Just in case you missed the big event, the Colorado Women’s Jewelry Association hosted a Meet the Designer event with our very own Abby Sparks, the founder and Director of Designs at Abby Sparks Jewelry. Not only is Abby a creative jewelry designer, but she’s also a savvy business woman! She dropped many truth bombs and small business advice during the Q&A. Here are some of the highlights: 10 Small Business Tips from Abby Sparks.
1. You won’t know what you’re doing when you first start,
but you’ll figure it out.
“2013 started with ‘Hey I want to do this’ but I didn’t know what I was doing. You won’t know what you’re doing. You have to just get into it and make a lot of mistakes. Build a website which you then realize has no optimization, or has terrible imagery, or you don’t renew your website and it goes away. For probably two years I figured out just how do I have a business. What helped me the most the first year and a half was just kind of floundered, I’m not gonna lie. Figuring out suppliers, vendors, really honing in on production. Things like figuring out how to do your accounting and your bookkeeping, and what taxes look like.”
2. You should talk about money.
“I figured out what it was that I really wanted to make money at. A lot of people that are designers and artists don’t like to talk about money but I think you should talk about money because if you don’t talk about money, you won’t have a business. I did start this as a hobby and the difference between having a hobby now is that we actually make money.”
3. Take a risk and hire people.
“What to me, in the last 18 months, that turned my business into one that is financially thriving were a few things. One, is hiring people. I had to take a big risk in hiring people full time because I needed the help. I didn’t necessary have enough cash flow to be able to afford full time people, but I had to take the risk and let go of control to where I had to be okay with letting people guide it and do the work. To build anything, you’ve all heard this, it takes people. I have my team now where even a year and a half ago it was just me. But that’s not sustainable and a lot of people that start doing business, they do everything on their own. You work 20 hours a week and you don’t sleep and you are wearing every single hat. But what became clear to me is that I can’t do the things that I do best if I’m doing everything all the time. So I had to start reaching out and hiring a bookkeeper even though I couldn’t afford it and hiring a full time operations manager. I also have a one and a half year old. I was pregnant and I’m like ‘This is not working’ and ‘I’m not doing my best here.’ My son was actually instrumental in getting me to put more skin in the game. I had to say ‘Am I confident in this?’, ‘Do I believe in myself?’ And I did but it’s hard when you ask,’ Do I believe in myself enough to put myself in even more debt?’ That’s that fine line.”
4. Having a team is huge.
“Even Stephie, Rachel, Maddie, Katie (the Abby Sparks Jewelry team), they can even vouch for the fact that having a team is huge. It’s having five people in a room to where they’re really trying to help you and help everybody navigate these business problems essentially or even communication problems, stone sourcing problems, production problems, etc. Having more brain power, for me, is working. I had to take the risk. I had to take the leap but it worked.”
5. Take a business lens.
“I’d say the other really huge thing, for me, is taking a business lens and really looking from a business perspective. I came up with a collection and it didn’t sell, to be honest. Just the finances behind it, not to mention the time. Also I would be competing with thousands of other designers for editors’ eyes and the consumers’ lens. So I don’t do a collection anymore, I don’t make any pieces unless it’s for me. So I had to figure out what is selling and where is that demand.”
6. Find what you’re good at and own it.
“Really where I have grown is really honing in on custom and owning it in a sense that I’m not trying to produce a bunch of pieces or keep up with collections because it’s really hard. Really where my demand is is in that custom realm where you’re doing custom and you had a client. You have proven the demand. You’re not gonna make something unless that demand is there and the cash is there.”
7. Research the market.
“The big thing that I think that has been helping is that knowing market research, everyone is online. It’s the first thing they do whether we like it or not. They don’t necessarily go to stores. They’re shopping online and they’re getting educated on what they want before they go buy it. They’ll shop around till they find, at the price point they want, the value they want, or at the craftsmanship they want, or the experience they want. They’ll then go in and actually starting to put time in. If they’re only shopping online then you’re website has to be great. The bricks and mortar shops are not doing so well in jewelry because people aren’t shopping them.”
8: Get help from people who have done it.
“Make sure you have people on your team because it’s gonna take so much time and so much money for you to open those doors. This industry is very small, especially for females, so it’s easier to get in the door with people. Women that have tried it and done it, who know the people you need to know in the industry, even if it’s just from a marketing standpoint, try to be in that place. It might be hard to afford their services but I wish I would have done that the first two years, just ponied up the money to really get the people who I needed in my group. You need people that know that they’re doing when you don’t know what you’re doing.”
9. Take advantage of friends and family support and
pay attention to what goes on with them.
“Friends of friends and family. I went to University of Denver for my MBA and my first five clients were all my friends and people I went to school with and people they knew. I really tried to pay attention to what was going on with these first five clients and what I should extract and duplicate. And again, to be able to be really in tune with what that demand was.”
10. Not everyone is going to be a fit for your business.
“I’ll tell clients if you’re price shopping, or you’re trying to figure out where to go, I don’t compete on price. If you’re looking for a great value and you don’t value experience, you don’t value unique design, and you don’t value really high grade alloy, casting, and setting, then I’ll tell clients you don’t need me. I’d say nine times out of ten, they come back for something because I’ve added value to them. You have to be transparent about everything.”
Women’s Jewelry Association is a wonderful association of professional women in the jewelry, watch and related businesses. Their mission is to empower women to achieve their highest goals and we could not be more excited that there is a WJA Colorado chapter! If you are interested in joining a supportive group of women and talk jewelry, email Nan Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in working with Abby Sparks Jewelry to create one-of-a-kind custom jewelry, get started by booking an appointment at our showroom in the Lower Highlands neighborhood of Denver, CO either online or by phone at 303.957.6502.