Undoubtedly, the most important reason you started a jewelry based business was to share your special skills, passion, ideas, creations, and knowledge. It is rarely because you think you are going to make a fortune and become a major player in the fashion world—it’s about passion. Therefore your product—be it a skill or a physical jewelry piece—is the central focus of your business.
To run a business that sells a product or offers a service, you must first carefully and thoughtfully define what it is you are selling. So before we go any further, answer these questions (for simplicity I am going to use the word “product,” which includes services as well):
- What is your product?
- How would you describe your product in 25 words or less?
- Are there people out there willing to pay for it?
- What makes your product different and distinct from someone else’s?
- Are there other products out there that are similar? Describe them.
Many makers don’t like the term “product,” but I use it for a specific reason. If you are going to make a living at your craft, then you need to have a product to sell to the ultimate customer or retailer. Of course, there are some makers who can build a business based solely on one-of-a-kind pieces, but those are more the exception than the rule. The vast majority of jewelers have to make pieces they can reproduce at least on a limited basis if they are going to run a successful business. To that end, I like to use the word “product” as it clearly defines a body of work as being thoughtfully designed for a specific customer demographic and set of criteria.
When most people decide to start a jewelry business, it is to follow a dream, to do something they have always wanted to do, a means of self-expression. But it doesn’t take long in the journey before they start to realize that, in order to make wonderful one-of-a-kind art pieces, they either need to have a product line to support the one-of-a-kinds or get a job and make jewelry as a sideline.
I offer up the idea that it is just as creative to design a pair of earrings that come in at a certain price-point, are well-engineered to sit on the ear, have good proportions, will appeal to the buying public, and adhere to the designer’s personal artistic sense (vision, style and brand), as it is to make something without limitations or boundaries.
So what does your product say about you and your business?
I ask each of my clients to come up with at least 15−20 words to describe a body or collection of work. The words should be colorful, tell a story, have a strong impact, and accurately define what you are making. These same words can then be used again and again for press releases, on marketing materials, on your website and social media and when you are talking with customers. By collecting these words, you reinforce the concept behind the work and keep the collections consistent and recognizable in your own mind.
Your goal is to produce work that is cohesive and identifiable. Think about well-known artists and designers—when their names are spoken, you immediately visualize what their work looks like. Think: Van Gogh, Frank Lloyd Wright, David Yurman, Fabergé, Bob Dylan, Calder, Henry Moore, Matisse, Grandma Moses. Each of these names brings to mind a style unique to that artist. That is what I would like to have you do with your product. Be cohesive, consistent, and create work in your own distinctive style.
Each individual customer, retailer, buyer, and editor wants to be able to share the story behind your work, and you need to give them the tools to do so. By creating a cohesive product and colorful, meaningful words to describe it, you are making it easy for others to participate in your business no matter how passively.
Think product. Design product. Define product.