Tuesday, March 17, 2009

business answers: part two

Andddd we're back! Here is my second round of answers to the intelligent questions readers asked last week.

Note: this old-school Jess LC packaging is not the best marketing tool

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.

Jess LC at the Magic trade show last August

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.

Oh how it has grown.

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.

Okay, so I wasn't quite this young...

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.

Age 15
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!

Age 16
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...

Age 18
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...

Age 22
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.


  1. It's so amazing of you to share all this advice with everyone! I know that a lot of us are thinking about branching out into working for ourselves, and it's so helpful to hear from someone who is doing it.

  2. what great advice! thanks for sharing :)

  3. @ Rachel and Tina: I am glad the answers are helpful. I am thinking about making a more permanent segment with business advice for going forward. What do you think?

  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  5. Isn't it great to know that you could give such great advice to your younger self? It means you are heading in the right direction! I loved these two posts! So insightful! Thanks - hope your week is going well!

  6. Hi Jess! I remember this from the beginning! Look how far you have come! I am really enjoying reading your blog. I'm glad you're living your life with intention - remember when I used to tease you for being so POSITIVE? Keep up the good work :)

  7. @ Jill, Thanks! I actually think I might make the business advice a weekly column talking frankly about what it is actually like to live full-time off of my work. There is a lot that gets said about small business but the realities are not always easily understood.

    @ CB, Yes, you totally do! Can you believe it has still continued? If not for our conversation that fateful Sunday afternoon, I might be working for TV program or who knows what else. Thanks :)