Detours in life sometimes present new opportunities. After the death of her parents, Marion Gold dabbled in jewelry design, which was a passion of her mother. A writer, marketing consultant and a published author, Marion never thought of becoming a jewelry designer. Working on the beads to create gorgeous jewelries was her way of coping with the grief, and celebrating the life of her parents.
She initially thought that jewelry design will just be her hobby. But the jewelries she created proved to be sellable, and that opened her mind to turn it into a business. She launched Moonbeams, Lilacs & Roses http://www.moonbeamsdesignerjewelry.com.
We talked with Marion about how she started her jewelry design business, and the challenges she’s currently facing.
What inspired you to start designing jewelries?
Life is a journey that takes us down many paths, both professionally and personally. It was personal loss that led me to launch Moonbeams, Lilacs & Roses and a jewelry design business.
I’m a writer and marketing consultant by trade, operating a home-based business since 1994. When my Mother passed away in September 2002, just two years following my Father’s death, I found it very hard to write. In fact, I wasn’t interested in taking on any new client projects. Mom was a talented artist as well as a homemaker. As I looked through her craft supplies and other treasures, I came across a boxof vintage jewelry and loose beads. I literally fixated on the beads – the colors and different shapes and textures. Looking through books on the history of beading, and reading craft magazines, helped me deal with the grief, and feel closer to Mom. When I found a resource for making beaded pens, it struck a cord, as Dad collected ballpoint pens. Not the expensive kind – just pens given out by banks, restaurants, shops… I used to tease him about never throwing out a ballpoint pen – and he didn’t. In our home, I also found shoe boxes filled with old ballpoint pens!
Maybe it was fate, and maybe my entrepreneurial spirit returning, but I began crafting beaded pens, and then letter openers. I thought it would be a hobby. But in 2003, with some prodding from my soul mate, I showed a couple of the products to the owner of a local art gallery and gift shop. Would she consider carrying a couple of pens in her shop? Imagine my delight when a week later, “ChiaroScuro,” a popular boutique on Chicago’s trendy North Michigan Avenue, was displaying my products. So here I was at the age of 58, suddenly starting an entirely new home-based business – this time, one inspired by my parents. In addition to having an in-store presence, I also opened an online portal to Moonbeams, Lilacs & Roses (http://www.moonbeamsproducts.com), where I began selling directly to the public.I had decided to use the Artisan name, Miriam Bat-Rachel: Miriam, my Hebrew name. Bat, which is Hebrew for “daughter of,” and Rachel, my mother’s Hebrew name. The company name is also derived from personal experience and ancestral history. “Moonbeams” is from “Rosh Hodesh,” a Hebrew symbol of renewal, celebrated at each new moon. It is a powerful opportunity to consider our lives, our commitments, and our goals. “Lilacs” were my mother’s birth flower and treasured scent, and “Roses” were a favorite flower – and one of the first flowering bushes my parents planted in front of their first home, where they lived for more than 50 years.
As my business and vision grew, I began to design semiprecious gemstone jewelry. When the gift shop at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies purchased several necklaces and earrings, it added an entirely new dimension to the business, and I added Moonbeams Designer Jewelry ( http://www.moonbeamsdesignerjewelry.com ) to my online shop.
How do you describe your jewelries?
Classic, stylish, and elegant. I want the women who buy and wear my jewelry to feel special, to know that the design is unique, and that I’ve crafted each piece to bring out the very best characteristics of the natural stones I use.
What were the challenges you faced when starting your business?
Balancing my time and energy between the three diverse areas of my business: Brittany Publications, Ltd. (a traditional publishing company); Marion Gold Communications (the Editorial Services & Marketing division); and Moonbeams, Lilacs & Roses, (the Creative Arts division).
Where can customers get your jewelries?
Online at http://www.moonbeamsdesignerjewelry.com; in Downtown Scottsdale, Arizona at Local Talent AZ (7050 E. 5th Avenue), and in Downtown Chicago, Illinois at ChiaroScuro (Water Tower Place, second level, 875 N. Michigan Avenue).
Price all services and products in a manner that shows you value your talent and time. Budget your time carefully between creativity, production, and managing the business – and leave time for networking, marketing, and direct sales.
How has the economic downturn affected your business? What strategies are you using to survive these tough economic times?
Jewelry and beaded accessories are luxury items, so there is a definite downturn in both online and retail sales, both from individuals and corporations. Likewise, my custom jewelry clients are more modest in their purchases. I’m happy to say, however, that the past month has shown a bit of an upturn.
I’m holding off on some purchases, such as jewelry management software, and buying a new laptop. I also had to cut back on technical outsourcing for website management. I’ve always taken the photos for the site, but now I manage more technical website functions, rather than outsourcing. As I get busier, and business gets better – that will not be an efficient use of my time, so I will start outsourcing again.
How are you marketing your business?
I write articles about my various businesses, and give marketing workshops that generate sales of my books as well as my jewelry (which I always wear!). I also participate in as many networking functions as time pemits, but very selectively. Networking events are always followed up with email contact – which has generated a nice list of contacts, personally and professionally. I’ve met wonderful businesswomen in a variety of professions, and formed many friendships.
Cold calls are another tool I use. I always carry a few pens and wear my jewelry. So if I see a shop that fits into my marketing plan, I walk in. If there are no customers, I take a moment to introduce myself to the shop owner – and try to set up an appointment for a formal sales call. I respect the owner’s time, and never try to engage them in conversation when there are customers around. Other times, I don’t sell at all, but try to get a sense for the customer base, the other products in the shop, pricing, etc., take a business card, and do a follow-up phone call for an appointment.
Do you use social media such as Facebook and/or Twitter?
I’m very active on LinkedIn, and far less active on Facebook and Twitter. I’m not yet convinced of the benefits to the latter, but LinkedIn has been a very positive experience. It provides opportunities to share my marketing and communications expertise, and to learn from others’ practical experiences.
Is this a home-based business? If so, what are the challenges of working and running a business from home?
When I began working from home in 1994, I missed the personal interaction that goes along with an office environment. But my networking activities and cold calling quickly satisfied that need. As for challenges – in a word, SPACE. Running both a communications and jewelry design business requires lots of shelving, closets, and desktop space. I’m afraid that challenge has yet to be met as well as I would like.
Time management is another. If I don’t keep monthly, weekly, and daily to-do lists – I would probably spend all my time making jewelry and shopping for interesting gemstones!
How are you balancing your personal life and family with the demands of your business?
I mentioned the encouragement I get from my Soul Mate. Jerry is an accomplished writer and marketing professional, so we have a mutual respect for each other’s time and space -and always start each day with breakfast together.
Friendships are important to me, so I make sure to arrange one or two “personal” coffee-meets or luncheons every month with local friends. I also try to keep up with family and long-distance pals. While telephone time is harder to manage, I keep track of who I’ve called and when, so not too much time goes by without contact – and I always make time for quick emails.
What are your goals for your business? How do you see the business five years from now?
While some people might disagree, I’m not looking at a formal five-year plan for Moonbeams right now. With retail businesses so down, and the sense that it will remain unpredictable for the next few years, I’m concentrating on maintaining my current marketing activities, staying flexible, and keeping a growing list of “wants” and “needs” for future jewelry business. I’ll reassess the situation in January, depending on how the holiday season goes.
I have increased marketing my editorial services and marketing consulting business, as there are so many people right now who need that type of help.
What tips can you share to other women entrepreneurs?
In my book, “Personal Publicity Planner: A Guide to Marketing YOU,” I stress that we don’t live in a vacuum. By understanding how others see you, as well as how you see yourself, entrepreneurs can begin to take control and create a more honest and satisfying professional showcase that will move their careers forward. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What is it you want people to know about you and your skills or talents? How does that relate to your company, your product, or your services? It also helps to take a critical look at any previous communications efforts you have made, and the results. Then look closely at your achievements and skills, and how they can be distinguished from other similar professionals in the marketplace. That’s how to get started!