Truth or dare survey - plus questions

All, I am very interested in this topic, wasn’t going to respond, but
feel compelled. So, once more out of the lurk - .

I have been making jewelry, off and on since 1968. (there was a
period of 12 yrs. that I did not make a single piece or cut a single
stone) My BFA in Metalsmithing and Jewelry did not seem to help a lot
in my evolution to where I am at present. ( I can make punch bowls
and teapots, but who buys 'em?) For 30 yrs. or so, I have supported
myself in the construction business. From custom home contracting to
re-modeling slums to high end custom interior trim, I have done it

Had a shop in Steamboat Springs, CO for 2 years in the mid '90’s, and
at that time, I could tell that to get truly established there it
would take at least 3 more years. For many reasons, including VERY
high overhead, that direction was dropped. In the meantime, I spent a
little over a year as the “jeweler in the fishbowl” at a mall jewelry
store. It was terrible experience! The owners were interested only in
the profit margin. They sold that jewelry that we all dread, cheap,
imported garbage. They up-graded diamonds as a matter of course.
Basically they were (are) total frauds. We did not part as friends. My
new shop opened on Oct.16 2001, yup, 35 days after 9-11. If I hadn’t
already signed a lease, I wouldn’t have opened. Needless to say
business has not been great. (as my consigners well know) Over
Christmas we sold only a small percentage of our gross out of the
cases. All the rest, was custom. It was the best quarter of the year,
but it didn’t take all that much to be the best. So, that brings me
to my questions. To all of you that have shops of your own, how long
did it take for your shops to become an income producing enterprise?
What was the economy like (locally) at that time? Did you do it on
your own or did you carry other artists work? Do you also service
wholesale clients? How do you think the current world situation will
(or has) effected your business? Do you have any other suggestions?
Thanks, Mark

Mark Thomas Ruby
SunSpirit Designs
Loveland, CO

To all of you that have shops of your own, how long did it take for
your shops to become an income producing enterprise? What was the
economy like (locally) at that time? Did you do it on your own or
did you carry other artists work? 

What a good thread…Guess I’ll jump in too, since Mark’s questions
got me going:

After working for someone else for 15 years, I couldn’t do it any
longer and took the big leap. In 1992 (ideally not a good year to be
starting a business - similar in ways to these times) I quit and with
$2000 made the garage into a workshop, sent cards with the news to
anyone I knew, joined a business leads organization and became active
in the local chamber, met customers at their homes and businesses…
started from scratch, in other words. Pushed myself (and grew) in
lots of ways I never thought I would. Because I design and create all
the jewelry I sell, I continued to take more courses along the way
(got my GG, JA bench jeweler certification, courses with Blaine Lewis
and Kate Wolf…) As it turns out, friends’ recommendations were the
most helpful way to grow the business. (Customer recommendations are
still the best advertising.)

I worked part time for my husband, whose salary kept us afloat, so
that was essential the first few years. (I was able to do the same
thing for him several years earlier.) I started very small and took
the advise of a business-savvy friend: keep the expenses low. (Others
can do it with a big loan, but that wasn’t for me.) My salary was
pitifully low for a few years, then took a step in faith and
increased it quite a bit (but still low). The business increased
every year. (Thank God!) In the fourth year, I took a deep breath,
and got a loan to buy a very small plot of land and built an
attractive but small, modest shop. (Again, taking things slowly and
keeping expenses down works for me!) Things really took off.

Last October was the 10 year mark, and although I’m not making a
huge salary, I’m comfortable and could live on it. Most of you would
probably agree that money isn’t always the biggest motivator when you
have a passion in this field. And I’ve noticed that when I donate a
piece to an orgainzation I believe in, with no intention of getting
business from it, that’s when people come in and place the largest
orders and tell the most people. This past year was a good one, and
the more I change spiritually, the people who find me are more
similar too (obviously I’m not a writer!).

Wow, it’s hard to believe I’ve tried to keep this post short. Bottom
line: it’s been a hell of a lot of hard work for a long time, but
very much worth it. And I’ve been fortunate. I think if you really
feel led in this direction, persistence is a great tool, and being
open to new ideas can help a lot.

Cindy Crounse
Refined Designs Original Fine Jewelry