I saw your post and was going to respond, but I thought Jo, Jamie
and John Donovan all gave pretty good answers to your question.
Evidently, you need a better explanation, so I’ll give it a go.
How does a jewellery designer get his idea from prototype stage to
a major retailer?
First, one must make the jewelry. Retail jewelers, especially the
majors are not going to buy anything without holding it in their
hands, not even from a proven designer. Once the line is created, one
must get on the road and get it into as many different hands as
possible. 1 in 10,000 might buy it if you’re lucky, and if you give
them very generous stock balancing options, payment terms, delivery
options, co-op advertising, in-case displays and a name that is
instantly recognizable by at least a quarter of the population.
Without a proven history of doing or providing those things, you
might find it tough sledding.
In a nutshell, I want someone to produce my work, market it and pay
me "royalties". See responses to my original message.
What exactly in that scenario constitutes your “work”? Not the
production, not the marketing and not the actual selling. What am I
missing? The designs? I want to write a song, get Travis Tritt to
sing it, have it go platinum and then retire on my own private island
near Aruba. You tell me how to do that and you’ll have answered your
own question. I don’t mean to sound harsh or flip, but the two are
almost exactly the same. In my experience “overnight success” usually
takes about 20 years to achieve.
Seriously, as Jo and John pointed out, there are many tradeshops
around that will be happy to do the work for you, but they will
expect to be paid with money, not just promises of future fortune and
fame. The suppliers that you (or they) will need to get the materials
from will also insist on immediate payment. Once you get the line
produced, you can find a marketing firm and/or on-the-road salesmen
to get it out there for you. They too, will insist on being paid.
None of these will share your enthusiasm enough to do their part on
spec. They will see it as work, and will expect you to treat it just
like a plumber or auto mechanic that you hire to do work for you. And
in doing it this way, you will be able to keep the “royalties” all
My proposal has two unknowns: The merit of my design and the
"royalty' expected..The merit in this case means customer
response. What is the "hook"? Will they pay for it?
That’s the $64,000 question isn’t it? The only way to know for sure
is to create it and try to sell it. If it sells wildly, you have a
great product and you will become successful; finding a manufacturer
will be the least of your problems. If it doesn’t, you have a dog and
every dime invested above scrap value is a total loss. Nobody, and I
mean nobody is going to take that risk for you. The ONLY way to find
out the answer to this is to get off your rusty dusty and make some
jewelry, get in the car and drive, stop at every jewelry store you
can find and show it to them. Or you can rent space at some of the
major trade shows (they too will expect payment, a promise of “a
piece of the action once it makes it big” doesn’t carry much weight
with anyone in any business) and hope that retailers will see the
promise of big-time growth.
The "royalty" is negotiable and could be quite small peritem sold
if volume looks promising Seems the safest arrangement for both
As a retail jeweler (I own a retail jewelry store so I’m not just
guessing about how this works), royalties are not negotiable, there
is no way I’m paying “royalties” to anyone. I will buy your jewelry
if I think it will sell. If I don’t, I won’t. Period. That’s the way
So -" merit" vs "extra cost" equals " risk". What are the
advantages to me, the retailer?. II get to "premiere" an exciting
(hopefully) new product. This keeps my catalogue interesting and
off the birdcage floor. I get a head-start on the copycats and my
clout may make them think twice. I get to hitch my brand onto this
product as "the original".
Doesn’t MCA know how popular my song is going to be? Don’t they know
how much I am going to add to their clout in the music business and
especially to their label? It won’t cost them anything over what they
are already paying to get my chart-topping tome on the radio. They
are missing a tremendous opportunity to hitch their wagon to my
rising star! (I love mixed metaphors!) Unfortunately, recording
executives don’t realize how good they might have it. They don’t seem
to be able to convince their accountants and biz whizzes that
marketing and recording a new album won’t really cost them anything
over what they are already paying out. They seem to have an
old-fashioned notion that my music must be proven before they will
get on-board with it. Moreover, they want to hear it first. The
All seems fairly compatible with capitalism as practiced on this
planet. I've never had a free lunch and I don"t expect one now, my
arrangement brings benefit to both parties.
Again I don’t mean to sound flip, but I think you may have missed an
important day or two of Capitalism 101. It sounds to me like you
are looking for a free lunch. And a nice dinner, tickets to the
show and a horse-drawn carriage ride back to the penthouse. Your
desired arrangement brings benefit to you and you alone, unless it
becomes wildly popular and you expect someone else to take all of the
financial risk against the possibility that it won’t. You seem to
think that your ideas alone are enough of an investment, somebody
else should take all the monetary risk. Sorry, it just doesn’t work
that way. Ideas are easy, implementing them is the hard part.
I fully understand that this is not an accepted practice. Perhaps
its because we under-value our ideas and talent and importance.
This is not an accepted practice because in capitalism, there is no
reward without putting an investment at risk. What are you going to
lose in your scenario if it flops? You are asking that someone else
do all of the work and assume all of the risk with you investing
nothing but an idea, not even a finished, untried and untested line.
You are putting the cart before the horse. If you want to know
whether it will work or not, you should make your own line, sell more
than you can possibly make and when retailers are burning up the
phone lines trying to talk you into selecting them to be your
exclusive representative, you can start talking about
mass-production and royalties. It doesn’t seem to me that you are
afflicted with the problem of under-valuing your ideas, talents and
importance, I think it may actually be the opposite.
The only way your are going to prove your talent and the
innovativeness of your designs to anyone other than yourself is to
make them, show them and sell them. Anything short of that is a pipe
dream. Sorry for the bad news.
I have the experience to assess the potential, calculate the
benefits, factor in the extras and take the plunge- or not..
Then do it! Don’t expect someone else to do it for you! If you wait
for someone else to recognize the opportunity of creating, marketing
and selling your ideas, and then pay you big bucks for being the
"idea man", you likely will be in for a long, long wait. People that
have the money and resources to do what you expect them to do for you
already have more ideas than they can implement. How do you think
they got there?
One of my favorite quotes, one that I live by and one that may serve
you well, David -
“Experience has taught me that there is one chief reason why some
people succeed and others fail. The difference is not one of knowing,
but of doing. The successful man is not so superior in ability as in
action. So far as success can be reduced to a formula, it consists of
this: doing what you know you should do.” - Roger Babson.