Friday, February 9, 2007

Casto Creations

Megan Cole of Casto Creations creates one of a kind and limited edition jewelry designs using gemstones, pearls, crystal, glass, and precious metals. In August 2002, she attended a jewelry-making activity and she was hooked from there on out. Of course, her passion for jewelry is not surprising, as jewelry design runs in the family and Megan’s grandparents cut stone and designed award winning jewelry. Here Megan talks about her turning her passion into a successful business:

The Casto Customer
“Casto Creations customers tend to be females of all ages, and even a few men who love to buy unique gifts for their significant other. They are folks who love direct customer service and attention along with top quality jewelry.”

Working From 9 to 5
“A typical work day …starts bright and early at 5 a.m., getting ready for the hour commute to the “real” job…until 5 p.m. when [I arrive] back home to sit down in front of the computer to work on the website and answer e-mails. If there’s time during the week some jewelry design gets accomplished, but that’s typically what the weekends are for.”

Evolution from A Hobby to a Full-Fledged Business
“I think the most challenging aspect of starting a business was actually having the mindset of being a “business” instead of a hobbyist. The decision to sell my work as an actual business was fairly stressful. I make jewelry because I love it but I would have ended up drowning in jewelry if I hadn’t decided to sell it to others. After making the decision, the second hardest thing was organizing myself as a business instead of a craft. Setting goals, putting together a website, advertising…all these things were new and scary. But I kept on going, pushing through the doubts and focused on the future.”

“Getting my name out there is a huge challenge, especially in the jewelry industry. There are hundreds of small jewelry designers trying to get their names seen and heard, and an equal number of people making their own jewelry as a hobby. Finding a niche in such a large ocean is a constant ongoing effort.”

Showtime, Craftime
“Selling at craft shows is how I first started selling my work. My first show cost me $20 to enter and I sold $80 in product. I was thrilled! I thought I’d done absolutely fantastic. Of course, if I did that today I’d probably cry, but that’s the difference in experience. I’m much more choosy about what shows I attend. My worst experience has to be when it started raining, after several very hot days, and I found out that my tent leaked!”

“Pricing [products] is always a tough thing, but I’ve finally come up with a formula that factors in the price of raw materials, labor, overhead expenses along with any other charges may apply for the piece. Under pricing work is a beginner’s mistake that I continue to struggle with.”

From Her Mouth to Yours
“Word of mouth is the best and most reliable source! The next best thing is using Constant Contact to send out newsletters to current clients. Keeping current clients is much easier than finding new ones.”

“My marketing includes internet banners purchased on various independent websites as well as ads in national magazines purchased via Indie Finds, a group of independent artists who pool their resources for greater influence to compete against the “big box” stores.”

“My approach is very laid back and fairly informal. I’ve sent out one press release, but mostly I contact independent venues (i.e. Rare Bird Finds, Nole Style & Beauty) directly via e-mail. Soon I plan to create a press packet to send to local boutiques.”

Keeping on the Fashion Pulse
“I subscribe to several fashion magazines as well as several industry related magazines. I browse the internet a lot and frequent various fashion related forums to interact and find out what people are looking for.”

“Beauty in the natural stones created by mother nature amaze me – I’m constantly discovering new stones and am astounded by nature’s variety.”

Recommended Business Resources
The Switchboards is a fantastic, unlimited resource for women business owners. Indie Finds is a wonderful group of independent artists who are finding their way through the world of advertising together. Lightning Bug Designs is an amazing small business with smokin’ web design skills. Reasonable Insanity – join strange people with great advice – not just for jewelers.”

“I’ve become a huge fan of Amy Peters as well as Nicole of Yen Jewelry ."

Words of Advice
“Learn as much as you can to get the basics of your ‘art’ or ‘craft’ – it’s hard to undue a bad impression due to lack of skill if something goes wrong with an item purchased early in your startup. And do as much research as possible in as many different venues as possible. Go online, go shopping in B&M stores, go to arts and craft shows, and ask people you know what they are looking for in a product. And most importantly, be open and willing to change.”
Megan Cole

No comments: