Although I have been a jewelry designer for almost 20 years, it's no longer possible to do everything myself. For the first 14 years I was traveling non-stop doing trunk shows at Saks Fifth Ave all over the country, then after the economy crashed in '08/09 on 62 cruises worldwide. Shifting to be able to stay home I do custom work and private label. But I have this huge intellectual property of timeless designs, a publisher waiting for a re-write of my first book (jewelry related) and so much more. It's just more than I can do myself. I don't want to hire people. I want a partner who will benefit from sales, not just get a salary. I am open to structuring a partnership in any way that works for everyone. But how do I find that right person?
You can see my work at www.JaneGordon.com
My skills are in design, creativity, manufacturing, and previously when I was traveling and doing trunk shows, in setting them up and selling.
What I need now is someone with complimentary skills, in business, business development, sales, and especially selling online, and everything involved in making online sales flourish.
Do you want to see something that really sets me apart from anyone? My jewelry is worn for beauty, and cherished for layers of discovery. It is filled with sculptural symbolism of paths to joy, success, leadership and oneness; Check out my seminar on YouTube (don't worry, no one expects you to watch the while hour)
Maybe the easiest partnership would be for someone to take over online sales and take a percent. It can be site specific, or all online sales.
@Jane, I appreciate how interactive you've been with the people offering their suggestions. It demonstrates you're really thinking about these issues, though you're still struggling a bit. I suspect you've done some of the work I'm about to suggest, but indulge me a little in creating a framework for how you think about the issues you've presented. As a sculptor myself, I have considered many of the same issues about my art.
As a solopreneur, you are facing the same growth issue that comes up as your business finds more financial success, but the number of hours you have to spend does not increase. You are a limited resource. Ideally, your customers outstrip your ability to serve them, but this creates pressure. What happens to successful solopreneurs is facing the need to scale.
You cannot work on your business when you are working in your business. That seems to be the realization you've come to right now, and the question is what to do next. Right now for you the "what next" is probably being limited by your experience in observing how others get over this hurdle. I feel like you have thought deeply about your priorities, but I recommend putting pen to paper with them anyway. Don't do it in a way that is a list of assets and problems. Instead do it in a way that separates the things that create anxiety for you versus the things that create joy for you. Some anxiety can be good, like all the little things about a hectic trunk show that are work but ultimately make you feel good. Other anxiety is bad, like not wanting to sit down and do your monthly accounting. (I'm making an assumption on both those things with no basis.)
Let's eliminate the search for a partner for the moment. Instead let's take the list you made of the demotivating elements of your business and assemble them into a persona. What kind of person does the things that you wish you didn't have to do? Maybe it's multiple people in a not-full-time way. Now let's try to measure the effect on the positive parts of your business for each of the negatively charged activities. Come up with a number of hours that are consumed by the less appealing activities themselves or even thinking about getting them done, and look at the total. Consider what you could get done doing the parts you like if you had all of those hours free.
I understand why this looks like you need a partner, but I'm sensing that it isn't just one person that you need. The collection of things you'd rather were done for you instead of you doing them is too diverse for a single partner, employee, whatever you want to call them. And you aren't especially interested in burdening yourself with paying a salary, especially when you can't guarantee one person could do it all, or even stay busy enough to justify the salary.
So again, let's look at how much your revenue could increase if you were able to shed the labor you're spending yourself on working in your business instead of on your business. Then let's consider more options than a commission-only salesperson, because that's likely too limited an approach.
Let's also consider what parts of your business are scalable and deliver the most revenue, in addition to which parts you like doing. First let's focus on the revenue part rather than the fun part, because more revenue means more options. Consider which outlets really provide the best profit, regardless of the marketing steps that make you popular. Perhaps it's the private label work. And perhaps the private label also lets you be creative, generate volume, and not have to do any of the sales work.
I'm not discouraging you from trunk shows, rather I'm asking you to consider how the shape of your efforts affect the bottom line and the efficiency of your business. If for example, you cut the number of trunk shows but put a lot more focus on private label, you might dramatically increase orders, enabling you to pay someone to handle specific tasks like updating your e-commerce site, photographing your work, sending postcards to your previous customers, doing your accounting, etc.
Since you've considered a commission-only salesperson, how about instead if you consider e-commerce affiliates instead? While enhancing your own e-commerce platform is still a base requirement, as is developing a sales model for referrals, the commission-junction model could be much simpler than trying to find one person to drive your online orders. Instead you could have dozens or hundreds, and you can set the requirements for what it takes to be an affiliate and what the benefits are.
Without knowing a lot more about how your business functions today and the proportion of time that goes into design, marketing, travel, administrative overhead, fabrication, etc. I can't point to the real opportunities. And while you might have some initial misgivings about diminishing trunk shows in favor of private label, also think about what you can do when revenue isn't what's nagging you daily.
It's a little bit like what I advise for some people thinking of starting a charity. Sometimes if what they care about is the outcomes the charity delivers, it can be better to find a charity already working in that area, and doing something else to be wealthy enough to support that charity with your donations. Running a parallel charity often results in both struggling to survive and both being unhappy. So with your jewelry, let's make the next step in your evolution a jump in revenue so you don't have to worry about the cost of the administrative tasks. That might seem like selling-out for a while, but when it frees your time up to be the creative source instead of the bottle-washer, you'll be a happier artist.
Hi, Jane, why do you need a partner, I don't get it? As someone explained below that once a partner steps in you will loose that much equity and the right over your creations, I am sure you don't wish to loose that. You have an abundance of experience and have thrived over last 2 decades. Now that you want to concentrate more on creating and not on sales, I suggest as follows:-
1. Set aside, for example about 15/20% of your equity as Employee share options (ESOP).
2. Employ people interested in online sales & marketing and Brand management.
3. Pay them a salary + give them ESOP, thus they feel they have skin in the game too as shares pay out dividends.
That way you will have people who will own shares in your company, take a salary and who you can fire if they do not perform. You will still retain all rights on your creation 100%.
Do remember these ESOPS should be non-voting type, so they can earn dividends for the employee but they cannot veto any decision.
secondly ESOP has to be spread over 2/4 years. meaning if you are offering anyone 4 % equity then you issue out 1% every completed year of employment. SO incase this employee resigns after 2 years then they will only have 2% of your company and not 4%.
Lastly make sure you have a share agreement in place, get yourself a lawyer and ensure its water tight.
Finally if all the above is too complicated, then just find an B2C online sales agency to help strategies your complete online channel and push sales on social media.
As you probably already discovered, finding the right partner is both art and science, mixed in with a little luck. Your first step should be to define exactly what you're looking for in your ideal partner, and what skills s/he should possess, specifically to offload some specific tasks off your plate (which you should have listeds as well). It sounds like you may benefit from a “business” type partner....If that’s the case, feel free to connect with me for a more detailed conversation offline. Hope this helps!
Hi Jane, I think you need to first decide what you are missing in your business. I start by saying this because it seems you have many years of experience in the field and to find a partner in understanding your business the way you do can be very hard. I believe your particular skills & strategies are actually things a younger generation may not know, but it is still crucial in playing a part in the growth of your business (networking, trunk shows, understanding design & manufacturing, etc.) . I guess I would ask these questions to myself first: Is there a reason you never had a partner? Do you not want to hire someone due to overhead costs? How is your business cashflow? What are my strengths AND weaknesses? What was I good at a decade ago that probably has changed now (marketing, sales approach/strategy, design trends, etc.)? Is your target market still relevant the same way it was 20 years ago when you started? Do you recognize what may be lacking and what has been your largest growth stunt since the economic crash? --I think once you are able to define what you're missing through deep reflection, you'll find that you will know exactly what you may be looking for, either in a partner or employees. Hope this gets the ball rolling for you!
This post was a great throw back for me. I remember working with my father in a pewter foundary we created back in 93' doing everything from jewelry to grand father clock ornamentals for Ridgeway, Sligh and Howard Miller. Thanks for that memory.
Sounds like you are in a good position to find that partner, but maybe you might take a step back to look at the bigger picture. You've already got some good input here so thanks for the updates. One thing you might consider is the motivation and circumstance. Do you really need a partner or just someone to help since you might be short on funds. If you truely have such an archive and equity of intellectual property you might not need a partner at all. Keeping in mind that once a partner comes aboard, you lose that equitable part of your business and some of the decision making power you just might need to make it to your ideal destination.
It seems like you've worn many hats in your career and now want to simplify to maintain, not just revenue, but your interest and passion for what you do. In this day and age you have all the tools you need available; just maybe need a little guidance and help to get you moving again. I took a brief look through your social content and I think you have some potential with your story telling and experience, but you just need to focus those efforts just a bit more. To have such a passion that's been sustained over such a long period is a great asset for you and it's always nice to see other find something they aren't just talking about doing, but actually going out and working on it.
Let's see what else this community has to give you.I think you'll find that there will be more input on alternative opportunities rather than sacrificing equity on a partner that may or may not deliver. Risk aversion is key here even though it may seem like desparate times cal for big risk; you have better options. Cheers!
I prefer to be a solo founder so I call the shots & don't get influenced with by other partners. However once I'm into it for as long as you are, I think I would want to start handing over the reins at the same time needing fresh insights & rigor for the business to carry on in the right direction.
Now, when choosing a partner you will have to be sure of the divide in equity, the pay and of course the decisions undertaken. Would this recommend since you've got the experience of designing etc. you're looking to keep heading the design, R&D, partial manufacturing bit. Your partner may want to be the one doing the travelling for business development, sales and even overseeing digital sales and inventories.
You'll have to split the financial management accordingly as well and if your partner needs to build his/her side of the team with manpower.
I would also recommend you try hiring apprenticeships for tasks you can easily supervise and define so they're done-you don't need to pay much or at all if the case be. You could also try remote workers & moms/dads on paternity leaves or breaks to aid you with the digital sales bit.
See what suits you best. Sometimes you hit the bulls eye, sometimes it's a bit of trial and error. It can be best found by defining clear roles and tasks, especially those you don't want to do & can't do-these you need an expert to supplement with.
Thank you for your thoughtful answer. There is a lot which is based on misunderstanding. I was doing non-stop trunk shows for 14 years, first 1 local, then 8 years at Saks, then 5 years on cruise ships. About 5 years ago I just did not want to live on the road anymore. I tried to change to online sales but that is not sustaining me, so I shifted to custom work and private label which I am building now.
Retail in general is in complete disarray, as I am sure you know. Even if I wanted to go back on the road, it's just not the same. Here in NYC, as in most places, we have more retail vacancies than ever before.
Honestly I have been doing this for twenty years, have built so much including inventory, intellectual property, timeless designs, and especially the proof that my jewelry resonates with customers - when I can get it seen.
What I really think I need is someone who knows how to get online sales, and has a team overseas. We don't need to get into control, lawyers, etc. If they can get online sales I would be thrilled to pay. I would continue to design, manufacture, create, and fulfill. What's more it would free me to write, publish, get publicity and continue to build the brand.
You suggested commission junction, which sounded familiar. I have put myself so many places I have to keep a list - when I remember to add things to the list - see below. How is that for a start?
Web site http://janegordon.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JaneGordonDesigns/ https://www.facebook.com/JaneGordonGiftsFromFineArtAmerica/ https://www.facebook.com/JaneGordonMusingsInspirationDesign4Life/ https://www.facebook.com/jane.a.gordon
Amazon.com – Book for sale -(Working on high end art edition for a publisher) https://www.amazon.com/Designs-Life-Uncommon-Happiness-Leadership/dp/1514690675
Amazon Handmade – Products for sale https://www.amazon.com/handmade/Jane-A-Gordon-Jewelry-Art-Gifts-Inspiration
Etsy and Etsy Wholesale https://www.etsy.com/shop/JaneAGordon?ref=hdr_shop_menu
Abenity (Corporate offers) https://vendor.abenity.com
Amava (restructuring life for retirees) https://amava.com/my-amava/#!/my-amava
Angel List Personal: https://angel.co/jane-gordon-1
Business Page: https://angel.co/company/www-janegordon-com?preview=1
Deviant Art https://1visionary.deviantart.com/
Merchant’s Showroom https://merchantshowroom.com/vendor-dashboard/settings/store/
New World Native: (old link?) http://nativescommunity.com/jane-gordon
New World Native https://newworldnative.com/jane-a-gordon/
Product Hunt https://www.producthunt.com/@jane_a_gordon
Wyzant Tutors https://www.wyzant.com/tutor/profile
Alephants - Job Site http://www.alephants.com/profile/freelancers
Bark.com (UK Based) https://www.bark.com/user/settings/
For sharing Upwork Freelancers https://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~01676b9dd4aa49ece2
New York State Contracts https://ny.newnycontracts.com/FrontPage/VendorMain.asp?XID=9522
Maybe I was hoping that someone here would jump in and be perfect!
Sorry I didn't understand the progression of your business. Sounds like you have found the path that make sense today, but are struggling with skills in the area of marketing. I would encourage you not to think of your situation as a sales problem. At your stage, many business owners believe that "just increasing sales" is the answer. But a lack of sufficient sales volume is indicative of a marketing strategy issue.
While many smaller companies are visible, doing okay, and have a steady stream of customers, they are unable to capture a leap in business that would change the economics. That is controlled by marketing strategy. So while it sounds right to get a sales expert, what you really need is likely a marketing lift. You have a lot of connection points.
There is work to be done in optimizing visibility, refining your message, SEO work, advertising in general, and shaping the messages so each targets the specific personas you're pursuing individually. Additionally you have market research for new geographies and audiences, testing and validating tactics, and collecting insights on what new products will pull sales forward. Those aren't sales tasks, they're marketing tasks. If you stick a salesperson on the task without doing the marketing work, they will have significantly limited success because their tools are too rough to be highly effective.
Marketers don't work on commission though, or on pay for performance. When considering how to move marketing forward, you will need to consider the balance of speed, cost, and quality. You will only get to pick two of those three to go in the direction you want. So if you do marketing cheaply, it will be slower or of lower quality. If you do marketing quickly, it will be either expensive or lower quality. And so on.
I think you're on the right track with your intent. My encouragement is to look at this as a marketing strategy issue, not a sales issue. The sales will follow good marketing strategy. Sale efforts without strategy will not scale or deliver the results you're most hoping for.