envisioned for our shop.  As we made little crafts here and there, we would share them on our Facebook pages, and a lot of friends and family members urged us to open up an Etsy shop.  We thought about it for a while and finally decided to open up a shop together as friends!

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Jen + Mel: When we first started off selling our crafts on Etsy, we didn’t have a business plan.  We just wanted to make cute things and have a place to sell them.  It was a fun venture…a hobby, really.

We had no idea that The Vintage Honey Shop would take off, and that we actually had great business skills that had been laying dormant inside of us. Our vision for our shop has evolved and changed for us over the years; and it still does, which is great, because being an entrepreneur is a fun adventure!

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Jen + Mel: We make handmade teething and nursing necklaces.  The necklaces are fabric and wood-based.  Mom wears the necklace, and baby can safely put it in their mouth (because you know they are going to do that anyway).

Our necklaces are very popular with breastfeeding mothers as well, because when mom wears the necklace, their baby can have something to hold onto that will keep them focused on nursing – instead of looking around or pinching/scratching mom!

 

The Vintage Honey Shop

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Jen + Mel: We sell our necklaces on our website, thevintagehoneyshop.com.

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

 

Jen + Mel: There is no typical day!  Every day is new and different.

Because we are a partnership, we split up responsibilities. Melissa is in charge of our inventory and shipping operations.  We store and ship all of our necklaces from her home, which happens three times a week. On the days we do not ship, Melissa makes tags for our packages, preps orders for the next day, and does inventory on the necklaces we have in the shop.

Jennifer is responsible for the customer service side of the business, which entails emails, social media, collaborations, etcetera. She keeps all of the fabric, beads, and other supplies into making our sweet little honeys!  Jennifer also coordinates and oversees the making of necklaces with our two assistants we have hired to help us keep up with the production of our necklaces.

Since our first jobs are being stay-at-home moms, our business does come second.  We have to work around playing with our kids, school, laundry, and all the other errands that go with staying at home.

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Jen + Mel: 1) Figure out and find your target audience. Until you know who you are selling to, you will be spinning your wheels!

2) Focus on branding. It was a turning point in our business when we finally figured out our brand; it took a few years of trial and error, but once we nailed it, our business took off!

3) Make a list of short-, mid- and long-term goals. Every time we are able to cross something off our list, it is a victory! It drives us to keep working and dreaming larger.

 

The Vintage Honey Shop

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Jen + Mel: When we get overwhelmed, we usually take a break.  Even if it is a few days off, being able to shut our minds off of the business almost always sparks new ideas and inspiration for us! When we take a step back, a flood of ideas just pours in. And the good thing about being a partnership is that when one of us needs a break, the other one steps in and takes over!

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Jen + Mel: Hiring out has been the BEST decision we have ever made – ex. hiring a graphic designer, photographer, shipping assistants, seamstresses, and even a virtual assistant.  There is no way we could do it all on our own. Scratch that; we can do it all on our own, but it wouldn’t be at the quality we want it to be! We could make our own logo…but is it going to look as good as a professional graphic designer? No!

By giving up control in a few areas, it opened us up to be able to look at the bigger picture. Our brains have a hard time shutting off when it comes to our business; it is a passion for us. But being able to delegate a few things help us to better our business and prevent burnout.

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Jen + Mel: We pick different charities to donate to, but there are two that we just love.  One is a local pregnancy center that helps out newly pregnant women during their pregnancies.  We also love Midwives of Haiti, which trains women in Haiti who go around to different villages to give proper care to pregnant and postpartum women.

 

The Vintage Honey Shop

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Jen + Mel: Our phones, Netflix and lots and lots of coffee! You might think we’re joking, but it is true. The majority of our business is conducted on our phones, which gives us mobility and flexibility. Netflix keeps us entertained as we sew, ship and hand-make the tags that go onto every order. And coffee…well, that is a no-brainer for any entrepreneur – especially one who is raising  little kids at the same time!

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Jen + Mel: Oh boy, this is would be mystery for us. Every so often, we say, “Wow…would you imagine us being where we are now a year ago?”  We hope that we find ourselves still happy, inspired, and growing!

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Jen + Mel: We constantly have worship music blaring on our Pandora music stations as we work. It brings a calming and inspiring atmosphere to our workspaces.

 

The Vintage Honey Shop

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Jen + Mel: Chocolate!  We keep little chocolates in dishes next to our desks; it fuels us.

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Jen + Mel: “Good, better, best…never let it rest, until good turns to better, and better turns to best!” We are not sure who originally quoted this, but we grew up hearing our Pastor saying this all of the time, and it helps keep us always make our business the best it can be.

 

Thank you, Jen + Mel, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for The Vintage Honey Shop. We’re cheering you on…

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!