Words of Wisdom?
I was asked by one of my FACEBOOK friends to write an article for HIS readers in London,England.About what? I asked."Career advice and how hard it is." Wow...well...... I certainly don't feel that I am anyone to be giving advice. I have a voice, and I speak as truthfully as I know how, but to give advice would feel like I know something that others don't.... and that isn't true. So I thought that I would at least do as asked, in writing to speak of what I have experienced, and what I have seen through those experiences to be what is coming , or what MAY be coming when one chooses to be an entrepreneur and follow a rocky path; a rocky path with a few boulders thrown in! When I graduated from business school in 2004, like all graduates, we felt like we could conquer the world! Our group especially- we were graduating from one of the top entrepreneurship programs in the world, which meant that our ethnically diverse group of 36, truly saw the world as their oyster, even though most, like myself, were going to stay stateside to get started.But even within that small elite group of 36 graduates, we all sort of knew who had something special be it smarts, talent, drive or charisma; and we all assumed that those ones would make it. I can say, that I was amongst that group, and in addition to that, had a true sense that I was doing what I was supposed to do- that I passionately believed in following my dreams. What I did not have was the support of my parents.My fiends were my support team. I went to a girl's private school for elementary and high school and was fortunate to be very well educated and a pretty bright student. I was elected several times to student government all the way from grade school through high school( a big honor, and a big advantage when you were learning from an older peer group as well as working closely with the teachers and nuns all the time)So , I was the "good child," the one that never got into trouble, read a lot, was very thoughtful and saw things that many adults didn't.I was always seeing..."observing."But high school got a lot more fun and I was able to be both popular and respected.I was 'cool':)Being in a school that had such rigorous academics, and being such a good student, meant that things were expected of you...I was supposed to be a 'lawyer', PHD, architect or SOMETHING that proved I was smart to the world. Creativity was not endorsed, and especially not at home where that was unfamiliar to my educated, but quite Greek parents who saw such careers as unstable and a n unacceptable choice.Marriage was better than that. SO I started my business with very limited resources and lots of plans as well as dreams. I knew that setting up my business as a company was a priority, so that got paid for; that registering my logo " owning "my brand", was a priority, and that keeping my overhead as low as possible to get through the first tough years was an indisputable fact.And Tucson was going to keep my overhead as low as I could go without going south of the border!So I hunkered down and found a warehouse that would rent me a room for 150 dollars a month, and that's where I stayed for the first two years, and those first two years were spent almost constantly on a plane, making my mark, building relationships, selling jewelry, meeting clients and understanding the retail world and the jewelry world from the ground up.I was working almost exclusively with SAKS and learnt so much from the other design houses such as Roberto Coin, Damiani, Graff,Cartier...these were great and generous teachers as were many of the SAKS jewelry managers. Some were not so great, but the majority were, and all of that began with a small collection of about 30 pieces of jewelry, built one by one when I got started as I could afford them. By the third year, I was carrying about 80 pieces of inventory at any given time, and that is still not a lot in this business.I learned about being safe, insurance, retail relationships, sales relationships, creating my marketing strategy and always knew that the photography was a necessary and important investment. I needed a record of my creations, I needed to be front and center for my brand, and if I wanted to reach the world outside of Tucson...those images were going to share my brand with the world and specifically, buyers, clients, retailers and editors.I learned to deal with megalomania, cronyism, unfairness, sexual harassment and sexism up the WAZOO as well as making friendships and creating a professional support system that is still an integral part of my world. Now, today, people still constantly say that I should be in New York, Paris...even Las Vegas has been suggested, Dallas...but honestly... as long as I can get on a plane and go and do what I need to do...I never saw that rational. With the amount of time people spend traveling and with the internet..it seems less and less relevant to have to "BE" somewhere, unless I want to be there, and to me, the cost and quality of life will always be an important part of the equation . What was hard, what is hard, is that I always stood out. Now most would see that as a positive thing...but most people are most comfortable with what's familiar.Think about it...even you, will tend to go towards a label, a name that you know, and even if it's not as good, will buy it because you 'know it'. Which is where advertising and celebrity endorsements come into play. Millions are spent on these endorsements, so the people will start to buy a product or brand.Awards help within an industry to create brand recognition, and I went after and won those from the get go...but the industry doesn't help with name recognition to the consumer.That takes enormous amounts of money. Social media erupted around 2008, but nobody has seen a proven connection between social media and sales - that I know of anyway.So...in terms of buying /building, market share...it is a quagmire right now. Nothing is'the sure thing'.People don't believe in editorial, they believe in word of mouth and bloggers. People don't trust advertising, they watch social media. It is QUICKSAND under your feet...that's how fast it's changing every day. I can't say HOW many retailers want the product on 'memo', which mean that the product is given to them to sell... and I am paid when the product is sold. Now, I went to business school and I wasn't raised in the jewelry world, so when people told me that I was expected to GIVE them my jewelry and hope that they would pay me when it sold seemed ludicrous. And people would be adamant, SERIOUS that I had to do this to survive. A TOTAL trust system.AND I would reply with , "ARE YOU CRAZY?"!!!! You want me to GIVE stores thousands of dollars of my jewelry on TRUST that they will pay me when it sells? ARE YOU CRAZY?!!"And people would look at me like I was the crazy one...because that's what they expected from me.So I did trunk shows. I sold the product. The product was with me, was MINE and sold when I sold it. Which worked out fin,and that way I got to know all of my customers. But there is only sooo much of me to get around, so you can see where this would start to get difficult. So I designed a new division, and then another one that were not expected to be 'memoed"...the silver and The Silk Road. If they wanted it, they had to pay for it.Period.Place an order and wait for your delivery of beautiful jewelry. There are so many WAR stories...about the sexual harassment... and from both men and women, so many stories of arriving in a city with no sense of where I was( remember GPS wasn't prevalent when I started in 2005)fighting with unfair managers, and yes, "family", entitled clients and fighting just plain exhaustion and the loneliness everyones knows comes with the travel. But here are the great stories of looking out the window of the Place Vendome in Paris, knowing that you deserve and have earned the right to be there...amongst the best...in five years; of meeting some really great and important people who are gracious and self effacing who respect me and my work, whom I would NEVER have met without taking this chance on being all that I can be and following my dream.Of fighting for my rights... and winning...;of friends and family who unconditionally support and cheer me on...that have always believe and still believe that I was meant to do great things and who are my cheering squad.Of the MANY, many people who have connected with my life...great, generous, supportive and kind people...who love my work and see me in my work... and who I have been privileged to meet in real life after a connection on the internet. Which is where many, many, of you met me too. Miraculous.