Almost everyone I know wants to start a business. I LOVE THAT! Everyone has a little hobby or dream about the perfect future where they can make a very good living by doing what they like. Well… It’s not that simple. It requires a huge amount of creativity, vision, hard work and an incredible amount of “FUCK YOU, poor and unsuccessful life” attitude. I rarely involve my family in my businesses, but today I want to talk about something that inspired me and impressed me.
Maybe 3 years ago, my wife got pregnant with our son. At one point, she wasn’t able to work anymore so she had to become a stay-at-home mom. Now, what most people consider, regarding being a stay-at-home parent, is not the difficult part. Doing laundry, cleaning, cooking and raising a child is a big deal, however, millions of people are doing it so apparently it’s not that difficult. My wife is a graphic and jewelry designer and creative director. Out of the whole exhaustion and errands she had to deal with on a daily basis, she did the last thing I ever expected. She decided to start her own jewelry business.
I’m not a big fan of selling merchandise. It’s very difficult to compete with people who are manufacturing in China. I never gave her advice on how to do things in business because I truly believe that experience is a much better teacher. She started to do research and shortly after she created her first products. They were handmade crystal and gemstone bracelets.
I have to admit that in the begging I was a little skeptical about the whole thing. My experience in products is the following. You create a product; let’s say, a ‘skin care product’. You take 6 months to design, produce and have the product ready to sell. That costs a lot of money and you still didn’t put the $100, 000 starting capital for advertising. My wife… Like, what the hell did she know about products? But still, just a couple of weeks after she created her Instagram profile, the first sale came in. It blew my mind. How do you design a product today, produce it by hand next week and the third week you already have sales?? I have never experienced such a thing. If someone would’ve told me, I would have thought that person crazy.
She was taking her time designing, prototyping, asking people for opinions and creating the pieces. Simona was truly engaged with what people would wear and would buy. The whole design and creative process was like a mini adventure, but looked so smooth.
Obviously, in the beginning, she didn’t even have boxes for the pieces. She got some blank boxes, put some tissue paper, a couple of little presents for the clients, hand-wrote ‘thank you’ cards and sent them. Nobody does that! Nobody will craft your jewelry, put it in a little handmade box, add a personal handwritten note with a little present in it and ship it to you for $20! The emotion and love she put into each piece were similar to what your child would put when crafting you a present for your birthday. Only difference is that her jewelry was amazing and actually of a very good quality.
Time passed by and she started her own website. Etsy is a good to start, but if you want to grow you have to go on your own so you don’t get killed by the fees. I thought to myself that all this effort for a 20-40 dollar piece is an absolute waste of time. She didn’t think so. I agree that every detail matters, but how can you do all that when you have 30 orders. Well, apparently there is a way. As I explained above, every single detail mattered like it was the most important thing in the world. It kind of reminded me of that movie, “The Pirates of the Silicon Valley”, when Steve Jobs was arguing with Wozniak about the computer motherboards that were ugly and uneven.
Go Big or Go big by yourself
After a while, a friend of mine from California reached out with a proposal. He wanted to place a wholesale order for $2000 dollars as a test. I was super excited so I got home and I showed her his proposal. When your business is just starting and you are barely breaking even, a $2000 wholesale order sounds great. With the money, she could’ve order branded boxes with the “Cassiopeia Jewelry” logo she designed; but she said no. When I asked why not, she said something that gave me a taste of her vision; “Because nobody will ship them with the personal care and handwritten note the way I will”. Just for you to get the idea, my guy is shipping $2,000,000 worth of ALL kinds of merchandise a month. He knows what he is doing and my wife turned him down.
She piled up some money and a little after that, the official “Cassiopeia Jewelry” brand was born. Simona started promoting the business, trying to find new people to sell her jewelry in retail stores. She even designed and printed some catalogs. But she never did wholesale in a sense to sell a lot of pieces to someone without controlling shipping. If she did wholesale, she wanted to make sure she knew every single store that is going to sell her jewelry and to be in full control of the distribution. I loved that. Being in control of your brand and the distribution was the right move, especially when you are manufacturing and shipping fragile products that could be easily damaged.
I’m not going to brag about numbers, but this is what I call “running a business like in the old times”. Why is it so important to know the history of business and keep the old way as an example? Because if you know the past, you will predict the future. What I see these days is that a lot of companies are coming up with super shitty products just to make a quick dollar. They are giving it to a third party shipping services.
For a lot of products, that seems like it’s all backward; if you want to stay for the long run. Building a company requires you to be on top of every single part of it. That means you control the quality of your products and the way they are being shipped to your customers. The personal message to the customer is as important as your brand slogan. Another cliche – “you are what your product is” so you probably don’t want to be shit, but “The Shit” instead!
A quick buck is not how it was done in 1847 when Cartier first started. Back then you were either known as a talented jeweler or you were not in business. The internet gave the freedom to a lot of entrepreneurs, to be who they wanted to be. But now, the message has become important again, after the boom of trashy products in the last few years. And to be honest with you; I am not all about the money. Yes, I love making them, but I truly enjoy every single product I make. That same type of love drove Simona from being a stay-at-home mom; cleaning and cooking like everybody else, into a talented jeweler and a successful entrepreneur.
What do you think? Reply in the comments!