Starting a Jewelry Craft Business

"You're starting a jewelry craft business?" That’s what my mom incredulously said when I announced that I would be making and selling jewelry at artisan markets to support myself while I took fine art classes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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You see, I had just completed the final round of interviews for Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) programs in Set and Costume Design. And while I did get into 2 out of the 3 top programs in the country and was wait-listed for another one, I felt that for my education to really count, I could use some brushing up on my fine art skills, such as drawing, painting, and maybe a bit of sculpture. So I turned down all of the offers, bought a bunch of books on running a craft business, started writing a business plan, enrolled in some drawing and painting classes, and generally set about to make my new life work.Because it had to.

Starting a Home Based Business

After reading several books on craft business, I found one that was really helpful, Crafting As A Business. Ms. Rosen is best known for founding the Rosen Group, which runs the well known and probably largest American Craft trade show each year: The Buyer’s Market of American Craft. The book is filled with case studies of crafts people who have succeeded in running their own craft business and offers insightful tips on business matters.

I of course, obsessed over this book, but there came a time when I realized that there was only so much I could ever learn from a book, and my real learning would be in the act of running my own jewelry business.

I’m glad I spent time writing out a business plan, though it probably wasn’t in as professional looking shape as some guy with an MBA would have written. But it worked for me in that I wrote out, in my own words, following a simple outline from the SBA (Small Business Administration) what my craft business was, who my customers were, where I was getting money from, my marketing plan, how I would sell my jewelry, as well as planning exit strategies (like going to graduate school). The document I created was essentially a road map that helped me start and grow my home craft business, and I evaluated and made changes every several months. Whenever I felt lost with my business or wondered which direction to get next, I would always go back and take a look at my business plan as a reference.

Writing an Artist Statement

Another document that I wished I had written before I attempted the business plan was an Artist Statement. I didn’t start writing one until I was applying for juried craft shows, but it was probably the one of the most useful documents you’ll ever write. Artist statements explain in one or two paragraphs who you are as an artist, what things inspire you and ideologies you have in creating your work.

You can use it as a spring board for your business plan, and in profiles on your online shopping sites such as Etsy or 1000 Markets. And, of course, you can use it for applying to juried art and craft festivals, and wholesale jewelry trade shows. People who buy handmade are interested in you as an artisan, and having an artist statement readily available for potential customers to read can help your sales.

A Happy Ending, and a New Start

Well, I’m happy to report that I did eventually go to graduate school, and received my MFA in May of 2007. I’m now headed towards becoming a set and costume designer, hopefully for Opera, and am excited to start on this new journey.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that what started as a humble stand on the sidewalk evolved to a successful jewelry business that retailed at craft shows, and in galleries and boutiques across the country!

Hopefully you’ll be inspired to give your dreams a shot, however crazy it might be. I mean, I literally beaded my way into graduate school! How crazy is that? In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few handy tips I’ve learned as my business grew:

Handy Craft Business Tips

Earrings by Oran Bumroongchart

1. Define your market niche: In your craft business plan, you’ll have to define who your customers are. Try to be as specific as possible, you can always change it later as your business grows and you collect more customer data. When I started, I said my niche was “fashionable young women in their 20’s who love trendy jewelry.

What I ended up narrowing down to in a couple of months was: “fashion conscious, aspiring urban women in their 20’s-30’s who don’t mind spending a few extra dollars for unique accessories to liven up their wardrobes. Their styles are clean and modern and they look for jewelry that will easily fit into their existing wardrobe." By being very clear on who your target market is, you end up not only attracting people in that demographic, but people looking to buy gifts for that group as well.

2. Find at least 3 places to regularly sell your work: And only one venue should be online. In 2004, when first launched, it allowed anyone with a dream to open their own online store. But right after that, many people discovered that having an online store doesn’t necessarily equate to sales. You have to have a customer base to draw on in order to make your online stores successful.

Dr. David Weiman's Jewelry Selling Answer Book

A few people have succeeded by selling only on Etsy, but a far more practical approach to succeeding would be to have an online presence as an option for your customers that you meet at craft shows, artisan markets, home jewelry parties, and friends of your customers.

3. Network: Network, face to face, with your fellow crafters. And they shouldn’t all be jewelry designers. When you sell your jewelry at artisan markets or at craft shows, make a point of saying hello to your neighbors and try to be as helpful as you can. Many times, I’ve found out about great places to sell my work by talking to other craftspeople, and I've also learned about various jewelry and craft supply sources.

4. Use Social Media: I know, it’s a huge area to cover, but do make a point of exploring different sites and observing how you can best contribute to the social media landscape. You should at least have a website that defines your jewelry brand: include your artist statement, a gallery of your work, contact information, and upcoming events such as craft fairs, jewelry parties, and press coverage.

You might not want to sell directly on your site, though, for several reasons: your site should focus on your brand, warm them up to a sale by telling them how special your jewelry is. Another reason is that if you want to wholesale jewelry, some stores won’t even consider your jewelry line if you retail online, especially if your retail prices are lower than what the markup at their store is.

You may also consider starting a Facebook fan page for your craft business, though be careful about not spamming your fans too much and focus more on how you will extend your brand on the site.

About the Author

Oran Bumroongchart

Oran Bumroongchart runs which has lots more information on the business of jewelry. If you sell your beadwork, or if you want to sell your beadwork, or if you are just wondering what it would take to sell your beadwork, you will want to spend some time on his website.

Beading Business Practices: Keeping Track of Your Work

Good beading business practice suggests that you keep track of your work so you can understand the time and materials that go into a beaded item. Here are some ways to do it.

Making Money From Beading

Here is some advice and encouragement about starting your beaded jewelry business. This was written as a response from a beader who was getting lots of discouraging advice. If you think you may want to start selling your beadwork, check this out.
Click here to learn more about Jewelry Selling Insights

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