Help – Starting a Jewelry Business Right Out of High School

by Dan.
(Pueblo)

I’ve recently become interested in a career in jewelry after attending a course at my local community college. I’ve also just recently graduated high school, so I’m looking to start making and selling pieces to get more experience.

Wire ring, one of my first pieces, by Dan  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

One of my first pieces

Currently I only have the capacity to make wire wrap rings and the like. I know a few shops downtown that buy jewelry, there is also one that is a variety shop that sells small jewelry in the $5 – $15 range, and buys locally.

My thinking is that I could start making tarnish resistant brass wire wrap rings and selling them to this and/or other shops for $2 – 4 a piece, since these are rings you would usually see for sale at $5, and they are using cheaper material.

Does this sound like a good way to start out?

I can make them in small bulk quickly considering I have a lot of free time. After I build up some money I hope to get different materials to work with so I can hopefully make wire wrap rings with silver filled wire and Lapis Lazuli beads (with some help from tutorials I’ve seen on this website).

What I believe this will do is give me experience working with jewelry, and let me interact with other jewelers in a business setting while making some connections.

Does this seem like a sound idea?

From then on I’m not sure what I should do.

How do I seek out my first customers?

Just coming out of high school with a small bit of financial help from parents, should I focus on getting a job and start jewelry as a hobby, or should I start working ceaselessly at practicing and talking to others so I can start my own business as soon as possible?

Note from Rena: After you read the comments below here, hop over to this followup post from Dan – I’m Improving, but I Still Have Questions.

Dan

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Comments

  1. Hi Dan, kudos to you for following your entrepreneurial heart! Here is a post that you may find helpful:
    How to Start a Jewelry Business

    I also highly recommend that if you haven’t already done so, read all of the posts in the Jewelry Business section of this website – making sure to read the comments below each post. There are a lot of posts in that section, but there is a ton of valuable wisdom and experience in these posts and the discussions below them.

    Also, I think it’s a good idea to have a job while you get your jewelry business up to speed.

    First of all, having your own regular income builds self esteem, and you’ll feel better if you have money coming in while you learn and create with your jewelry.

    Perhaps you could find a part time job that would allow you to have your own income while you learn and create with your jewelry – in preparation for your jewelry career.

    Also by working in any sort of business, you’ll learn by osmosis a lot about how to (and how not to) run a business. That’s valuable knowledge and experience for an entrepreneur.

    When co-workers find out that you make jewelry, some of them may be interested in seeing some of your work. They may want to become your customers, or host a jewelry party, or just tell their friends about your jewelry.

    If you wear examples of your jewelry every day, people you meet through your job will compliment or ask about the pieces you’re wearing – which can lead to all sorts of opportunities.

    And if you don’t yet have my free ebook, Rena’s Jewelry Business Black Book, get it right now and start applying the lessons in it.

    Wishing you all the best, Dan! Keep us updated on your progress!

  2. Claire Kincaid says:

    Hi Dan,

    Rena has some great resources on the site that you should definitely look into. Going off her advice about the day job, if you want to learn more about the gemstone and jewelry industries during said day job, you should perhaps look for a job at a jewelry store. Look for a jewelry small business geared towards custom or repair work in your area, and ask if they need any part time or full time help. If you can, ask for an apprenticeship of sorts. I worked part time for a year at a custom jewelry store in my area as a sales clerk/apprentice and learned so much from the experience the jewelry, business, and customer service sectors. If the store doesn’t need help, ask them if they know of any other jewelers or trade shops in the area that need help, or would be willing to teach you some tricks of the trade. The best resource available to you is the network of jewelers, gem cutters, pawn shop owners, artisans, and enthusiasts that you cultivate yourself– so go out and do some legwork! Meet people at supply stores, rock stores, art galleries, artisan guilds, craft fairs, mineral galleries, metal refineries, scrap yards– jewelry shops are just one facet of a many sided industry. I encourage you to take as many classes as you possibly can in as many different techniques as you can– the more you expand your technique base the more versatile your design options become. If you’re ever considering going to the international jewelry/gemstone professional sector, or opening a store front of your own in a set location, check out GIA professional education– a bit expensive (about the same as a less expensive college degree), but worth the education and the network that comes with it.

  3. You’ve already gotten some great advice. I would echo that you would be wise to get a job to have some steady income coming in. If you rely on the jewelry sales and they are not forthcoming, you’ll be adding negative energy to your business, and that can only create more negative energy. What you don’t need starting out is stress.

    I believe we all are creators, and that our journey is to create something unique that only we could have created, to bring something new into the world. And to do that, you have to learn a lot of different skills to find that one thing that resonates with you, that lets you tap into that creator.

    Do you really want to spend all day cranking out low-cost rings? I think that model leads to premature burnout, and anyone can do it. At a time when you should be cultivating your creative side, you may end up hunched over a bench doing the same thing over and over for a few bucks. Where’s the fun in that?

    Being a business owner is about more than just making a product. It’s customer service, order fulfillment, sourcing, bookkeeping, marketing, photography, site design, SEO, etc. It’s a lot of work, and it’s not for everybody.

    So to answer your question, I would recommend you get a part-time job to have steady money coming in to buy supplies (and food). Then, if you like wire wrapping, get yourself some books through an interlibrary loan program. Get spools of copper wire from Amazon, which are very affordable, and copper acts much like sterling. It’s a cheap way to practice. Because, frankly, when we start out, we’re just not that good. I have pieces of jewelry I created early on that I was so excited about that I now think are ugly or run of the mill. Hone your craft. Add more and more tools to make your work easier. And after you’ve added all the different skills, you’ll find out what really excites you.

    Then when you’ve found your niche, go high end. Don’t mess around with cheap stuff. Buy sterling silver and/or gold-filled wire and high end beads. Let the creator in you make something spectacular, and believe that it is worth the asking price. You can spend 4 hours creating enough rings to make $50, or you could spend that time creating something truly unique with high end products that makes you $250. One sale is a lot easier to manage than fifteen sales.

    And above all, own your own real estate. You can start on Etsy or at local shows and stores, but you eventually have to have your own site and your own customers. Shopify is quite affordable for a small online presence.

    I’ve been self-employed since 1993. I’ve owned several businesses, and I wouldn’t ever trade the insecurity of entrepreneurship for a job. I love being my own boss and the freedom it gives me. So if you’ve got the bug, go for it.

    But I strongly urge you to find out what is truly important to you and why you want to go into business for yourself. It could be that you’re gravitating to jewelry not because it’s what you really want to do, but because it’s the only option you’ve found so far for realizing your dream of independence. There may be something better for you.

    Best of luck, my friend. You can do anything and be anyone you want.

  4. Hi Dan! You’ve received some fantastic advice so far, and I agree that you should have at minimum a part-time job while you are honing your craft. Tools and materials costs add up so quickly!

    There are so many free tutorials to be found online. I suggest you check them out – just do an internet search for ‘free jewelry tutorials’. YouTube is also a fantastic resource to find new techniques. The more you can learn, the better.

    My best advice to you is to never underestimate the power of excellent customer service! Being in the jewelry business inevitably leads to contact with your customers. Perhaps you could find a job where you can gain some experience dealing with clientele. The old rule in business is “the customer is always right”. I worked in customer service for many years – from call centers to retail sales, and I learned that the customer is NOT always right, but being diplomatic and making them feel validated is always the right thing to do!

    Good luck with your venture, Dan. I hope we see more of your work in the future!

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