It wasn’t always All Ag for me. In fact, I actually went to school in California to become a gemologist. And for eight years before I started my own company, I worked with my good friend Heather Maertens at her jewelry store, Maertens Fine Jewelry & Gifts, which she opened at the age of 28. A few years ago, she launched her own jewelry line, Penny James.
We don’t see each other as much as we used to, working together every day, but we caught up for this interview. There are similarities in running any kind of business, whether it’s a jewelry store or a farm. I’m grateful for the experience and mentorship I had with Heather and hope you find some wisdom in her reflections as well.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Honestly, I find inspiration absolutely everywhere. I carry a small notepad in my purse to make a quick note when inspiration hits. The area I live in is overflowing with beautiful ideas: birds, flowers, grasses, and sea creatures are everywhere. I love antique furniture and architecture. A lot of my custom jewelry pieces have elaborate wire work or hand engraved details that mimic those designs.
What about being a business owner do you know now that you wish you knew then?
There is nothing to be afraid of. If something doesn’t work, you aren’t a failure, it just wasn’t for you. I spent too much time being nervous as a new business owner instead of enjoying and recognizing what I was building.
What’s your best marketing advice for other business owners?
Pay attention to what works. Keep it simple. We have had our best results when we concentrated on marketing one item or service at a time. Trying to be everything to everyone is exhausting.
If you could go anywhere, where would it be?
I want to go to the Galápagos Islands. There are land and sea creatures that only live there. I want to see the huge turtles that look like prehistoric creatures. I would swim with the sea lions and see the penguins and iguanas!
Tell us something we don’t know.
Sapphires come in every color of the rainbow except for red. If it is red, it’s a Ruby. They’re both the same material, Corundum.
Bonus question…how do you stay on top of the fashion trends?!?
I read fashion magazines and jewelry trade publications. We go on buying trips in New York City. They always have the next big thing on display. We have great relationships with our designers and vendors. They give us the scoop on Fashion Week and what the celebrities are wearing.