Jewelry design began at an early age for me. Most items at my disposal fell apart quickly and typically irritated my skin, so I needed to find an alternative. As a result, I mastered a craft that provided the creative outlet I craved and produced unique and high quality jewelry. It was not too long before people began to notice my craftsmanship and request custom orders for various designs. This is what I learned from those sales.
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
I started my first “business venture” creating and selling jewelry as a broke college student. As a worst case scenario I wanted to break even to continue funding my hobby, but the business failed long before starting for a few reasons:
- You get out what you put in. Starting a business takes more time, money, and effort than most people are willing to provide. This is especially true for “side” businesses which people do not necessarily require a steady income from. As a Chemistry student in college with little time for extracurricular activities, my “business” dealings constantly landed on the back burner. When your craft is no longer a priority to you, you will never find the time to execute it, or give only enough time to produce a mediocre product.
- Properly pricing products is critical. I had no desire to make profits because I simply wanted to break even to fund my hobby. For this reason, I tried selling my jewelry items at direct material cost, and not a penny less or more. Although I was aware that the jewelry was created with high quality materials, my customer base was not, and this was a direct result of my prices being so cheap. High quality items are expensive, so it is difficult to get strangers to buy products priced too low because they will assume the products are of poor quality.
- Have purpose for your business. Make a product that solves a problem, simplifies life, or brings some other purpose to someone else. The key here is that the purpose should be centered around CUSTOMERS, not the producer. Because the primary purpose of my business was to fund my hobby of jewelry making, the only items sold were custom designs by request. People were happy with my custom orders because I used high quality material to create an inexpensive piece that they already wanted. Creating a product for selfish reasons may work in the short term, but the business will not be sustainable because customers want a reason to buy something.
- Sell what people want. Successfully creating and selling any product requires extensive research, especially for luxury items in a market full of options. Market research is required to determine your target audience and properly create items that they want to buy. I purchased random beads and findings to practice making different items to expand my skill set, and the ending result was creating an in-cohesive jewelry line that no single market of people would buy. Any items that did sell failed to bring repeat customers, so the business was always at a stand still. A product line must be cohesive, have a range of products at different price points, and target a specific audience for better results.
- Be unique with moderation. As a designer, I prided myself in always being unique with my designs. Owning a piece of jewelry no one else did was a primary reason I began creating my own jewelry in the first place, and I wanted my customers to feel the same way. The problem with carrying this mentality into my business model was that it ate up time and money. I chose the online route so I also had to spend time and energy taking good photos of each piece, uploading them, pricing out each one, writing a detailed description, etc. I did not want to put much more effort into laborious tasks that failed to produce the desired results, which also contributed to my lack of enthusiasm for the business. Great products need to be unique to stand out from the crowds, but they must also be produced in a manner that considers the time required to research, purchase materials, and produce the pieces to maximize returns.