Keeping Your Jewelry and Beading Business Up When Things Are Down

Jewelry-Making and beading business expert, Viki LareauMany contributors to Beadwork are also small business owners, such as Kim West, owner of Stony Creek Bead, whose design Pip Petal Pendant (pictured above) appears in our April/May 2017 issue. Owning your own business, featuring your own art is appealing. However, it also takes a lot of work. Bead and business expert, Viki Lareau, gives her advice to small business owners who maybe aren’t sure what they need to do to keep their business going.

The bead business has seen its ups and downs over the years. Regardless of the economy, regardless of what others are experiencing, those things need have no bearing on your business whatsoever–except to give you a kick in the pants to make sure you’re doing everything you can to make success possible.

Like what? Whether you own a store or sell your own designer jewelry, you want to make sure you’re offering people what they want, not just the same old products or designs that are convenient for you to provide. Are you constantly working with your suppliers to get exclusive items and/or better prices? Looking at trends far enough in advance to have the right products or styles when they’re hot? Are you putting the effort into your promotional materials, whether it’s signage for your booth at a show or a display in your store? Prices high enough? Too low implies something is wrong with your product— if it were really of good-quality workmanship and materials, why would it be so cheap? Consumer spending on luxury items is up and has been increasing for a while, which means that undercutting prices on high-quality jewelry and supplies is a losing proposition for you.

Beaded jewelry designs by Jess Italia Lincoln of Vintaj.

Jess Lincoln, owner of Vintaj, is one of many small business owners who often submit their new jewelry designs and products to feature in Beadwork.

Your sense of possibility is key. Nothing will bring your business down faster than you thinking that it’s going down, so that you substitute worry for action. Read inspiring books by successful people and see how you can apply their strategies to your business. Don’t listen to the complainers. This is your business, not theirs. Your job is to focus on bringing beauty to the world through your beads or jewelry— what an awesome privilege! Every day that you do that, you fulfill your mission and yourself—and that’s what will fill your bank account!

Q: I understand from your previous columns how to figure out my wholesale by doubling my labor and materials. But how much do I pay myself to figure out the labor cost? Thanks!—Lindsay S.
A: Pricing is a subject we’ll regularly discuss in this column, because it’s just about everyone’s biggest challenge when starting. Most artists I know start themselves out at around $20/hour. I’m not sure where this figure came from; it simply seems to be the going rate to start. Understand this is just a rate to help you figure out the price of your jewelry, not what you’ll actually pay yourself.

As artists, especially in the beginning, we really want to reinvest as much money in the business as possible and only take out “bonuses” or “management draw” as needed to live. A regular paycheck is the goal. However, it takes a while to get there. Good luck!—VL

Kristina Hahn Eleniak designed these earrings to match her necklace. Her beading business is diverse with sales, teaching and publishing.

This set created by Kristina Hahn Eleniak features earrings, which are bold enough to stand by themselves, but also matches the finish of the necklace.

Q: I’m making my first jewelry to sell. The problem I’m having is that most of my pieces are one-of-a-kind necklaces. How important is it to have matching earrings or bracelets? What is your feeling about sets? Help!—Chelsea H.
A: Great question! Don’t sell in sets. Do have several earrings that will go with particular colorways. “Matchy-matchy” is outdated. Plus, you can sell pieces for more individually than you can as a set. Better to have earrings and a few bracelets that will work with your other pieces for easy add-on sales!—VL

This article was originally published in the October/November 2007 issue of Beadworkmagazine.

Viki Lareau is the author of Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry: The Complete Guide to Turning Your Passion into Profit . She has also taught business and beading classes nationwide.

For more advice from experts in the jewelry business, visit the Interweave Store.


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