In the last few months I have learned volumes about jewelry on the business level.
I’ve enjoyed the company of a great group of ladies – fellow jewelry designers, who belong to the Flourish & Thrive Academy community.
Tracy Matthews and Robin Kramer are the experts behind the F&TA community, offering virtual business classes for jewelry designers. These ladies have enriched our community through their mentorship, introduction to business resources and by dishing out a wealth of business information. Today I am beyond thrilled to share an incredibly thorough interview with designer and mentor extraordinaire, Tracy Matthews. Tracy was generous with her time and really dug deep into her past and where it has taken her today. Read on and see how what she has learned can help all of us as we strive to take our own businesses to the next level. So grab your cup of tea or coffee – I guarantee you’re going to love this interview and learn something new!
At the end of this post, be sure to sign up for the live Q&A taking place on April 17th!
Tracy Matthews, Founder of Flourish & Thrive Academy (and Tracy Matthews Custom Jewelry)
Please tell us about yourself and what you do….
I have been designing jewelry for over 20 years. My passions include design, jewelry, yoga and personal connection. My jewelry business has taken several directions. Currently, I design one-of-a-kind custom jewelry for private Clients. Primarily I work on engagement rings, wedding bands and Heirloom redesign pieces. Re-imagining old pieces and making something new and exciting is one of my favorite aspects of Tracy Matthews Jewelry. I have some cherished heirloom pieces from my grandmother and mother that keep their memory alive.
After I closed my first business, jewelry designers who were just starting out in business kept approaching me in search of guidance. After working with several designers and helping them build their own brands, I had an idea for an online school to teach jewelry designers everything they needed to know about running a business. I launched Flourish & Thrive Academy in the summer of 2012.
I always felt like the jewelry industry was too secretive. No one wanted to help anyone else because they were afraid that their trade secrets would be stolen and they would lose some sort of competitive edge. I don’t believe in competition! However, I do believe in standing out in a crowded sea of designers and running a systemized streamlined business.
My F&TA partner, Robin Kramer, and I created several online courses to teach jewelry designers the A-Z of running a successful jewelry brand. Our signature courses, Laying the Foundation and Multiply Your Profits, have been changing the lives of jewelry designers everywhere.
I have found the stories from your past to be very interesting and inspirational. Many jewelry designers aspire to find success pursuing their passion as you have. Can you tell the readers a bit more about your journey and how you got where you are today?
Thanks for asking Cindy! Yes, I mentioned some of this in the first question but I am happy to dig a little deeper.
Since I was a little girl, I have had a passion for design! When I took my first jewelry class as an elective, I was hooked! My instructor was an artist herself. She planted a seed that made me believe I had talent and began mentoring me. I feel really strongly about mentoring and have since continued to participate in the mentorship cycle.
It took me a while to realize how I was a mentor to others. It started as teaching yoga and watching my students grow (did I mention that I am passionate about a lot of things?).
With the unconditional emotional support of my family, I decided to launch my first jewelry business in 1998. Entrepreneurship seemed natural to me. I come from a long line of business successes! My business grew quickly and I began understanding that it was important to get help. I hired my first production assistant right away. That was an amazing learning experience! However, as I continued to grow, my business wasn’t properly set up to sustain the growth.
Over the years, I hired a staff of employees and independent contractors and I just kind of made things up as I went along. It wasn’t until I was nearing 1 Million in sales that I started to feel the stress of poor planning and infrastructure in my business. I floated by for another year until I broke down, desperate for help. I hired consultants (and spent thousands and thousands of dollars doing it) who helped me plan, systemize and cut expenses. During that time, I started acting like a CEO AND paying myself a regular paycheck. My creativity and life changed forever.
While I was going through the process, the economy crashed and I was forced to close my business after 11 years. The decision was a conscious one, guided by the help of my consultants. I was no longer happy! But boy, did I learn a lot about what NOT to do by experiencing the pain and struggle first hand.
When I launched my custom jewelry business, things were much different. I set up my systems and structures right away and it paid off brilliantly. My business is highly profitable, I have zero debt and I am extremely happy!
This is where Flourish & Thrive Academy comes in! I have such a clear understanding of how a jewelry business should run. I was on a mission to break down the barriers for information in the industry and make it easy for jewelry designers, new and seasoned, to access the information that would help them succeed in business.
I am really excited for the launch of Multiply Your Profits because it is our first all-inclusive business training for Jewelry designers. Our newest program covers everything you need to build a strong business infrastructure, systematic production, best practices and understanding the financials. We are psyched!
As jewelry designers, what mistakes do you see being made frequently?
There are a few mistakes I see consistently: trying to do every thing, thinking small, and poor planning or “winging it”.
In order to succeed in any business, you must think like a CEO rather than a maker, or, as Michael Gerber of the E-Myth calls it, a technician. The CEO’s of major companies aren’t in the mailroom sorting mail! They are developing strategy and creating the vision of the company. A lot of designers get nervous to hear me say that they need to act like a CEO. It’s true that in the beginning, you do need to wear a lot of hats. But if you are interested in actually making good money as a jewelry designer, you MUST focus on the big picture.
Then there is the issue of thinking small. As a CEO, it’s your job to think big. I encourage designers to think beyond the mindset of “I don’t really want to get that ‘big business’.” I am here to tell you if you shift the way you think about your business and reframe your mindset, you may start thinking more along the lines of, “I desire to have a profitable business that pays me well.”
Having a profitable business that pays you really well does not necessarily have to mean you have 20 employees, but it does require strategic thinking and a plan.
I can completely relate to this final topic, poor planning or winging it as you go along. I did this for year because as a creative thinker, I absolutely abhor structure and organization. I have had to really learn how to create boundaries for structure in my life, planning and business. Of all of the mistakes, I think this is the most important. Mainly because, if you can create a systematic approach to running your business and couple that with a good plan, you’ll be golden. You might design the most beautiful jewelry in the world, but if you don’t have a framework to handle all of the pieces of the puzzle it takes to design, create, manufacture, sell, and market your work paired with the internal systems that will allow this to happen, your business WILL fail. My first business is proof of this.
What are some things that jewelry designers can do on a daily/weekly (whichever you want) basis that can help improve their business?
For me the most important thing for designers to do regularly would be scheduling your time. It is really easy to waste time doing stupid things that aren’t bringing money into your business.
You should be scheduling time for the following things:
- Sales and Marketing
- Infrastructure and systems
- Dealing with your Goals and Money
- Tracking your progress
- Building momentum
- Focusing on your mindset and clearing out negative thinking
Robin loves to use the term “Revenue Generating Activities” because if you aren’t making money, then you don’t have a business. I take that a step further: “if you aren’t covering your overhead and paying yourself a good salary, you don’t have a business.”
In the beginning, of course you might not be making ends meet. This is the difference between a hobby and a business. The goal is to have a business.
What are some of your favorite sales techniques to build momentum and increase profitability in your business?
Great question Cindy! As Robin and I like to say, you must spent a significant amount of your time focused on revenue generating activities or anything that is bringing money in the door. For most designers, revenue generating activities are sales, especially when they are starting out and don’t have sales support or staff.
It is really important to focus, especially if sales does not come that naturally to you. Here are a few tips that we recommend:
1. Set goals for your Sales.
Know what you need to bring in every month to cover your expenses and make a profit. It’s also really important to factor in how much you desire to earn when you are setting these goals.
2. Schedule your time for sales.
For some people it might be more powerful and productive to chunk out a few hours a day for sales. For others it might be dedicating one day to sales. Make sure you put it on the calendar and you commit to that appointment with yourself.
3. Keep the momentum going and celebrate.
It can be really discouraging to keep pushing forward, especially if you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. Building momentum is key here. One sale starts to expand on another.
Remember what you focus on expands. So focus on and envision getting clients in the door (or to your website) and they will start coming if you put action behind it. A wise man once said: I used to celebrate every time someone said”No” to me because I calculated that after Nine “No’s” I would get One “Yes.” Sales is a numbers game. Celebrate your wins rather than focusing on what’s not working.
Could you give us some advice for the jewelry designer that wants to take their business to the next level?
The most important piece of advice I can give is to set up systems in your business and act like a CEO.
The second piece of advice is to focus on your unique talents and the greatest benefits of what you have to offer. For example, I am really fantastic at connecting with my clients and intuitively designing pieces that are perfect for them. In a sense, I am never really “selling” anything – I am offering a service for exceptional people who want something unique and different.
The third piece of advice is to join the F&TA Community! Running your jewelry business is really hard to do alone. We have seen designers catapult their way to huge growth in all areas of their lives and businesses just by finding support from other designers.
Do you have a guiding principle that you like to live by?
Lead with an open heart and don’t be stingy.
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What are your burning business questions? Come to the Webinar and ask!
Sign up for the LIVE Webinar this Wednesday! This Q&A call is free, and will share business steps you can start implementing right now within your jewelry business! There will be special perks for those who listen to the call live. Even if you can’t attend live, a recording will be available so sign up anyway!
Time: Wednesday, April 17th at 12:00pm Eastern
Tracy Matthews is an eco-luxury fine jewelry designer
and the founder of Flourish & Thrive Academy
. She loves finding deep personal connections with her clients to design one-of-a-kind pieces that are perfectly suited for the individual. Her passion for helping other designers get business savvy is one of the most fulfilling parts of her career. Creative and passionate, she stays connected by teaching and practicing yoga.
Thank you for visiting today. Please considering joining me in Multiply Your Profits! Registration opens April 17th.
(I’m honored to be an affiliate with Flourish & Thrive Academy)