Categorized | Shoestring Startup

jYOUlry… Where the jewel is YOU!

Company name: jYOUlry

http://www.jyoulry.com

Date started: March 2011

I started this company out of boredom, in a manner of speaking. I am an interior designer by profession and ran my own firm for 6 years, before the economy went downhill in 2008. At that point, my family and I relocated to Panama (where my husband is from). My Spanish was very “rough”, to say the least, so I was not comfortable speaking with people and/or clients. To be honest, I was a little depressed moving so far from my friends and family. I was not inspired to design anymore, so I became a SAHM and took care of my 2 kids. A year and a half into my “early retirement”, I was yearning for something to do. I needed a creative outlet, since I was no longer designing. During this time I had another child and wanted to update a photo necklace I had of my twins, to include my new baby. I contacted the woman I had bought it from, but she wasn’t making them anymore. Because I thought they were such a unique and wonderful idea, and loved mine so much, I decided to try and make a new one by myself. I got on the internet and started doing some research. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was the beginning of my new business venture…

I discovered a real gap in the photo jewelry business, and decided this was something fun and creative I could do, and at the same time, make some money. The real perk for me at the time, was the fact that I could do and sell it on the internet – thus avoiding having to improve my Spanish skills. I started-out by purchasing a few items, and selling them on a craft website called Etsy (think of it as a more elegant Ebay only for handmade items). Etsy is set up in a way that makes starting an online store easy and practically free. Over half a million buyers shop on Etsy; All they have to do is search for your types of items to find and purchase from you -no SEO tricks here – it is like having prime retail space in a busy mall vs. a small shop on a side street where no one knows to find you. With this tool, I created my first online selling venue. By participating in the forums (message boards), I was able to get business tips and advice about my shop, marketing, and much needed exposure. Many artists were eager to feature fellow artisans on their blogs, and I was eager to take advantage. By networking and “meeting” people, I was featured in over 20 blogs in a matter of a few months. Once I knew I had a business worth growing, I solicited a graphic designer to help me create a logo and small business package, cards, labels, etc. via my facebook business page. The only compensation I offered was a piece of my jewelry in return for his/her services. I found an amazing designer, excited for the opportunity to build her portfolio… as well as score some free jewelry. I now keep her on retainer to manage my website and miscellaneous artwork throughout the year. A website called Vistaprint.com has been a godsend for my business as well. I have used them for over 8 years (including with my previous business). At Vistaprint you can have all of your business cards, stationary, banners, flyers, postcards, thank you cards, stamps, pens, etc… printed for great prices. They always have offers for free items, for example 250 pre-designed business cards. I have printed numerous items with them over the years including flyers and Thank You notes. They also have a design staff to design custom logos and matching material, as well as your website. I use my own graphic designer, upload the designs right to them and place my order.

After a few months into my new career, I was still missing something. I missed the thrill of design. I decided to design my own line of custom photo jewelry. My plan was to wear my own designs as marketing, but I quickly grew bored with simple pieces. I wanted to offer trendy and fashionable designs that women would want to wear. I found a jeweler in New York, willing to work with me on turning my sketches into sterling silver pieces of jewelry. This was my first large purchase. Until then, I had for the most part, been purchasing more and more products with the money from the pieces I sold. Needless to say, I did use my credit card plenty of times to purchase some products.

As far as advertising the business goes, there are numerous free venues I have been able to take advantage of, in addition to being featured on artisan blogs. Giveaways and promotions on other websites are great publicity. For the cost of providing one of your products for free, the website or blog host promotes you and your product continuously, often times, weeks prior to the giveaway. I eventually created my own website (WIX.com offers a FREE flash- based website) and when I upgraded to a premium account, I received free advertising credit on Google and Facebook. I actively use my twitter account (www.twitter.com/jyoulry) and Facebook business page (www.facebook.com/jyoulry) to socialize, network and connect with other artists, sellers and potential buyers. Another free service I use is Google analytics. This is an enormously valuable tool used to track usage of my websites. I can view reports of each of my online shops and quickly see how many people visited my site and how many were unique visitors. I can even track which key words brought them in.

It takes a lot of time to do it all, so I spend more time networking and promoting my business than actually creating jewelry; but it pays off. I’ve learned to be very careful with print advertising, as it is very passive and there is no concrete way to track any views. Recently, I discovered a site called HARO (Help A Reporter Out). It is a free resource that has offered me a more valuable approach to direct marketing with its weekly gift bag requests. By participating in selected gift bag offers, I am getting my products directly into consumer’s hands. It is much more cost effective to donate products, even hundreds of products, than it is to run one small ad in a local magazine. With the gift bags, I can also choose in which offers to participate in, so I can target the right audience. Another free and creative form of advertising I do a lot is cross-marketing. I have a networking team I created almost 2 years ago, in which we find creative ways to cross promote our items. It is a fun and rewarding way to do business, especially if you are a small business. The team is called The Cross Marketing Gurus, and membership is open to any shop owner committed to cross-promoting with other team members (http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/crossmarketing/, http://crossmarketingguru.blogspot.com/).

Last Christmas, I closed the store and went on vacation for a few weeks with my family. I checked out a few business books at my local library and one of those books has made the biggest individual impact on the way I run my business. It is called: “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless: How to Make Them Love You, Keep Coming Back, and Tell Everyone They Know” by Jeffrey H. Gitomer. Earning Customer Loyalty is now my number one goal. And I have to say, its working! Since reading the book a few months ago, I have already had a few repeat customers. The new customers I have are no longer just satisfied; they are thrilled, and have even emailed me just to let me know they’ve told friends about me! I answer customer emails as quickly as possible, about 18 hours a day. All customer inquiries come directly to my blackberry via email and in most cases; I can answer them almost immediately. The moment a customer hits “send” on his/her e-mail to ask you a question; they are already off checking out the competition. The faster I get them the reply they need, the sooner I get them out of that other shop and back into mine.

Currently, with just over a year under our belt, jYOUlry has grown to three product categories including beYOUtiful (for her), mascYOUline (for him) and YOUnique (accessories & gifts). A new category, nuptYOUals (for weddings) is currently in the design stages, we are hoping for it to be unveiled on the website this summer. We are also planning to introduce a few designs for our new gradYOUation & edYOUcation (gifts for teachers and the graduate) category by the end of the spring in time for the end of the school year!

Although I would love the business fairy to swoop down and bring me lots of wealthy investors to finance my businesses growth, I don’t think I would want to sell the company altogether. It might be fun to get acquired by a large jewelry chain who would finance my designs and sell them in their stores – as long as I were still the one designing my collections.

My goal is for jYOUlry to become brand-name jewelry that customers look for in stores. I want it to represent love, beauty and commitment. Each piece is filled with the love of each customer’s own memory (photo), the beauty of uniquely designed jewelry, and the commitment I have to strive in providing each customer with quality products at reasonable prices, and a personalized customer service experience.

I believe you shouldn’t keep your most valuable jewels locked away. Take them out and wear them! Show off those memories! jYOUlry, Where the jewel is YOU!

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One Response to “jYOUlry… Where the jewel is YOU!”

  1. Ann says:

    Great article. I liked seeing how you progressed in your business. I’m also going to check out the book you mentioned.

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