The Southern Jewelers Guild takes a look at the explosive growth of the industry-only Facebook group
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller
Just beyond the surface of your regular Facebook feed is a quiet, but flourishing closed Facebook group, operating underground through the innocuous name of “Jewelers Helping Jewelers.”
Don’t let appearances fool you. This group, well over 3700 jewelers strong (and growing every day) at press time, is proving there really is strength in numbers, and is preparing to become one of the biggest disrupters of traditional business to business transactions our industry has seen since hands began wringing over the invention of the of the Internet.
Leading the charge over this change is none other than the Crown Jewel herself, Aleah Arundale. Smart, sassy and driven to help others succeed in an industry that takes no prisoners, Aleah is the champion of “the sale.” Her special combination of insight, moxie and charm weaves its way throughout hundreds of interactions a day, coaxing, chiding, and cheering on in a way that makes participants of the group feel comfortable and confident.
What started off for me as a day project meant to be lurking behind the scenes, taking in the rhythm of the feed, ended up being a several-week, in-depth study of nearly 16 hours a day, closely monitoring the actions, reactions and interactions of a tightly-knit group of jewelers, that truly were, well, helping jewelers.
And while this is the stated objective of the group, I do have to say this group is not for the faint of heart. People on this feed are serious about business, serious about doing business, and oftentimes, seriously opinionated. Which is okay if you take time to get to know the people and the feed, and the way the people act and react within the feed. But sometimes it isn’t all fun and games, and when things get too serious, Aleah steps in with a measured hand and, on one occasion, the delete key, to bring things back down to room temperature for all. What makes this work for her, and the group as a whole is that she has experience on all sides, wholesale and retail, and can speak to both sides with authority, and a dash of humor to quickly turn things back around to get everything and everyone back on track.
Hurt feelings and a minor temper tantrum or two aside, the incredible wealth of information and friendly conversations to be had here on a day to day basis make venturing out simply from the lurking perspective alone something every jeweler reading this should consider at least once or twice in 2017. If you are looking for honest, unfiltered conversations about what is really happening within our industry, you are going to find it here.
Guns or no guns in the store? Handling employees that abuse cell phones on the showroom floor? Best ways to photograph merchandise for your social media feeds and websites? Need to get rid of merchandise that you can’t sell? Need a stone custom cut? Looking for a hand engraver? Up at 3:00 am and feel like no one else in the world understands what you are going through? This is the community that is going to embrace you like a warm blanket on a cold day, and the very best part is that you don’t have to worry about sharing any “back story” because these people already know it all, and could probably tell it all for you, word for word.
Part of the terms set by Aleah for the Jewelers Helping Jewelers group, aside from “no rules,” are “Aleah takes 0 liability for anything that happens in the group. All members agree by joining that they will not sue her because she hates that. If you are a member you acknowledge that there will be posts you don’t like, they might be offensive to you, but you must live with them as that is free speech and part of the group,” as well as the fact that Aleah is not responsible for transactions and buyers should be diligent in researching and making appropriate inquiries about their purchases as sellers/gems for sale are not formally vetted by Group Admins.
During the time I spent monitoring the Jewelers Helping Jewelers feed for this article, I did witness two transactions that went bad. However, I have to say that once they were exposed to “the group” there was an effort undertaken by “the group” to find resolution, and it appeared to me that both transactions were resolved without a loss to the buyer. Full disclosure here, though … because I was “lurking” for this article, I did NOT reach out to either the buyer or the seller on either transaction to get in depth details, and am only reporting my observations based on the conclusions that I drew from the final comments posted on the Jewelers Helping Jewelers Facebook comments within the feed for each instance.
My observations on these two bad transactions aside, I did witness literally hundreds of quick and smooth sales made between willing buyers and willing sellers. Which brings me to another interesting aspect of this community. Many of the conversations I observed took place leading up to Christmas eve. The closer December 24th approached, the more harried the requests (obviously) became on the feed. But even in the face of those always annoying, seemingly impossible customer requests, there were still jewelers on the Jewelers Helping Jewelers feed who were willing to reach back and do what they could to help others fulfill those last minute customer orders.
Sometimes it was something as simple as the name or phone number of a particular supplier. Sometimes it was a call for a stone, a watch or a bread and butter item that someone halfway around the United States had in stock and was happy to ship. Several times it was a call for bench help, either physical “help, I need a jeweler to set this for me, cast this for me, make this for me …” or the more generic, “help, I need advice on …” but whatever the issue, regardless of the day or hour, there were generous people, generously giving of their time, literally during Christmas crunch hell, a period when many of us barely have a moment for our families or for ourselves.
As small business owners, we’re used to going it alone. We all know how it feels to be responsible for every single success and failure. Our industry has suffered painfully over the last dozen years, but 2017 is expected to bring the beginning of a rebound, which will hopefully have a long-term effect on our national economy. Who better to turn to, in good times or bad, than others in our exceptional community who are willing to freely share experience, advice, knowledge and skills to help your business grow?
Ann Glynn is President and CEO of Southern Jewelers Guild, an organization dedicated helping jewelers, vendors and industry-related tradespeople identify their target market, create and grow a client base, pair you with vendor partners who provide tools to help you succeed, and work with you to make sure you are operating at optimal performance.