Carla Garro of Lita Sea Glass Jewelry: A Jewelry Business Success Interview
by Carla Garro.
My name is Carla Garro and I am the owner and designer of Lita Sea Glass Jewelry.
I have always loved jewelry for as far back as I can remember.
As a little girl I would sit at the kitchen table with my beads and make all kinds of different things.
As I got older my jewelry evolved and now I am lucky enough to be working every day with something I love. . . sea glass!!
All of the jewelry I offer is genuine sea glass. I do not use any glass that has been tumbled or manufactured.
I think the art and beauty of jewelry is to have something as unique as the individual who wears it, and so I prefer the uniqueness of natural sea glass.
All of my jewelry designs are made with sterling silver and carefully and precisely thought out.
I will not list a piece of jewelry on my website or send it out for one of my wholesale orders unless I am 100% satisfied with that piece.
This is my absolute passion and something I fell happy to wake up to “go to work” for every morning!
Interview with Carla Garro
by Rena Klingenberg
1.) Your lovely sea glass jewelry has earned you the name, “The Sea Glass Girl”. How did you get into making sea glass jewelry?
About 5 years ago I opened a retail boutique that specialized in women’s accessories.
I started off making almost all of the jewelry that I sold in the shop. I would also do custom orders for weddings.
I had a woman come in my shop who wanted sea glass jewelry for her wedding. Although I had made some before I wanted to make something better and wonderful for her wedding.
So I went home and sat at my desk until I came up with some very nice designs for my customer. She purchased 6 sets for all the ladies in her wedding party plus jewelry for her mother.
After the wedding I started to get people in my shop saying that they saw the bridesmaid’s jewelry and wanted some for themselves.
So I started out making just a few pieces and after a short time I was selling it just as fast as I could make it!
2.) What are the challenges or benefits of focusing your jewelry business on a specific niche (such as your sea glass jewelry niche)?
It is very nice to work with something that is a niche business for a lot of reasons.
The main thing for me is that I am very creative and get very overwhelmed with all the possibilities of materials I can use and designs I can create. Working with just sea glass limits me a little bit and helps me focus.
It’s all about inspiration – working with sea glass I feel inspired every day to make beautiful unique jewelry.
3.) You mentioned to me earlier that you spent years trying different paths, all of which are related to jewelry business. Can you share a bit about the paths you experimented with?
Before I started Lita Sea Glass Jewelry I had worked in a jewelry shop for many years. I did everything from ordering to inventorying and being a sales girl.
This was a family business so I got my practice in at a very young age starting to helping out at about age 11 and then working and managing the shops when I was I was old enough.
Then a few years later I decided to open my own shop that focused on women’s accessories: Jewelry, bags, sunglasses, belts and a few gifts. Then finally my jewelry line.
4.) At age 17 you started a business doing home jewelry parties out of your apartment. Can you share how your jewelry party business worked?
I would host parties for friends and family or others who had heard of my business out of their house or my apartment.
When it was at my apartment I would set everything up and put some food out and people could stop by to grab a gift or something new for themselves.
If I did a party at a customer’s house it would be pretty much the same except they would invite their friends and family and provide the food for the night.
5.) Based on your experience, what do you think are the most important tips for successful home jewelry parties?
The most important thing about setting up home parties is knowing what will work best for you.
Make sure to have a guideline before you have customers ask you any questions. For example, what days you are available and what times. How many people should attend the party and if you offer any incentives (such as discounts) for the party “host”.
Be prepared, make sure that the party will benefit you by having a certain number of people attend and make sure it works for the host by giving her a discount incentive.
Bottom line, make your customers happy!
6.) Can you tell us about the retail jewelry shop you owned. My retail shop was a beautiful little tucked away space located in a historic downtown. It was filled with unique jewelry, fabulous bags and funky gifts.
It was in a 200 year old home that was now rented for shops so I made it feel like home.
I would host parties in my shop too! I had a lot of space (including a full kitchen) so I set it up to have a cozy living room decorated with bags and belts and nice curtains.
I got a great following and have some very wonderful loyal customers.
I was open almost every day year round and although it was a lot of work it was rewarding.
I got to help people find that perfect piece of jewelry to put a smile on their face when they have had a bad day!
7.) What are some of the most important things you learned from your experience with owning a retail jewelry shop?
With owning my shop it was helpful to listen to my customers!
As much as I couldn’t listen to their every request for this ring or that style bag I would listen to their comments. What they liked about the jewelry, what they didn’t like.
It has been very helpful in making my line of sea glass jewelry successful and helped me when I was making jewelry for my shop too.
8.) Your jewelry is currently sold in over 40 shops. How did you find shops that are a good fit for your jewelry – do you research and network to discover them? Do you have sales reps?
To find a shop that is a good fit for the jewelry just depends on what you are looking for.
Most of the time my main concern is if they have a lot of jewelry for sale. It is always better if they do, because then I know that their customers come to them to shop for jewelry.
With the sea glass jewelry I of course love to sell to little shops on the water or that have a coastal theme.
I wear a lot of my jewelry every day so if I am out and about and shopping I get a lot of interest just by wearing it.
I don’t have time to do a lot of networking but I do have a full time sales rep. who is just wonderful.
9.) What do you think are the most important factors in wholesaling handmade jewelry successfully?
To run a wholesale business successfully I think design and quality are the two most important things.
Everyone has their own style of making things and it is important to stick with that so your jewelry takes on your signature. I make what I love and what I would wear and that has created my signature style.
Every piece I make will not leave my studio unless it is top quality.
I want to make sure that when my customers wear it they can enjoy it every day and not have to worry about a thing!
My customers know that I put a lot of work into each piece and because of this they will continue to wear and advertize my jewelry.
10.) Your Lita Sea Glass Jewelry website is very professional, easy to navigate, and has tons of great photos of your jewelry! Do you have any advice about selling handcrafted jewelry online?
I think this question answers itself. When selling your jewelry online make sure it makes sense to you.
If you get confused then most likely so will your customers.
Keep it as simple as possible, and have clear photos and precise information.
11.) It’s so uplifting to hear that you’re living your dream! Is it different in any way than you had imagined it would be? Has your dream remained unchanged, or did it evolve as you experienced the things that led you to this point?
I think my dream did evolve a little bit over the years.
I have always known that I wanted to make jewelry but when I had my shop and I was making jewelry to sell there I thought I would be doing that forever.
But then when the jewelry I was making started to get a lot of attention things changed a little. It got to the point where I could not run both my businesses (my shop and my sea glass jewelry business).
At the time my husband was coming home from Iraq and his job with the army would send him far away from me and my store.
It was a good time for me to make a change so I decided to close my shop to move and be with my husband and run my sea glass jewelry business full time.
Life has changed my dreams into different directions and evolved it into something bigger and better than I could have hoped for.
12.) What do you love most about your jewelry business?
I love the freedom! I love the flexibility of working in my studio from home.
I am a pretty self disciplined person so I do have working business hours that I keep as a baseline for myself. But if something comes up I can change it around.
Working in the retail world for my whole life I have never had any time to do other things than work.
Now I can still work 8-hour days but I can work early in the day or late at night depending on what I have to do. I love it!
13.) Your jewelry business has evolved through interesting stages – home parties, your own retail shop, wholesaling, selling from your website, etc. How do you decide it’s time for you to move into doing something new in your jewelry business? And how do you decide what to do next?
Everything really just fell into place as I went along.
If you asked me the week before I had my shop what I would be doing next week, I would have never guessed!
I just took the opportunities as they came my way and everything happened pretty fast once I got started.
14.) Do you have help in operating your jewelry business, or outsource any parts of it? Or do you operate completely solo?
Nope it’s just me doing pretty much everything!
I do everything myself from organizing my sea glass and matching up pairs for earrings to drilling and creating.
I designed and upkeep my website and keep up with my accounts.
My husband is my shipping department – he always makes the trips to the post office and UPS in the morning before work.
And I have some great family members who collect sea glass for me in the summer or on their trips and vacations.
15.) If you were to start a new jewelry business today, armed with all the knowledge and experience you’ve gained, what would you do to grow it into a profitable business?
I think I would do everything exactly the same because everything I did led me to something else.
As far as my shop goes it was very profitable and successful, but it just didn’t fit into my lifestyle any longer and I had to make a choice.
My sea glass jewelry company works best with my life and is what I enjoy best too!
It is important to grow and change your business as your life changes otherwise it will be a constant struggle.
16.) Do you have any other thoughts or advice for jewelry artists?
The advice I would give to other jewelry artists is just to go with the flow.
Don’t be afraid to change things to fit your life as you go.
And make sure to follow your intuition, if you have a good feeling then go for it!
Note from Rena:
Thank you so much, Carla, for taking the time to share your gorgeous sea glass jewelry and how it grew into a successful business.
I loved hearing how going with the flow led you to living your dream!
I encourage everyone to visit Carla’s beautiful, professional-looking Lita Sea Glass Jewelry website!