Thursday, March 26, 2009
At long last! The new blog, makeundermylife.com is open for business. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this new layout.
To describe my excitement.
Though the switch has not been glitch free (far from it actually, I will elaborate on the switch from Blogger to Word Press tomorrow), the result is definitely worthwhile.
I have a huge design crush on the amazing Brooke, of Oh Brooke, who not only has an adorable blog but also does amazing web design. She took my pre-made Word Press template and turned it into the perfect home for Makeunder My Life. Kind of like a really great makeover by Candice Olsen on Divine Design. Oh yeah, and did I mention she actually has worked on HGTV shows?
So come on over to the new blog.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It’s funny how things become cool. Then uncool. And years later, cool again. Kind of like those black and neon plastic sunglasses from the 90’s. While I don’t consider Jess LC too old, I have had my first déjà vu design. These Pocket Full of Pendant necklaces now available in the limited edition line, Studio 1423, were first available in 2005 and were one of my most popular styles.
Now the coolness is available on Etsy for just $15 bucks. The necklace comes with a silver plated lobster clasp pendant on a 16″ sterling silver chain and six charms. The idea is that you can customize your necklace with the charms you feel like, switching it up as many times as you like. I recommend wearing 2-4 charms at a time and playing with size and texture. Below are the color options we have available right now. And if these puppies get hot, more combinations will be in the works!
This week’s Dressing Charlotte is about pairing the right accessories with an all-over, bold pattern or print. When I wear any one of these three items, I let the print do the talking and wear one of two basic pairs of earrings: state st. large circles, or state st. large eyes. Their large size compliments the scale of the prints, and they have no extra details to compete with the prints. I also think large hoops or other simple, clean earrings over 1″ would look great with these looks.
Scroll down to see the other outfits and earrings. (Charlotte’s only flaw is that she has no ears to model earrings.)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
If you are in school (for art or otherwiese) and need to gain experience working for a designer, please read this post before decending upon your next victim employer. This topic is very close to my heart at the moment becasue I have been indundated as of late with resumes and referrals for interns looking to get experience at a jewelry company like Jess LC. With the cloudy economic climate, I have been getting more emails regarding internships than ever. Some are great. Some are okay. Some are half-assed. Below are the attributes that will determine which category you will fall into- so take note and aim high!
Half-assed Internship Contact
- Email employer with two line email mentioning you are interested in an internship. (May or may not include resume.)
- Forget to begin the email with a proper greeting. Why will an employer care about you if you don’t care about writing their name?
- No mention about the actual employer or the company in initial email.
- Resume in a form other than a Word Doc or PDF.
Good Internship Contact
- Short email mentioning employer briefly, with proper greeting (ie: “Dear Mr. Gates:”)
- Professional looking resume (no watermarks or unicorns) with relevant work experience and complete contact information. Resumes should be exactly one page.
- Open, friendly tone in email without over using exclamation points (!!) but keeping a professional tone.
Great Internship Contact
- Professional signature block in email (with full name and phone number [no quotes please]).
- Professional email address, preferably using your name (firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t say ‘take me seriously’).
- Email doubles as a cover letter: highlights most relevant work and school experience, and also mentions why you are excited to work for that company specifically.
- Resume is one page long, in PDF form, concise, and focuses on relevant work and school experience.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Last Saturday I had at Jess LC booth at the Shop Chicago designer show. I also did the fall show last August in Millennium Park. This spring event was in Union Station. The traffic and vendors were down a slightly from last year, but thankfully we ended up doing better than in the fall!
My favorite part of these shows is meeting customers and enjoying their reactions. This show was no exception. Several wonderful ladies remembered us from the fall show and came back to say hi and buy new pieces. And a few ladies were wearing Jess LC pieces to the show, that was so cool. I took lots of pictures for you to enjoy, so peek around.
Allison, our resident sales guru is always huge help at these kinds of shows. Without her, lets just say… I can’t imagine doing these events without her. Her idea to use a bound notebook to gather emails was genius!
Dress form look familiar? Charlotte helped grab attention and sported some Studio 1423 pieces as well as Jess LC. The Addison bracelet collection was laid out on a wood tray. Soc Chic ended up finding a new home on the table a few minutes after this picture.
This is the final set up: we put the branch with Rush St. necklaces next to Charlotte and Soc Chic along the back.
Necklaces laid out by collection, State St., Elm St., and Southport pictured.
This weekend Erwin and I hosted an impromptu dinner party with out friends Pete and Kaitlyn, of eatmyblog.org. In an effort to save time and money, I challenged myself to cook the meal using ingredients I had on hand. The result was personal pizzas made with Indian naan bread and topping choices including: chicken strips, caramelized onions, homemade pesto, marinara sauce, sliced grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and shrimp.
When cruising Trader Joes last weekend on a bimonthly grocery trip, I spied the new fresh baked naan bread in the bakery section and I thought it looked a lot like pre-made pizza dough. And since I am a consistently poor pizza dough baker, the naan seemed like a way to make easy homemade pizza. The recipe is completely flexible in terms of ingedients, and the baking directions are simple.The end result was amazing - I think this might become a weekly treat.
- Naan (we used whole wheat)
- Fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
- Pesto or marinara sauce
- Veggies chopped (whatever you have on hand)
- Tomatoes, sliced
- Chicken strips, shrimp, etc.
Top naan with desired ingredients on a baking sheet (we lined our's with foil for easy clean up). Preheat oven to 400* and cook for 7-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Update: Please pardon the photo edges being cut off, I am still transitioning to Word Press, and the scale is a bit different.
Friday, March 20, 2009
This week’s exfoliation was not one of those ‘oh, but it looks so nice, why is she getting rid of it?’ kind of items. This is a ‘why has this still been sitting in her shoe organizer (of all places)?’
So here it is, an ugly, yucky cosmetics bag with some random items I probably kept for travelling but would never actually during a future trip. Unlike last week’s exfoliation, I doubt anyone will be asking me to put this on Etsy.
Have a great weekend!
Easy homemade pesto, just like mom
used to make should have made
Last night I was busy watching the Michigan basketball game with my insanely excited boyfriend, Erwin. While we watched a surprisingly well played game, I tested this easy homemade pesto recipe by Curtis Stone. The ingredients are simple (all I needed to buy was fresh basil) and preparing it took six minutes start to finish.
- 1 1/2 bunches fresh basil (about 1 1/2 cups lightly packed)
- 4 ounces toasted pine nuts
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Grind the basil, pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese with a food processor until a smooth paste forms. Slowly add 1/4 cup of olive oil, grinding until a smooth sauce forms.
After the pesto was finished, I tried a trick my friend, Chan, gave me from his childhood. Using a clean ice cube tray, I spooned dollops of pesto in to the cubes and threw the tray in the freezer. So the next time we make pasta or wilted greens I can just throw a cube of frozen pesto into the hot noodles or greens and I'm done. Buh bye, pre-made pesto!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
In the past two years she has lived in three different cities (moving every six months!)- Ann Arbor (MI), Charlotte (NC), Detroit (MI), London (UK), and Charlotte (NC). Despite her globe-trotting, hectic lifestyle, she has managed to maintain many intentions I find difficult to juggle while living in one city. Below she explains how she managed to stay focused and intentional throughout her travels.
DESIGN MY LIFE
by Laina B.
I am a Pisces, which means that inherently, I tend to make lots of plans and dream of big things, but often let my mind and schedule get cluttered with too many of them, and poof time goes by without actually DOING what I set out to do. Living my life with the intention of DOING what I plan, instead of simply PLANNING what I SHOULD do, necessitates knowing when to let go of those plans that are not feasible or will not significantly affect my happiness. This provides me with a focus on actions and activities that will ultimately lead to my lifelong happiness. I want to be an active participant in my own life! By taking a step back and examining my life, I have realized that the following dreams/plans are most important to me: eating healthy, working out regularly, cooking more/learning new recipes, saving money/budgeting, traveling, meeting new friends, keeping in contact with friends and family, and learning and trying new things on a regular basis. Below are some of the things that I have done and continue to do to make sure that I am actively participating in my life and living with intention.
The 3-4-5 Plan
In January, I moved back to the States from London. While I was living and working over there I had little time and even less motivation to stay on top of my workout routine (I worked many 60+ hour weeks, the weather sucked, and all I wanted to do was sleep, play in London or travel when not at work) and had set out to get back into it when I returned. My friend and co-worker in Detroit told me about his new year’s resolution to start bringing his lunch to work more. Initially, we were just trying to keep one another motivated, but with me working in Charlotte and him in Detroit, it wasn’t working fabulously. That is when we decided to make rules and consequences/rewards to keep ourselves on track. This resulted in what we now refer to as our 3-4-5 plan.
Our rules are simple:
3 - Bring lunch AT LEAST 3 out of every 5 work days
4 - Work out AT LEAST 4 days a week for AT LEAST 4 hours total
5 - Make a home made meal for dinner AT LEAST 5 days a week
We picked an end date for this plan of June 14th (in time for my beach week – see below!). We do not restrict what we eat, but have both chosen to primarily keep the foods simple and healthy. Our intention is to create habits that allow us to reach our goals in a healthy and realistic way without burning out. To keep one another accountable, we have made a tracker in Microsoft Excel (yes, we are both Financial Analysts….nerds) that we fill in weekly and consolidate. We each get “paid” $5 for each piece (lunch, dinner, work-out) that we meet each week. Thus, if I were to go out to lunch 3 times in one week and met the rest of the requirements, but my friend met all of the requirements, I would owe him $5 for that week. At the end of our 5 month challenge or plan, we will see who ultimately owes the other, and it will be payout time. It will also be time to see if we truly have reached our goal – creating healthy habits that not only contribute to our health, but also to our financial health (eating out is expensive!).
Grocery shopping guidelines
In order to make sure I have a multitude of healthy options, that I save money and avoid extra trips to the store, I have 3 rules for myself when grocery shopping:
1) Always start in Produce section – if I fill my cart up early with fruits and veggies, it helps me avoid buying unnecessary garbage later on.
2) Always bring a list and follow it. This allows me to stay focused and avoid temptation.
3) I have stopped going down every aisle and just focus on getting the items on my list.
I also always try to make sure to buy one or two new or different things each time. While I always need to buy my staples, buying one or two new things in place of a staple makes the food at home more exciting, encourages me to find new recipes and tempts me to go out less. In the past year, I have had the employee ringing me up comment on the healthiness of my groceries 9 out of every 10 trips, which tells me that I am on the right track! Also, my grocery costs have decreased by about $40-60 per trip since I started following these rules.
Intention to live overseas
Jess and I took a class together at Michigan’s Business school that required us to create a long-term goal that we would not be able to achieve in the semester. We had to set an action plan and start working towards reaching this goal throughout the semester and beyond. My goal was to work in the U.K. within the next 5 years.
Last April, a year after graduation, I was offered the opportunity to do a 5-6 month rotation abroad in the UK for my company. While the job ended up being less than ideal with a lot of hours and stress, I still did my best to make the most of my 5.5 months in Europe by taking numerous trips around the UK and traveling around mainland Europe – including trips Barcelona, Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, and Croatia. I did what I had planned and then some, and am very proud of reaching this goal so much earlier than I had hoped!
Connect with friends
Being happy to me means being surrounded by people I care about. One way I plan to reach this goal this year is by planning a week long beach vacation with friends from all over the country that I have met in different eras of my life. I love bringing people from different groups of my friends together and I love seeing all of them as often as I can. I have learned that happiness will usually not be brought to me on a silver platter and thus, I can’t just sit back and wait for people ask me to hang out or invite me on a trip. I need to take control of my own happiness and be the one to plan the things I want to do, the things that will make me happy.
Get involved in new activities
Similar to the last point, in moving around so much in the past 2 years, I have learned that making friends takes effort, even for someone as outgoing as myself. I love my alone time, but after a while it gets old. I like having a lot of different groups of friends and a multitude of activities to do each week. It is for this reason that I have joined clubs/groups/teams in every city I have lived in the past two years. Most recently, I joined CHOA - Charlotte Outdoor Adventure club. This week I am going indoor rock climbing with the club and also going on a 6 mile hike through the NC Mountains past numerous beautiful waterfalls. In London, I joined Meet-up.com groups which led to me joining a book club and going on the 12-mile hike through the English countryside. My first 6-month stint in Charlotte, I joined a kickball league which led to me finding a whole new group of friends that I still hang out with and actually play kickball with again now that I am back in Charlotte. Finally, when I was in Detroit I joined an adult recreational softball team and also started my own kickball team. The groups/activities above have helped me transition from college to the real world and from city to city throughout the past two years.
Learning to cook
Slowly learning to cook new things and trying new recipes weekly. This helps me reach my 5 nights of home-made meals a week and also helps me create my focused grocery shopping list!
Joined a gym
Another organization I have joined since moving to Charlotte is the YMCA. Charlotte has some of the best YMCA’s I have ever seen. I was a member when I lived down here previously, and it was the first thing on my to-do list when I moved back. By attending fitness classes regularly, I keep up on my fitness routine easily because I rarely get bored. They offer such a wide range of classes from yoga and Pilates to Cardio Funk (hip hop dancing class that leaves me feeling renewed and ecstatic after each session), Spinning, Sculpt and Kickboxing. Another plus is that many women in my office are also members. We are all constantly encouraging one another to make it to classes as often as possible. Often times going to classes in large groups. It’s a great way for us to bond, have fun and stay in shape – better than a happy hour (but not a replacement)!
Found a roommate
When I found out that I was moving back to Charlotte last November, I decided that, in order to lower my monthly bills without sacrificing the things I wanted, like location, I needed to find a roommate to live with me in what I hoped would be an affordable apartment in Uptown Charlotte (Downtown Charlotte is called Uptown, I have no idea why). Searching for a place and roommate all while living and working in the UK was not an easy feat with the time difference, working 12+hr days and traveling on weekends! However, I succeeded by using my network and Facebook. I messaged an acquaintance living in Charlotte, and found out that she was also looking for a roommate and was willing to check out the places in my absence! Now, my monthly bills are significantly lower than during my previous stint in Charlotte, my commute is shorter or equivalent, and my new place is nicer and large enough to hold both my furniture and my roommates’ furniture! On top of all of those benefits, I have started to make some new friends through my roommate.
This morning I was excited to find a package containing these two tiny cups. How adorable are they? Their petite size (about 2.75"x2.5") is charming but they might best be put to use containing something other than liquid. Any ideas?
Inspired by Blair's post yesterday on Delight by Design, I devoted this week's Dressing Charlotte to accessorizing embellished tops. When wearing a top with an off the shoulder neckline, patterned neckline, or embellishments, let those accents become the focal point for the outfit. Accessories should highlight other areas like the ears or wrist. By sticking to bracelets and earrings, the look is clean and uncluttered.
Below are some jewelry ideas that compliment the style of the tops and create balance.
small, delicate earrings. The pearls also pair nicely with the creamy fan appliques.
I like the mixed metal, which to add some depth.
the earrings simple and fresh. Since there is no print to
balance, the scale of the earrings can vary.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your business?
This is a very interesting question for me. Up until 2009, I have focused on wholesale business, which means marketing door to door at local shops, and then hiring sales reps to sell it out of the city across the Midwest and in other territories. On the wholesale side, to really take your business to the next level sales reps are often (but not always) the answer. Generally, sales reps work on commission and the good ones represent a variety of lines full-time. Asking your best friend or Aunt's babysitter to rep for you will not be lucrative, will waste your time, and could hurt the relationship- so go with a pro.
Now that I am developing my retail sales, blogging has been effective at getting the brand out there and is personally rewarding. But it also is a huge time commitment for me, and is not something I could do as frequently if I worked part-time somewhere else.
Additionally, the blogging is something that I intend to grow into a separate career, so how I evolve the blog is independent of it's ability to market Jess LC. If I was just blogging for Jess LC, the content would be much narrower and design focused.
What's your best marketing tip?
Personally, I believe marketing should be an organic part of the business (read: free in the beginning) and I prefer free PR over paid advertisements. Once a company is large enough to shoulder the expense of ads, I would stick to online ads on blogs that match your customers. But as I have mentioned, PR and retail marketing is still relatively new for Jess LC.
How were you able to find wholesale contacts? I find that when I search on the Internet I come up with thousands of results, but none that I really want (or that aren't selling junk!). Is there a good resource that you use?
I suggest starting locally. Small boutique owners are usually the buyers and work in the store all day so they are a) easy to find, and b) know what works for their store and customer. One "line" I used to have when I was schlepping my jewelry to stores in high school and even here in Chicago was, "do you have any locally designed jewelry?" I would start a conversation with the store associate for a while, drop the above line, and wait for the response. It a) lets you know whether they support many local designers or not, and b) makes them think about how important it must be to have local designers, if this nice customer is asking about it. Then you can mention that you are a local designer yourself, and ask to talk to the owner or buyer.
At this point make sure you have 4-12 pieces of jewelry with you in case the casual convo becomes an impromptu appointment. The buyer will generally know within five minutes if they are interested. As I mentioned in the Part One, consignment might be the easiest option, but know what your wholesale prices are before going in the store! No one will take you seriously if you don't have products and pricing.
As for wholesale outside your city, you can do what all good road reps do: drive city to city, setting appointments with buyers you find. Or, ask store owners you know for recommendations outside their area. And finally, sales reps and buying a trade show booth are the "big time" ways to get clients.
How do you plan to use your blog (and other networking sites) to help promote your business?
Good question! Since I have been doing the blogging thing seriously for about two months, I am still learning the ropes in terms of how to best get the name out there. But we did develop Studio 1423, our Jess LC limited edition line, on Etsy to get new customers with a lower price point and more colorful, one of a kind designs.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
I saved the best for last! I struggled with this question for a bit, having done something for 10 years, there are many points I would wish I learned something quicker. So here is the advice I would give myself at a few points in time.
Scene: Just made my first sale.
Advice: Jess, go out and take a class at a bead store to learn how to really make jewlery. You are going to be at this for a while, so know how to make stuff that won't break!
Scene: Naming my business
Advice: "Starlette Jewelry" is such a silly name! Stick to something more classic... like your name. You know... Jessica Lynne Constable...
Scene: Applying for college
Advice: You are going to love UofM but you are going to hate business school. Either a) know that you will survive, or b) don't go to business school and start your business full-time right away. Just kidding...
Scene: Second month in Chicago, first seven days without getting an order
Advice: Relax, your chest palpitations caused by the anxiety of being full-time aren't doing you any favors. And at 5:30pm on Friday you will get a huge order from an awesome store in Lincoln Square, The Dressing Room.
Last week, Amy, a great friend from college who lives in Lincoln Park, asked me to help with her room and wardrobe. After we completed most of the work, she offered to summarize and reflect on the process. Not only is her writing entertaining, but her frank perspective from "the other side of the makeunder coin" is a great addition for Makeunder My Life. Enjoy!
Painless and Productive Purging (well, minimal pain)
By Amy S.
[Lovely photo by Rachel at Heart of Light]
Monday, March 16, 2009
Below are half of the questions with their answers, the second half will post tomorrow afternoon.
I grew up in Rochester, Michigan and went to school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Having lived in the Midwest my whole life the obvious choice was Chicago for laid back people, bustling city, and Lake Michigan. I also knew I wanted to live in a city that had good public transportation.
Do you think that in the future you will need to move the operation to NY or LA as it gets bigger?
During college I interned in NYC with Macy's in Product Development. Living in New York was great for four months. But the cement scenery, constant noise, and expense wasn't for me long term. Though I have never been to LA, I imagine the weather and view is nicer, but it won't hold a candle to my love for Chicago.
So no, I plan to stay rooted in or around Chicago regardless of the business. Because Chicago's design scene is still 'up and coming' there are a lot of opportunities to get attention and great support.
What do you think is the most important step in laying the groundwork for starting a business?
The most important step in starting a part-time business is to just start selling! A lot of would-be-great-designers hold off waiting for the perfect time to begin. But there is no perfect time to begin. So why not sell a necklace today? And maybe a bracelet next week? Start with people you know and branch out, open an Etsy store, print some business cards. There is something great about an organically grown company that expands along with your business acumen. For the purposes of this blog and small designers, I do not recommend launching a line full-time on day one, but to rather grow it on the side until you have an established customer base.
Take Jess LC for example: I sold my first 5 ankle bracelets sitting next to a pool to tipsy Canadian women without even trying! Then I learned to make new pieces, sold them to friends and teachers at school, studied business in college, and nine years later, launched Jess LC full-time.
Your top 5/10 tips for a jewelry designer just starting up?
1. Define your goals. Do you want to get into a ton of stores and sell mostly wholesale? Or do you want to make one-of-a-kind pieces with higher price tags for a small group of loyal customers? Do you want to be full-time or part-time? Know your goals so you can go about achieving them as quickly as possible.
2. If you want to get in a store, offer to do consignment. This is where the store puts your pieces on display and when your pieces are bought, you get 50% of the price. If they don't sell, then you get them back. Buyers like this because they don't have to risk anything by putting your pieces in their store. It is also good for you because you get 50% of the price which (almost) never happens in wholesale. This is a good option until you have successfully sold in about 5-6 stores, then begin to work with the buyers via wholesale.
3. Don't take your own pictures. Unless you are a photographer or have taken classes, do not attempt to shoot your own pieces. Jewelry is small and reflective= very difficult. The first thing you should pay someone to do is photograph the jewelry for retail selling on Etsy or your own site.
4. Make a website. A great place to start is Etsy.com because it already has a huge following and you can upload and provide credit card charges without much work. If I was just starting up now, I would definitely have started there and moved my way to my own separate site over time. Another option is to pay someone to create your site. I suggest posting a freelance job on a local art school website to find students who will do it for less (same goes with photography, see tip #3). Or, if you are ambitious, learn how to use Dreamweaver - this is the route I took.
Learn how to make jewelry. No one taught me how to make jewelry when I started at 15 years-old, and subsequently a lot of my (ugly) pieces broke. They got better as I went along, but I would have been better off going to a jewelry/bead store and taking a class or asking questions.
6. Wear your jewelry. This sounds obvious, but tons of people I meet say they make jewelry and don't have their work to show me. If you aren't wearing/carrying some pieces, customers have no idea whether they want to buy from you. Every now and then I wear vintage jewelry but I still try to remember to wear at least one Jess LC piece, just in case.
... to be continued tomorrow!
While I was busy transferring info between blogs at Noble Tree with my amazing web guru friend, Tim, I snapped a few pictures of some awesome decorating ideas in the coffee house. Most items are free, if not easily found at your average flea market or garage sale.