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Starting a jewelry business

Think twice! But do it if it's really your dream.

More than two years ago, Kaytee of Simplexities had some very wise advice to share. At the time, she gave me permission to repost her list on another blog, which has since gone defunct. (See, not only jewelry businesses, but also jewelry blogs are a tough business!) The advice is timeless, so here it is for those who are thinking about launching your own jewelry business this year:
1. LOTS of people have “just started making jewelry” and are pretty good at it and after a few weeks, want to start selling. They have dreams of making it into a dream career, spending their days making beautiful jewelry, and the world beating a path to their door to buy it. It ain’t happening.

2. There are LOTS of long established beaders, doing excellent, prize winning work who are not selling enough jewelry to make it a career– many of them suppliment their “day jobs” with teaching, putting together kits and/or patterns of their MARKETABLE pieces, not with selling those pieces. And, they are “hustling” to get those teaching contracts and selling the kits. Or they went to selling beads and/or other beading supplies.

3. The market is saturated with nice, everyday type jewelry. With Swarovski crystals, Bali silver, gemstone beads…. Lots of competition at every craft fair and church bazaar… lots of people attempting to put together home shows… selling at boutiques, beauty salons and wherever else they can. China noticed the trend– WalMart and Target and the dollar stores are also now your competition. And, remember point 1– lots of the people who would have been your market, are now making their own items, or their mom/sister/best friend is, even if they are not selling. If you make back your materials costs and fees, you’ll be doing pretty good.

4. If you want a career in any sort self-employed endeavor– study up on BUSINESS. Usually, there are small business classes at local adult ed centers, community colleges, and/or through the SBA. Learn a bit of accounting– at least enough to put together what your tax advisor needs. And yes, you should have a tax advisor who is experienced with preparing home/small business forms. Determine your market and write a business plan. Find or make an inventory program (JDM or similar, or even just Excel) that works for you to keep track of things– and an accounting program–Quicken will do for a start. Be prepared to spend as much or more time attending to the “business” as in making the jewelry.

5. Find out what you need in terms of permits, licenses, insurance… sales tax collection… zoning laws…. These vary community to community.

6. Do you have enough room at home or do you need to rent studio/storage space? When I go to shows, I can carry the jewelry in one “little” bag… but the displays fill up my Matrix, with the back seat folded down. They, and the beads, take up a lot of room at home, too. Hubby is constantly complaining about it.

7. Do you have the time and financial support to pursue a business start-up? It generally takes a couple of years for a new business to just break even– how are you going to feed yourself in the meantime? How much can you invest out of your own funds? Can you qualify for a SBA or similar loan? They generally won’t loan to “home businesses”.

8. If you are going to have a website… even just a photo hosting site album… make sure you spell-check.
If you are not daunted by Kaytee’s list, then good! You might want to think about taking Tammy Powley’s Jewelry Business Crash Course, a free e-course designed to walk you through the process. Another great resource you should take a look at is Nicolette Tallmadge's podcast How to choose an online art website service if you decide to let Etsy or someone else host it for you.

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ClickNCamera said…
I'm still thinking about selling my jewelry but it is a scary prospect, even when you don't intend to support yourself with this venture. I'm going to checkout the links now...thank you for all the information offered and thoughts to consider! Enjoy your day!
Cyndi L said…
Start with the most inexpensive services options that you can find, and see how it goes! It *is* scary, but can definitely be very rewarding too :-) You've been working on lots of different cool techniques, so I think you could successfully sell some of your designs.
Pepita said…
Jewelry business is just like any other business, you have to think it through from a business perspective. As a business and marketing strategist it sometimes amazes me to see how uninformed and unprepared people are when they start a business. And sometimes being rational and working facts and figures based, is hard for creative right brain people.

Also I wonder when can one call oneself a jewelry designer. I see people making beautiful (new) configurations of beads on a thread. But does that a jewelry designer make?
Kaytee certainly tells it like it is.
I had my fling with selling my own jewelry and did fine but, as Kaytee points out, there's a ton of competition in that niche.

So I diversified.

If selling your own jewelry is your dream, give it a go but stay flexible. You never know where it will take you ;-)
Paul said…
I started out with basic stringing, but I quickly realized that almost anyone can do that. I work in wire and gemstones, and I've not seen many artists around me (yet) who do that. Then again, how far away is "around me" when you include the internet options?

Most of my sales come from family, friends, colleagues and the commissions they request, or the local shows I attend. Every one of the last four shows had multiple jewelry vendors. You really need something specific to be your niche, and other stuff you can do on the side to supplement.
LissC said…
very sweet piece!