Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I am talking about the importance of "going your own way" as the famous Fleetwood Mac song tells us (they're one of my favorites!). When you start your own business, the temptation is so great to follow the crowd. However, if you plan to achieve a high level of success, you quickly learn that you need to differentiate yourself, create your own lane, and stray from the "normal" path now and then. Why? Well, due to social media, competition is larger than ever before. With the stroke of a button, I can buy earrings from a designer in London just as easily as I can buy earrings from a designer in California. You need to stand out from the crowd in order to gain customers, sales, and even followers on social media platforms. If you plan on following the crowd in your aesthetic, design, and branding, it's going to be really hard to convince a lot of people to buy from you (as opposed to others) and growing your business is going to be just plain difficult. Your chances of success exponentially increase if you differentiate yourself in some way, whether that's in design, branding, or your marketing efforts. Let me give you a few examples of how I've tried to differentiate myself. And, before I start, let me say that I learned this concept from a business school course I took before I started grace + hudson and this is widely accepted knowledge in the entrepreneurial world. It's not rocket science! So if you're thinking of starting your own business, one of the things you should do in the initial stages of developing your idea is brainstorm ways you can stand out from your main competitors.
When I started grace + hudson, the main way I decided to differentiate myself from other jewelry businesses was to develop a brand that focused on bridesmaid jewelry that could be gifted and worn again after the wedding. There are a LOT of bridal jewelry companies out there, but almost all of them focus on jewelry for brides, not bridal parties. Notice I said jewelry that could be gifted and worn again after the wedding, which means although I'd be primarily targeting brides needing bridesmaid gifts, my jewelry styles could also appeal to non-brides who happened to find my website and liked the style of my designs. So many wedding jewelry companies use weddings SO heavily in their branding that a non-bride doesn't even bother to look at them twice, even though there might be a style in their collection that they could wear to work or out on a date. Sure, I talk about weddings quite a bit, but it's not the ONLY thing I talk about, unlike some of these other wedding jewelry companies.
This brings me to the other main way I differentiate myself from other companies. I talk a LOT about how I left my job as a lawyer to pursue a happier life and start grace + hudson. I mean, I talk about it so much you're currently reading a journal entry about it on my website, right? It is a HUGE part of my branding. It doesn't seem 100% intuitive, so let me tell you how I knew talking about my career change would be good for my jewelry business. If you've been reading this journal for a while, you know I quit being an attorney not once, but twice. The first time was in 2010 when I opened a brick and mortar jewelry store in New Jersey, where I grew up. It didn't work out and lasted only about a year, but I learned so much from that experience. One thing I learned was that telling my story was a way to really connect with people. My store was down the street from the county courthouse so I naturally had a lot of customers who worked as attorneys, legal assistants, etc. Many of them wanted to hear how I managed to escape the legal profession (because, let's be real here, it is a TOUGH profession and a lot of people don't end up liking it very much). To them, I feel like I served as just one example of what might be possible for them too. And so many of them ending up buying a piece of jewelry which, if I had to bet, probably served as a visual reminder of what might be possible for them. Every time they wear the piece, they'd remember our conversation. Now that is some powerful stuff right there! I just love telling my "lawyer escape story" so it was something that came very naturally to me. I love to talk about career, and life purpose, and career change, and all that good stuff. So it's also something that's very authentic to me. And it's something that's pretty darn unique at least for a jewelry company!
Those are the two big ways I differentiate myself, but there are a lot of small ways too. For example, I don't do wholesale anymore. What's wholesale? That's when you agree to sell your jewelry in other stores. The store buys the jewelry from you in volume (so they get a lower price) and then they sell it in their store. So many jewelry brands think they "should" do this and that this is the only way to grow and "get big." But I've decided, after some experimentation, that I don't want to do wholesale. I don't want my jewelry to be in 100+ stores. I want my jewelry to always feel special and made-to-order, and you definitely lose that factor if you're in hundreds of stores. Plus, in my opinion, I don't think wholesale is the way to grow a fashion business anymore. It used to be necessary before social media (e.g. how else would someone in California find out about my jewelry shop in Charleston?). But nowadays, I can get WAY more exposure through social media than I ever could by putting my jewelry in stores across the U.S.
As another example, I don't work with fashion bloggers. Again, I think fashion brands think they HAVE to work with fashion bloggers but I've decided against it. Why? After some experimentation, I decided it doesn't work for me. I don't enjoy it and I also feel that it doesn't pay off. It's very easy to understand why - my main customer is a bride-to-be and there is no bride-to-be fashion blogger. Sure, there may be a fashion blogger who is getting married and decides to share her wedding planning, but for the most part her audience isn't going to be full of brides-to-be. Therefore, for me, it's way more effective to run ads that target brides-to-be.
If you're thinking of starting your own business, how can you differentiate yourself? What's special about you? What can you emphasize or talk about that no one else does? Think of at least two or three ways you can really nail this, and run with it! Can't think of anything? Give yourself some time to brainstorm it - it might require some effort - but each and every single one of us is unique so I guarantee you there is something special about you that you're overlooking.
Cheers to being different!