Featuring expert sessions on everything from digital marketing to maintaining margins, the second annual MJSA ConFab recently offered “profit lessons” to nearly a hundred jewelry makers and designers interested in expanding their business skills. Presented by MJSA, the association dedicated to professional excellence in jewelry making and design, the conference took place Nov. 3 at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City and featured some of the industry’s top designers, marketers, contractors, and business consultants.
Sessions were available throughout the day on such topics as creating your own niche and building an audience for it; developing a digital marketing plan to create a cohesive online presence; and maintaining margins when using low-cost metals. A Q&A on subcontracting and a participatory session on sales skills rounded out the formal sessions. The day ended with ConFab Connect, in which attendees mingled with presenters and sponsors - a networking opportunity for all.
“MJSA ConFab’s second year was awesome! I enjoyed it thoroughly,” said Alyssa Brownell, a jewelry designer from New York City. “One comment by designer Lisa Jenks [who participated in both the niche marketing and margin sessions] is still stirring around in my mind: ‘Your design style is your handwriting.’ Lisa reminded me that it can be that simple, as well it should be. As unique as I am in my everyday, my designs should reflect that, like a window into a slice of my life.”
Another memorable takeaway, she continued, was from the digital media panel, which featured Cindy Edelstein of the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau, Matthew Perosi of JewelerWebsites.com, Eugene Brill of the The Richline Group’s Jewelry.com division, and Peggy Jo Donahue of MJSA. “I learned that in using social networking as a tool to promote my business, I should not only share my jewelry, but also that I’m a human being. Seems simple when you hear it, but I know too many designers are forgetting just this! I learned that I should talk about my life experiences and post an interesting variety of items showing what influences me as a designer. My fans want to know me as much as they want to know my jewelry.”
“The information we received from the digital marketing session was especially useful,” concurred Steve Anderson, general manager at Trung Do’s/JD & Co. Inc. in Tacoma, Washington. “As our company has grown, it has become very evident that we must be part of the social media environment if we want to continue to progress. The positive points and the potential pitfalls discussed [by] individuals well versed in this medium were well worth the trip.”
He added that it was also interesting to hear from renowned designers, such as Jenks, about the challenges they had encountered on the way to becoming profitable enterprises. “MJSA ConFab... showed us how difficult it can be for jewelry designers to get a foothold in this industry,” Anderson said, “and it gave us ideas on how to help these individuals create their designs and... produce multiple pieces of merchandise within a determined budget.”
MJSA ConFab was sponsored by the MJSA Education Foundation (Prime Sponsor), The Richline Group (Benefactor), Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, Riva Precision Manufacturing, Rio Grande, and Cindy Edelstein, the Jewelry Biz Guru.
The full lineup of speakers included:
- Andrea Hill, owner of StrategyWerx (a consulting firm focused on helping small-business owners) and former CEO of The Bell Group/Rio Grande.
- Cindy Edelstein, the “Jewelry Biz Guru” and founder of the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau in New York City.
- Lisa Jenks, a New York City-based designer recognized as one of today’s most distinctive designers of sterling jewelry.
- Alex Woo, an award-winning designer based in New York City, who has become particularly well known for charm collections that reinvent familiar symbols.
- Eugene Brill, director of marketing for the Jewelry.com division of The Richline Group, a Berkshire Hathaway Company.
- Jessica Kagan Cushman, a designer who has developed her own niche by creating jewelry and giftware characterized by tongue-in-cheek humor and a sense of whimsy.
- Scott and Minter Richter, owner of Minter + Richter, a Boston-based custom design studio specializing in titanium wedding bands.
- Ted Doudak, founder/CEO of Riva Precision Manufacturing in New York City, a turnkey manufacturing facility serving companies ranging from boutique jewelers to large-scale jewelry operations.
- Daniel Grandi, owner of RaceCar Jewelry Co., a full-service investment casting and finishing shop in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
- Matthew A. Perosi, principal of JewelerWebsites.com, a go-to resource for jewelers interested in getting the most out of their online presence.
- Peggy Jo Donahue, currently MJSA’s director of public affairs and social media guru, and former editor in chief of both JCK and Professional Jeweler magazines.
- Tina Wojtkielo Snyder, editor in chief of MJSA Journal and MJSA Journal Online.