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Startup jewelry repair business advice


#1

Hello, all -

Although I’m not giving up my day job, I am taking steps to start up
a jewelry repair business. My workshop is in my home. Rather than
have customers come to me, I will pickup and deliver their jewelry as
part of my service. (You can bet I read every post in the takein
procedures thread!)

I’m researching licensing, getting a bond and insurance. I’m
role-playing with friends and family to see where the hiccups are.
I’m writing a business plan and talking to the bank about a line of
credit. I have a traveling kit packed with all the items I think I
need for a professional takein and delivery (including magnet, gold
test kit, camera, ring sizer).

My business model is to provide service to the working people who
can’t get away during the day and have their jewelry repaired. When I
get started, it will be only two nights a week, and weekend
afternoons for pick up and delivery. How/where to advertise? If the
demand is great enough, I’ll re-evaluate my current positon.

I know there are security issues. Should I deal in cash at all, or
should everything be checks and credit cards? What kind of safe would
you recommend for securing my customers’ valuables? Any special
equipment for the takein process? I plan on having a friend to whom I
report in by phone every half hour. I’ll know the location of every
police & fire station near my route.

I already know I’m not capable of fixing everything (yet). There are
some repairs I will refuse, unless…does anyone ever take in a job
and then sub it out to another jeweler? What are the perils of doing
this? In any case, I know my current limitations, and I don’t need to
present myself as the goddess of jewelry repairs.

Pricing - should I invest in a Geller’s book? Findings & stock -
should I purchase a ‘starter kit’ of metals and findings (why buy
what I don’t need yet) or just order what’s needed for the jobs
(shipping and handling will eat up the profits)???

What have I not thought of? (OK, silly question.)

So, call me a genius or an idiot - I won’t like it but I will come
away a lot wiser and better prepared.

Thanks for all the advice,
Kelley


#2

Hi Kelley

Congrats and good luck on your new venture. Here are some of my
thoughts.

I'm researching licensing, getting a bond and insurance. 

Jewelers Mutual would be your best bet. Website heRe:
http://www.jewelersmutual.com/PersonalJewelry.aspx Phone numbers are
listed there.

I have a traveling kit packed with all the items I think I need for
a professional takein and delivery (including magnet, gold test
kit, camera, ring sizer). 

Get a traveling size printer too. Take pictures, print the receipt
and give customer a copy of both.

How/where to advertise? 

Val-Pak

I know there are security issues. Should I deal in cash at all, or
should everything be checks and credit cards? 

There’s been a thread here in the past about portable credit card
machines for trade fares. Take all 3 credit cards: Visa/MC/ American
Express. Take checks and cash too, but I’d push for credit cards
first.

What kind of safe would you recommend for securing my customers'
valuables? 

Jewelers mutual will tell you the spec’s you need, then go buy one
locally.

Any special equipment for the takein process? 

Ring mandrel, sizers, loupe, millimeter gauge. Camera, diamond
tester, acids for metal testing if needed. Nicely printed job
envelopes www.isiprint.com

I already know I'm not capable of fixing everything (yet). There
are some repairs I will refuse, unless...does anyone ever take in a
job and then sub it out to another jeweler? 

Yes, sub out. Our motto was “The only things we can’t fix is a
broken heart and the crack of dawn”

What are the perils of doing this? 

More positives than negatives and you’ll learn on the way. Remember,
the only stones that can take heat are Diamonds, faceted ruby and
faceted blue sapphire. Charge to remove & reset all other stones if
heating on or nearby.

In any case, I know my current limitations, and I don't need to
present myself as the goddess of jewelry repairs. 

Position yourself as the expert.

Pricing - should I invest in a Geller's book? 

yes, of course. EF818A Actually you want to make a living at this.
No reason to spend this time and starve. I’ve had 40 years
experience, for a few hundred bucks, get it right. Making a profit
is the most valuable tool you can carry. www.JewelerProfit.com

Findings & stock - should I purchase a 'starter kit' of metals and
findings (why buy what I don't need yet) or just order what's
needed for the jobs (shipping and handling will eat up the
profits)??? 

Shipping isn’t that expensive, order your parts as needed at first…

What have I not thought of? (OK, silly question.) 

My father sued to say "What you don’t know would fill a library.
Wear professional clothes. Get your own logo shirts to wear:

Think about taking the jewelry in at their home. What showcase or
table to use?

Get a mat of some type to lay down on their dining room table to
protect it.

Before you leave, put each individual piece of their jewelry in
individual zip lock bags. Place in the job envelope and staple it in
front of them. Repeat what we’re doing to their jewelry, count the
number of pieces that are in zip lock bags and check mark them off
of the job envelope description.

So, call me a genius or an idiot - I won't like it but I will come
away a lot wiser and better prepared. 

Ask them if there are any special events coming up in the future so
maybe you can come back and show them some jewelry to buy from you
in the future.

Check into buying customers old merchandise. Big money in this.
Check out this website: http://www.theself-sufficientjeweler.com

Send out thank you notes after delivery. Leave something for free
behind, a jar of jewelry cleaner and chocolates.

Line up with an appraiser and take that in, farm it out and make a
profit.

Good luck.
David Geller
www.JewelerProfit.com


#3

Don’t forget about insurance coverage for while you are in transit
and while it is in your possession. Also you will get better rates if
you have a security system, it will also be a good selling point.

If people are going to leave their prized possessions with you, they
must be assured that they are safe and you can be responsible with
them.


#4

By the way Kelly,

Good advise on subbing out repairs you can’t do yet. I would be glad
to help if you need. I have a wholesale repair and custom design
business and you can get my contact info. here: aristadesigns.net

Steve Cowan
ARISTA DESIGNS


#5

Your biggest problem is that you are unknown to the public. Get
around this and your idea of delivery repair might be viable. All the
advertising, bonding, etc won’t help, imho. Trust based. Few people
trust a complete stranger who’s only contact is a phone number.

I did just that between gigs once. I had a client base that was
pretty strong and still it was an uphill battle. Got me thru a rough
patch though. As a career I doubt it would have lasted.

I think a better idea is to find a cheap but busy location. Look
into a repair franchise, not particularly cheap to get into. Maybe
you could rent a small area inside a related store. A consignment
shop that carries jewelery? I mean that’s a ready clientele. I almost
approached someone I know who runs such a store, but then I found
this spot. I still get referrals from that consignment shop around
the corner. You’d have security issues sure, like will your jeweler’s
block cover you if you don’t have control of the premises? Its been
done so its surmountable. I’d at least have a separate alarm on your
safe, which Ins will probably require anyway.

BTW, get a small safe to start, something you can move for less than
the cost of a new safe. I’ve learned big safes are disposable. An 800
lb safe can be moved by one person. 2000lbs becomes an expensive
nightmare. Small safes will usually have a hole in the bottom thru
which you can bolt it to the flooring. Go into a joist or concrete,
not just into the plywood subfloor.

If you can find a way to get more customer contact where you are now
you’ll begin to develop a reputation. You can’t have ANY rep if
people don’t know you. Convincing your boss might be another matter.
I think you should try this regardless of any other plans.

I’d give some thought to whether its possible to buy out your
boss(or some other shop) at some point in the future. If its a mom
and pop shop, they sometimes like the idea of their legacy continuing
on. Owner financing, while sometimes an anchor around one’s neck, at
least gets you in the game. Been there done that. Would do it again
under the right circumstances, like if its my only shot. One day
you’re the vassal, next day you’re the lord. But you might be paying
dearly so the biz must have enough growth potential to carry the
debt AND still make a living for you.

Or, think about doing trade work. Properly handled you could have a
more reliable stream of jobs. But its tough work, retailers can be
hard to work for. Yes, you can job out difficult repairs.


#6

A couple of quick notes for you, Kelley:

How will you pre-qualify your customers? That is, make sure they are
legitimate, and not setting you up to be robbed or worse? Thieves
probably won’t know that you won’t be carrying precious items with
you. Will you only venture to well-known office buildings?

If you are listed anywhere in the telephone book or paper and online
directories, people will know what you are doing and where you do
it. It is too late to become unlisted now, the internet keeps
forever.

There are probably NO SAFES that you will be able to afford that
will meet the standards to qualify for insurance at any reasonable
rates, since they should be immobile (large & heavy), high quality
(probably TRTL 30 X 6 minimum) and protected by a professional, UL
listed security system. At least, that is what OUR insurance company
requires.

And finally, how will your boss at the day job take to you becoming
his / her competitor after you leave for the day? Sounds like a quick
way to the unemployment office.

And, yes, I HAVE been called the Devil’s Advocate before, thank you
very much! :wink:

Lee Cornelius
Vegas Jewelers


#7

Well it sort of sounds like a good idea and in my book, it would be,
if you were working with jewelry stores on this basis. But walking
into stranger’s homes to pick up jobs is just downright dangerous.
It only takes a few minutes for someone to stick a gun in your face,
walk you to your car and steal everything (all of your other
customer’s jobs) out of it. The 30 minute call in rule is fine for
making sure you’re not dead somewhere, but it doesn’t resolve the
problem of being held up. Knowing where the police stations are also
doesn’t help as most hold ups are over and done with in a few
minutes. For the same reason I strongly advise my clients against
trying to sell jewelry on the web (or on something like Craig’s
List), you just don’t want to be meeting up with strangers in
unknown places when you’re dealing with high value, easily
transportable, items. Even if you’re meeting them at work places you
have no idea what situation you’re walking into, nor do you have any
way of determining if any call is legitimate. Someone could tell you
that they work at X building but you have no way of knowing that.
When you show up at the building they already know you’re coming and
it would be incredibly easy to just hold you up in the parking lot or
wherever. If I were an insurance company, I wouldn’t write you a
policy no matter how much you wanted to pay. And if you were a member
of my family, I wouldn’t let you do this.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com


#8
Should I deal in cash at all, or should everything be checks and
credit cards? What kind of sa fe would you recommend for securing my
customers' valuables?

Kelley, Kelley, Kelley, such a lot of questions…;} I’m sure
there’ll be many answers tomorrow… A couple of thoughts…

As to the above quote - you’ll have to give terms to most people in
th e trade. That’s largely because of the bookkeeping systems, not
that they float money. Most accounts we have pay promptly when you
give a monthly statement.

The real answer to the second part is TL-30. That’s the entry le vel
safe (or TL15), and is the lightest one that generally can be wired
and insured. (Quickly - it’s the amount of time that a skilled person
ta kes to get inside the safe. there is TL, TR and X, and sometimes
it s ays “x6” meaning all six sides. TL is tool, TR is torch and X is
expl osives. So a TRTL60 safe will withstand a torch and tool attack
for a n hour. That’s a $25,000+ safe) Those aren’t cheap (look used)
and ou rs weighs 2,500 pounds. If you go less, that’s up to you…

Findings - a few melee settings and earring posts and backs. Bey ond
that, whatever you have is going to be the wrong size.

You’re going to waste a lot of time if you don’t have a routine. Try
to get a bundle of work packed up so you can just grab and run. If
you need to have meetings, every time a customer walks in you’ll get
dum ped - it can take hours…

You’ll be a courier. Carry in a brown paper bag or something equ ally
innocuous. Don’t stop, don’t get gas, don’t talk to anybody - not
even your mother. Go from pickup to safe, period. Be rud e if it
becomes necessary - you’re not a person, you’re a courier.


#9
if you were working with jewelry stores on this basis. But walking
into stranger's homes to pick up jobs is just downright dangerous. 

I ~assumed~ that the question was about doing trade work with jewelry
stores. That’s a business model that is tried and true. It never
occured to me that someone would want to go door-to-door to retail
customers. That’s just plain nuts (sorry). Aside from Daniel’s
comment above, it will cost you 2 hours to pick up and deliver a ring
sizing…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#10

Daniel’s point about safety is well taken. Locally, we just had some
hoodlums (of course, wonderful boys never been in trouble before,
yada yada yada) use cell phones to call in a pizza order to an
address they chose because it had woods next to it. They came out of
the woods when the driver showed up, and started beating him up over
a $20 pizza. He tried to get away, then kept after him, he pulled his
gun (he had the proper license) out and shot the kid beating him.
Killed him. Saved himself.

So you could have someone try the same kind of thing on you… If
you do this, I would definitely take some self defense lessons, and
talk to your local police about safety ideas.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
http://www.bethwicker.com


http://bethwicker.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#11

I totaly agree with Daniel Spirer with regards to meeting up at
their homes…

If i was dealing directly with the public i would potentially triple
my income. Maybe im a fool for not taking the risk but im currently
im happy knowing i will be recieving regular work without the
hastle!

With regards to findings, providing you have a roll mill and a small
stock of gold you should be able to deal with the most common
situations. Always keep paste solder, 1 mm wire and 3mm D shape wire
to hand. My most common basic repairs are soldering hollow chains,
re-pinning gate bracelets, adding charms and resizing and re-tipping
rings. Once ive gone blind from those jobs, i occasionally get a nice
fun job to spend time on…

All the best but proceed with caution!
Jon


#12

Hi Kelley,

For what it’s worth, I think this is sort of a risky business model.
My opinion is that if you are working out of your house,
particularly if doing gold work, very few people should know what you
do and where you do it. If you want to work for the public you’re
much safer renting space somewhere else and doing your work there. If
you must work out of your home, I would suggest doing work on a
wholesale basis for retail jewelers. They will usually understand
that your best security is maintaining a low profile and they will
help you keep it quiet. If you do decide to do work for the public
out of your house, I would only do it through referrals of people you
know (even though you are never having them come to your house). I
think that we can become desensitized to the value of the merchandise
we handle and can forget what a dangerous world it can be.

Best regards,
Mark


#13
Get a traveling size printer too. Take pictures, print the receipt
and give customer a copy of both. 

And possibly the new Polaroid insty-printer, the PoGo, if she wanted
to photograph the jewelry itself as a document.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#14
If you do this, I would definitely take some self defense lessons,
and talk to your local police about safety ideas. 

I’m going to keep going on this because I would really hate to see
any Orchid members die from anything other than old age. You can
take self defense lessons, only then you may bump into someone who
took the more advanced course. You can carry a.32, but someone will
show up carrying a …44 Magnum. You can carry the.44 Magnum, and
someone will show up with a machine gun. You can wear a bullet proof
vest and they’ll shoot you in the head. Read the paper! They stick up
armored cars with three armed guards in them! The pizza delivery
thing Beth mentions happens regularly around here. They hold up
7-11’s with the hope of walking out with $100 in cash—no matter
some 1 ct. diamond ring. Cab drivers with not much more money are
held up all the time and they’re not carrying jewelry. In the current
economic climate, crime is on the rise again. More people are out of
work and desperate (nothing worse than a desperate criminal as they
aren’t professionals usually). I’m in a store with locks on the
doors, cameras and panic buttons everywhere, have a TRTL 30 x 6 safe,
in a good relationship with the local constabulary and I’m still
paranoid about this stuff. Paranoia keeps me from making the mistakes
that could cost me dearly. If I were a police officer and you came to
me for advice (and I were a knowledgeable one) I would tell you not
to do it. All of the other stuff about the business: safes, take in
forms, insurance, printers, cameras, etc. are all moot if you’re
dead.

As has been said by others, if you want to do this with some jewelry
stores, go for it (although you still need to be intensely concerned
about the safety issue then too), but to try to do this with
individuals is just beyond the scope of safety.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com


#15

Hi Folks…

Daniel's point about safety is well taken. Locally, we just had
some hoodlums (of course, wonderful boys never been in trouble
before, yada yada yada) use cell phones to call in a pizza order to
an address they chose because it had woods next to it. They came
out of the woods when the driver showed up, and started beating him
up over a $20 pizza. 

Don’t think this kind of incident belongs on ‘America’s Wackiest
Criminals’ or something…

Had a similar incident in Milwaukee…The thugs didn’t even bother
for the money the delivery guy was carrying…It was for the
pizza…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)


#16
With regards to findings, providing you have a roll mill and a
small stock of gold you should be able to deal with the most common
situations. Always keep paste solder, 1 mm wire and 3mm D shape
wire to hand. My most common basic repairs are soldering hollow
chains, re-pinning gate bracelets, adding charms and resizing and
re-tipping rings. Once ive gone blind from those jobs, i
occasionally get a nice fun job to spend time on...... 

Jon brings out the deeper subject of what repair work is about. It’s
lucrative - it’s been paying our rent these days… I wouldn’t even
think about doing it seriously without a rolling mill - every job
requires different, and often odd, stock. And Jon is right - only
occasionally will you need a finding. It’s mostly fixing broken
stuff, and charms, sizings and a few other things. I lately put a new
top on a signet ring to take a re-cut stone - another is to rebuild
the undergallery on a die-struck “filigree” ring… some of it is
pretty challenging, sometimes… Lots of bracelets - broken and
sizings. Somebody needs to understand bracelet linkages and also
catches. Also lots of setting missing or broken stones, and
finishing soldered setting work - rebeading and bright cutting,
engraving shanks…

The good and the bad all at the same time is that you never know what
you’ll get - more so if you’re good at it. I repaired an 18th century
ciborium for a mission, made a brass doorknob whole that was on a
cane, and last month I rethreaded the cap on a hip-flask…It’s not
always ring sizings…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#17

The security issues brought up so far are the ones that I think
about every day. “What if…What if…What if…”

For background, I was an Army helicopter pilot, instructor pilot,
IFE until 1996. I used to pick up crash victims in bad weather and
deliver them to the hospital. I used to teach people how to fly. I
used to practice real-live real-time emergency procedures every day.
I used to have up to 11 soldiers’ lives in my hands every time I made
a decision.

There are serious risks involved in the business of taking my
business to the public. I think the benefits outweigh the risks, for
me. I believe that with the proper planning and training, dangerous
activities can be conducted with minimal risk and maximal gain. (I’ve
got over 23,000 miles on my motorcycle in 4 years and no incidents.
If I’m not willing to put on the helmet, gloves, jeans, boots, jacket
and cautious attitude, then the bike doesn’t leave the garage.)

I don’t want to discourage the folks who advocate caution. Rather, I
will use their cautions as training scenarios to prepare me for the
possibilities.

I will go into business, and I will be successful, and I will be a
cautious risk-taker.

Please keep up the great suggestions!

best regards,
Kelley


#18

Kelley, Here’s the idea for your setup from Mark Benjamin: I love his
tales and cannot wait to get to New York and meet him! (Thank you
once again for making my day, Mr Benjamin)

jeanette


#19

your concerns are real on the security end.

like perhaps being set up when you go to someones house there could
be kidnapping or being followed back to your primary location for
starters. Having cameras with off site digital recording wont stop a
crime but it will provide a record of the event, and from experience
i can tell you, it was much easier to settle my claim when i was
able to include a cd of the event i had last year.

having a dual system can possibly save your life one that is hidden
away recording quietly and one located in such a way to set the
criminals at ease making them think they have gotten away with the
"tape" i used a company called security cameras direct they are in
texas.

the most important piece of evidence i was lacking was a license
plate # the crooks pulled right into my parking lot so they could go
to work at 5:30 am during the shift change for the police. so
setting up controled access points and covering them with a camera
is very important.

one must realize that for burgalers and robbers they consider
themselves "self employed " they are quite clever and are striving
for professionalism at what they do the same as you and i, the
problem with those types of self employed people is they are
criminals to you and i. in order to protect ourselves there is a
mixture of respect fear and wits which should be applied.

for example having a trained guard dog one of those really expensive
ones that cost alot of $$$ the dog will buy you time to acess your
weapon or even capture and hold or injure a criminal without the
same consequenses from a civil law suit from surviving family
members of the criminals family.

if the criminals harm the dog it will add more time to thier
sentence there is very little lieniency towards animal abuse.

in closing overreacting or to display a lack of calm in situations
where it is not needed can cost you a customer, i get alot of
comments about a dress code notice in my front window i keep my front
door locked with an electric strike, i work alone, i click them in
and i click them out before i had the lock i got dozens of comments
on how i was going to be murdered and robbed then i got the lock and
i was accused of being a racist for not letting the " mr. gangsta
saggy pants " in to waste my time.

i also get lots of compliments from the white gloved african
american curch ladies as they help them selves to complimentary
ferero roche and african american business men who frequent my shop.
bottom line is this im alive and my customers are safe and secure -
goo


#20
You can take self defense lessons, only then you may bump into
someone who took the more advanced course. You can carry a.32, but
someone will show up carrying a..44 Magnum. 

I already wrote more directly to Kelley today, but as for a more
general security, let’s have a reality check. Some people here have
$500 in their entire inventory - in five years that could well be
$5,000.

When you are a private citizen (non-jeweler) walking around, there
is some chance that you might get mugged, or assaulted, or your home
might be broken into. Self defense skills are never a bad idea, and
that’s when they might be useful.

The odds that you are going to be mugged, carrying jewelry, when
they don’t know you have it, are pretty astonomical. Meaning that it
won’t be random - you will be targeted. And they likely won’t be
schoolkids with rocks.

You’ll be walking along, some nice chap will say your shoelace is
untied, and when you look up it will be the barrel of a 9mm. Or a
UPS delivery will come, ask for a pencil, and the same thing will
happen. We have lost the actual post, but lately there was an ambush

  • the owner was driving, car pulls to the front, car pulls to the
    back, broken window, gun to head, 90 seconds. All true stories, BTW.

People have fantasies - “I’ll rock 'em, I’ll sock 'em” Like Mighty
Mouse, like Clint Eastwood… Yeah, that’s what I’ll do!!! Most
likely, what you’ll do is hand over the goods and live - in reality,
and statistically. Most of them are professional thieves, more or
less. They won’t do anything until there’s an opening, and then it
will be over in a flash…