New Jewelry Business: Sell, Buy, Make, Repeat ….

by David.
(Durham, NC)

New Jewelry Business:  Sell, Buy, Make, Repeat - Jewelry Making Journal

I recently retired and began jewelry making a few months ago.

I understand that I will need seed money to buy tools and materials, so that’s done. My immediate goal is to get to the point of reinvesting all sales back into buying more materials, and keep this cycle going.

Hopefully I can buy cheap and sell high, eventually making a profit.

For now I’m learning the trade and building inventory. I make a few pieces a day. Currently I have made about 200 pair of earrings, a couple dozen necklaces, and other items.

I work with both new and re-purposed stock.

I already have business cards. They double as display cards. This spring I’ll venture out to a flea market. I don’t want this to become “work”, but a modest income boost would be nice.

Sorry, no pictures yet… can’t afford a decent digital camera yet.

What’s the best next step or two?

(By the way, my dog Sherman Duke is the company CEO. It’s really his business. 😉 )

Sherman Duke Jewelry

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  • Kyle says:

    Hi David, congratulations on your new business! It sounds like you’re on the right track. Since you are beginning to think of how to monetize the pieces you make, it will be good to make a checklist of all the things that need to get done before you sell. For example, decide on what you want your price points to be for the jewelry you plan to sell at the flea market. A good starting point is to figure out your cost on the jewelry–adding up EVERY cost. All the findings, crystals, earring backs, business card. From here you can decide how much profit you want to make on a sale. There’s nothing worse than making a bunch of sales, then realizing you only made .20 per sale! You also mentioned wanting to figure out how to reinvest your sales money into additional product. Obviously sales are important for this, so you may want to think about getting into an online sales channel like etsy. It’s pretty cheap to get started, and honestly you can get by without the digital camera for now if you have a smartphone. Otherwise you can find a used digital camera for pretty cheap ($50-80) on craigslist or ebay. If you do try etsy, I’d suggest starting SMALL (10-20 items) so you dont feel overwhelmed! And finally, congratulations! Making jewelry is really fun, and I hope your endeavors with Sherman Duke are fun and rewarding! Cheers, Kyle.

  • Good ideas from Kyle! Here are a couple of other thoughts:

    Are you constantly seeking out less expensive sources / ways to get your supplies and components? That can really help your profit margin. It may involve buying in bulk or wholesale, or being savvy with the clearance sections of online jewelry suppliers.

    And are you working toward developing regular customers as well as one-off buyers?

  • Catherine says:

    I suggest you start selling immediately before you’re inventory numbers get to high. In selling you will learn more about what your audience is buying so you can focus in that direction and not waste your time in a direction that doesn’t sell. I suggest going locally first. Find an inexpensive venue. Try not to buy tent, etc. Borrow if you can. Keep your investments like that as low as possible.

    Additionally, change your thoughts about buying “cheap”. Cheap doesn’t mean its sellable. Cheap means just crap. Take this from a well seasoned marketing expert and seller.

    Plan out your year as far as your focus/direction you want to go with your jewelry making so you can limit the tools and supplies you purchase. The most common mistake, and I made this too, is to spend the first few years buying more than you will ever need and trying too many jewelry making techniques.

    Go to shows. Bring a chair. Sit across from a jewelry vendor for at least an hour. Observe, observe, observe and take notes. Bring someone that buys jewelry from shows with you to sit along with you or to review the vendors. Take notes, get them to share what they like and don’t like. Bring different people to different shows so you can get different feedback. Always review a show before investing in it.

    Best wishes,
    Catherine Franz

  • Leslie Schmidt says:

    Think a lot about the flea market idea and check it out before you invest in this venue. People expect cheap and don’t want to pay for quality. There are places you can sell that are better for good quality made goods (local craft fairs instead). Keep practicing, keep makering (love that word), learn how to make things better by looking at pictures of what others make and examine them for how you might change them up for your style (whatever that is or will be).

    How exciting, welcome to a wonderful new world of fun, joy and creativity. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey. If you buy cheap products, your work will reflect it. You don’t have to invest in sterling silver right away but it works up better (i.e. headpins, crimp beads should always be good quality). Yes, talk to vendors. If they know you are interested in learning rather than copying their work or taking over their business, many will open up to you and share what works for them.

    Don’t buy the most expensive tools but don’t buy a cheap set either. As you can, upgrade your round-nose pliers, cutters, chain-nose pliers to something better. if you pay less, they won’t work as well. Look for “box” fittings on the pliers versus a cheaper make. A cheap set purchased for its color (yes, my first set was purple because I liked the purple handles) might be cheap poured pieces that will break and will break your hands after a lot of use. Read, read, read what others say. There are lots of free YouTube videos that are amazing. I love B’Sue Boutiques and Brenda Sue Lansdowne is an awesome teacher. Go on from there.

    Be sure to wear your products when you go out ~ shopping, to the doctor, etc. and people will ask or comment on your pieces, which is a great opportunity to give them your business card. At first you can print them inexpensively until you get your business name and logo or style more firm.

  • JoAnne Woll says:

    Congratulations David on your new business. I wish you much success with it. One thing I would suggest is to take some of your profit money & use it to expand your skills by learning something new. Ornamentea’s in Raleigh is just one of many wonderful, local places do just that. They offer an array of classes & have discounts on needed supplies too. Best of luck to you.

  • Kathie L says:

    Congratulations, David! The very first thing that you should do is find your Avitar (dream client). Try to go where they live, check out where they shop; and engage in conversations when you are there. The next thing you should do is inventory what you have (spreadsheet it to begin with). Next EACH piece that you create, create a second piece and create directions (with pics when you get your camera or use your smart phone). Read back articles of Rena’s (she is amazing and has so many resources thru JMJ). When you are pricing, use this formula (Cost Of Goods Sold = Materials and time) COGs X 2.1 = Wholesale X 2.4 (to 2.8) = Retail (what you should be selling them for when you sell online or in person). This list should take you a bit; BUT you will be sooooo happy you did!!!… Good Luck – I’ll be rooting for you ;0)

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you, David, for posting this question! I just started making jewelry this summer and have made a few sales to friends, but would like to do more. I really appreciate reading all this good advice from others!

  • Nicole says:

    When I started, I was all over the place. I bought way too many beads just because they were so pretty. Focus on one type of jewelry making. It took me several years to find my niche. That’s important because they’re so many jewelers out there. You need to find what sets you apart and strive for excellence in what you exhibit.

  • Debbie Kinil says:

    I would make an appointment with someone in your area with Small Business Administration either face to face or on-line. I believe the service is free.

  • Judith says:

    A thought about photography: If you have an iPhone, or could get an old used one inexpensively, you may find it takes high quality pix with a lot less fuss than a camera. I used to sweat nails over photography and photo-editing, but when when my sister handed me down her old iPhone it changed my life, and my photos got much better. It doesn’t have to be the newest model. Even a three or four-year-old Iphone takes great pix, and it is easy to edit them using an app like Snapseed. Quite a lot of Etsy jewelry sellers use iPhones. It does help if you have an iPad to edit on, because of the larger screen — they automatically sync with each other. (I don’t recommend old-model iPads, they seem to age out pretty fast, unfortunately.)

  • Leslie Schmidt says:

    I agree, don’t buy too expensive of tools right away but also don’t buy cheap ones. My first set I bought because the handles were purple, but they weren’t great quality. Box fittings versus cast pot metal is a key (look it up). I have one pair of cutters I paid $35 for and it was on sale and worth it, but most can be $10-25. Determine which tools you will need the most and wait on others for now. You need a good pair of cutters, round nose pliers, two pair of chain nose pliers for starters. I like my bent-nose pliers and use two of them for jump rings, some like a jumpy tool (ring with slots on both sides for small and large jump ring gauges. If you buy jump rings, buy a heavier gauge like 18g not 22 or smaller, they don’t hold as well. If you buy wire, artistic wire is great and there are so many brands out there. I fought learning wire-wrapping for awhile and then spent a year perfecting the skill and love it, don’t do what I call fussy wrapping but more freeform style. If you buy cheap base metal clasps, jumps and headpins, you will get what you pay for. Don’t buy sterling silver right away, it’s quite expensive. Practice with copper or copper filled wire. Beads are the same way, cheap silver beads tarnish quickly. Cheap glass beads chip and break. Cheap acrylic beads crack and show seam marks. I use glass and acrylic but tend to prefer Czech beads and low lead or lead free items. I LOVE B’Sue by Boutiques products, vintage things that are great, the plating finishes are excellent and the best around I’ve found of gold plating, brass plating, raw brass, rusted iron, lead free pewter items that have a proprietary from The 1928 Company called B’Sue by 1928. I have drawers of cheap box store stuff I never use anymore. I used to love shopping at Wal-Mart and other box stores thinking I found bargains, but it never translated into good quality pieces so I quit using them.a Better to have fewer things that are better quality.

    I work on cookie sheets I buy at a dollar store and line them with vinyl shelf paper rather than expensive bead mats, and it holds the beads just fine while working on them. I have 15 that I rotate depending on what I am working on, they are great for sorting. I use plastic cups from applesauce to hold some of my beads while working. Find a storage system that works for you to contain your stash; some like the hardware containers, I keep mine in baggies that I mark with the supplier, date purchased, amount purchased (including tax) and item price. Then I keep those sorted by type (copper, silver, gold, brass, blue, green, pink, black, white, purple, color of wires, etc.) in shoeboxes that have the clasp closure, that works for me.

    Yes, enjoy the journey, wear your products, keep business cards handy (I make mine on my computer because I keep changing things on them), don’t stress over an expensive camera, phones are awesome photographers these days.

    Leslie Schmidt
    Facebook: Artistic Creations by Leslie

  • Barbara Sims says:

    I’ve been doing just what you just started in the early 80’s. I have found buying big lots of new or jewelry on Ebay, you can embellish or take apart. I say vintage because some of the bead etc in the jewelry are one of a kink.
    Good Luck, also my retirement job 😉

  • Alysen says:

    I just want to say that my phones give me a better macro shot than my sister’s reflex camera! Of course, I’m not schooled in photograpy and just read her little book about the camera.
    Good luck to you, and lot’s of great free info from professionals and amateurs alike.

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