How a Jewelry Designer Created a Thriving Business
Of all the pressing questions about the fashion industry, how to become a successful designer tops the list. Hitting that sweet spot of talent, charisma, and business-mindedness is no easy feat, which is why we were pleased to meet with the subject of today’s feature. Jenny Bird is a jewelry designer based in Canada whose namesake brand is sold in over 600 retailers in 14 different countries. Scroll down to read her inspiring career story, and shop her pieces too!
How did you begin your career?
I just took one step toward it I guess. I forgot what that first act was; likely buying a vintage bag in a shape I wished was still made. (I started my line with handbags and later expanded to jewelry.)
How did you know you wanted to start your own business, and how did you make it happen?
I didn’t love what I was doing every day (corporate marketing), and it hit me how short life is. I was always a believer in the concept that you could live your life “in flow”—that what you did every day could be a natural extension of who you were. I could be anything I wanted to be; I didn’t just have to “have a job.” I knew I wasn’t there yet and it was scaring me that time was ticking on. How did I make it happen? Action. Tenacity. Confidence in my ability to learn as I jumped into an industry I knew nothing about. I think a lot of people feel that there is some secret handbook or you must have lots of connections to start these dreamier-looking careers, but it’s really just guts and perseverance. You have to believe that you are smart enough to figure it out and go brazenly into the unknown.
Did you have any mentors along the way? If so, will you briefly elaborate on the relationship(s) and how it/they helped?
About six months into my venture, my dad met a woman in my hometown who had started a handbag business and sold it to Ralph Lauren. She was a great hotline for me at the beginning for basic need-to-knows, like when the Saks buyer asked me to send her a linesheet and I had no idea what that was!
When did you first know you wanted to design jewelry?
About two years into designing bags. I had cast vintage earrings and other vintage jewelry parts to adorn my first evening bags as hardware. The casting process was so rewarding, and the vintage jewelry hunting became super addictive! I was falling in love with the category. Like a new boyfriend, I left bags for it in a flurry! Designing jewels was my natural language; I had found my native tongue!
What was it like to begin your business?
Hustle. Grind. Hustle. Grind. Knocked down. Get Up. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Long days. Late nights. Tears. Jumping for joy. Repeat.
Started the business in our house. Interns in the house. Chain. Parts in the house. Production in the house. First trunk shows on the kitchen table hoping neighbors would come. Poor husband!
How did you grow your business? Did you have a plan in place or was it something that evolved and expanded unexpectedly?
I am a firm believer in manifesting. I grew my business, and continue to do so, with a focus on a future vision for what it will look like in five years. What will the studio be like that I go to? How many people will be working there? Where will I see my product on shelves? How will the brand be regarded? Nothing was unexpected; I have envisioned it’s future size and our success from day one.
How would you compare the beginning of your business to now?
I have enough help that I’m not doing my own corporate banking anymore. I used to do it all; ship [to] stores, design the product, upload new collections to the site, you name it. The business has a talented team now that enables me to focus on creating the product and creatively directing the brand, so it’s like a rocket ship of amazing jewel creation now!
Not worrying about paying our mortgage is still the BEST!
That’s a huge thing I think about when comparing the beginning to now. It’s such a huge leap to go from a starving entrepreneur to someone who is able to actually make a living from their business. That’s the HARDEST level to achieve, growth from there is much easier.
I’ve always been a dreamer, but I really believe anything is possible now!
Who are some of your favorite jewelry designers?
Oooo…I love love love all vintage. Art Smith was a midcentury modernist jeweler I’m obsessed with. I also love watching what the houses of Céline and Chloé do every season. They’re always on point.
How do you stay inspired season after season?
Trends. Street culture. Pop culture. I soak it all in every day. How real women of style are feeling, what they’re wearing, and how they’re wearing it. The collective conscious.
The act of creating something from a vision is also endlessly motivating. I can envision this amazing cuff and then, BAM! Through action and effort it is on my wrist.
How big is your team?
What are your favorite pieces from the current collection and how would you style them?
In general, I like my jewelry best worn casually.
Does the brand appeal to a certain type of girl or are there pieces for different style genres?
I think the Jenny Bird brand appeals to the type of woman who is comfortable in her own skin, she knows what’s “in fashion” but translates the trends to suit her personal style. She could be 18 or 78 yrs old.
What’s been the most exciting point in your career up to date?
When my husband was able to quit his “day job” and run the business side of the company. Now we are building our dream together, and it’s the ultimate lifestyle and freedom.
What’s next for Jenny Bird?
Rather than expand the brand further into more categories like sunnies, bags, home accessories, we have decided to master one thing; I want to make the best quality, and best designed fashion jewelry in the market.
Oh, and I’d like to spend half the year living barefoot oceanside. I need to sell a few more necklaces for that ;).
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Are you an aspiring jewelry designer? Did you find this interview helpful? Tell us in the comments!