Starting a Bead Store: Lessons Learned in Turning a Jewelry Hobby into a Business

by Tina Smith
I was born interested in crafts, and I’ve tried my hand and succeeded at many facets of hobby craft.

In the summer of 2000 both my children had left home, and to toil away the hours I turned to my first love once more and began to create teddies and dolls for craft fairs in my local area.

I worked for a short time in a kite shop in a sunny beachside village and watched the inner workings of a small business, and decided I liked what I saw.

Butterfly earrings, Adelaide Bead Store

The Beginning of the Bead Store

With next to no startup cash – and armed only with a passion and willingness – I somehow convinced a property owner in a coastal town to lease me a shop.

My first lessons in business: Perseverance and passion pay off, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

So began my crash course in the small business world. We were the only bead store in the shire, surviving our first year mainly due to the location of the shop and the busy tourist trade which boomed over the summer months.

My daughter and husband helped to staff the shop and all profits went back into the business, to acquire stock and pay bills.

The next year, in debt, we moved to a cheaper location nearby and resumed sales. The tourist market was big, so we sold more children’s toys and stones than jewellery and beads.

But classes were a strong point and I realised I was good in a customer relations role. We began to host children’s birthday parties on Sundays, which boosted our income.

However, winters were hard due to the customers all coming from the nearest city. So we decided to go where the people were.

We moved the business to capitalise on the larger market. Once we chose our new home, we were off!

The Bead Store Grows

We landed in Adelaide, South Australia, in 2002 in the heat of the bead hype. Beaded jewellery was all the rage. We were situated near a shopping complex and 10 minutes from the city.

Karin Smith’s Adelaide Beads store

I was able to employ staff, but had to learn to delegate – which is difficult when you have previously been the only person in control.

I began to advertise in bead magazines and make kits. These sold well via this avenue, as we reached clients in the Outback and rural areas.

Soon I was a featured artist in the magazine and they published articles about my designs.

We started to attend trade fairs and I branched out into teaching at schools and retirement villages. I now teach slump work and have acquired skills in silver clay.

Two years ago in an effort to expand, I went into business with a relative – an arrangement which quickly became sour and I am yet to recover from the financial and emotional burden.

Expanding to an Online Bead Store

We are starting to re-establish what we had, and are adapting to a new niche bead market. My advice is never do business with family.

I have given a lot of time to starting an online bead store which sells to customers all over the world.

The shop is slowly gaining momentum once more, and I’m looking to expand my website.

Beaded creations, Adelaide Bead Store

Lessons Learned

Other words of wisdom I would offer the jewelry business beginner are to be dedicated, as you will never work harder and be paid less than when you work for yourself.

Be nice and courteous, but never let people use you or walk all over you.

Be clear about what it is you want.

Keep good books and be clerical, even though that’s not what you’re about. Keep track of employees and expenditures.

Learn to delegate.

Network, as no one will give you better advice than experienced people. Some of the best tips I’ve had have been from customers!

After many years in the industry I have not lost my passion for creation, but have gained a healthy respect for business. I’ve learned to be tentative in advertising and ventures, testing the waters first repeatedly if possible, before diving in.

There have been a lot of stops and starts along the way, some bad ventures and losses, but through it all I’ve never given up, and I do what I love.

Author Karin Smith’s Adelaide Beads has all the latest imported, handmade and exclusive beads, as well as a huge catalogue of unique findings. Karin says, “Jewelry artists from all over the world are invited to shop in our easy to use online bead store and download our free patterns.”

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  1. linda violet says:

    im greatful to share your experience i love beading and craft work so much

  2. brian shikol says:

    hello. my name is Brian from Kenya, recently I received some amount from my uncle who asked me to start a business with. my first challenge was where and when to invest the money, I had several business ideas such as starting an electronic shop and a bookstore but unfortunately due to the little amount I had I couldn’t invest in any of the above. Being an economic undergraduate student in one of the local universities I had observed that students had passion for beaded jewelry so the idea of starting a jewelry business came into my mind and immediately consulted my younger brother on the same. luckily he had passion of making handcrafted Jewelry hence learned few styles from him. I went ahead to buy some beads of different designs and colors and started making bracelets immediately. I have managed to sell some bracelets to my fellow students and close friends back at home.

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