What part of the world are you in?
Recently, my family and I relocated to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. It is a beautiful area, though I never did get to see it before Hurricane Katrina. I've spent the past seven or eight years in Savannah, Georgia. Though I'm from Maine originally, I'm really a Southern girl at heart.
What does customer service mean to you?
Customer service to me means being a friend, I guess. I treat everyone I meet in person or connect with online as a friend. I'm kind and accommodating. I realize that many of my pieces are out of the price range of a lot of people out there - but that doesn't matter. It isn't all about making sales, it is about making connections with people. It is about sharing my art. Maybe because I am coming from the background as a fine artist, I treat the sales aspect of business a little differently than most. Although it isn't "all about sales," sales are a part of it. But what good is a sale to an unhappy customer who won't return? I'd rather build friendships with people.
What is your most memorable experience with a customer?
That is a really hard question. I've met some really fantastic people out there - many whom I'd like to consider good friends now, even if we've never actually met in person. Each one of them has lent a hand to my success, and I'm so grateful to each of them. It would be hard just to choose one.
What sets you apart from other sellers who are selling similar items?
I'd like to think that what sets me apart is that is made by me, if that makes any sense? There are a lot of sellers out there that sell gemstone jewelry - and I always joke that "there are only so many ways to string a bead." Many of my fellow designers on Etsy have become really good friends and we rally in our similarities. We celebrate our original ideas and independent inventions. We share a lot and are happy for each other's success. Many out there aren't as nice about it as I am, but I'm confident in my work and my designs.
How did you learn the skills that make you successful today?
I've always been an artist. I think jewelry was a natural extension for me from being a painter.
Do you have any formal training in your craft?
Yes and no. I went to school for fine art where I learned color theory and design. I studied for a number of years painting, art history and design. I also worked for another designer at one point where I learned the basics of jewelry - but I've really gone to another level with it. It was all just experimentation and drive - and investment of time and a lot of money.
What is your goal for the next year?
My goal for the next year is to keep working and growing. I have one wholesale client who said to me that every time she sees me, my work has grown and gotten even better. I'd like that to keep happening. I always want to feel as if I'm maturing as a designer and honing my craft. I'd also like to get better at updating my blog, Trunkt and .com sites. It is just so time consuming!
*admin comment* Oh we know! We dedicate a lot of time to our .coms, blogs, twitter, etc. It's quite enjoyable though when we get to meet and feature great inspiring artists :)
What keeps you motivated when sales are slow?
I just keep working. Sometimes it is actually easier to create the really large, lavish pieces when sales are slow. I'm not distracted by the minutia of actually running a business such as packaging, mailing and answering emails. Though it can be scary, I actually like the nervousness and tension between sales - as long as they don't last too long! I think I'm more creative then.
What do you do to attract new clients and encourage re-occurring business?
I'd like to think again that it has to do with my customer service. I take care of my clients. For new business, at the moment I am relying a lot on "word of mouth" sales or friend-to-friend. I've had a number of clients purchase from me because someone they knew had bought from me and they liked my work. I'm primarily a wholesale business, so much of my advertising is done by my clients.
If you could share one piece of advice with someone who is considering opening their own store of handmade items, what would it be?
Having a supportive family and network of friends is really important. Being flexible, as well. I had no idea how to start a business when I began in 2007. I had no clue about sales projections and the legalities of running a business. I had to own up to needing help, and that can sometimes be hard. So, above all, be flexible and ready to learn.
Awesome advice Jennifer and we couldn't agree more. We found your interview very inspiring and we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. If you haven't had the pleasure of browsing through Lee Ohio Designs enchanting jewelry box, you really should spoil yourself and take a peak. Exquisite pieces dripping in jewels, fit for the princess in you. Brides to be, you have to check out Lee Ohio Designs for your bridal pieces if you want one of a kind jewelry that will add that glamous touch a class and sophistication to your special day.