Today’s entrepreneur is Ashley Menza of Ashley Menza Designs.
When and why did you start your business?
Making jewelry was originally a hobby-one that I’d been playing around with since I was a little kid. Once I learned new techniques and refined my skills, people started requesting custom items and gifts for themselves! I decided to take the plunge and start a jewelry business, having absolutely no knowledge of where to begin! Luckily, I have a product that customers love and that sells well, so I’ve been able to keep it afloat despite the fact that I’m really just learning as I go!
Describe your business in 20 words or less.
Quality, timeless, and elegant jewelry that is handmade with love!
Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you stay inspired?
I’m very inspired by colors in nature; rocks at the beach, sunsets, wild flowers and fall leaves especially. When Swarovski creates new crystals, I get very excited imagining the possibilities for jewelry with all the new colors! I try all sorts of color combinations to see what works and what doesn’t!
What is your biggest success or accomplishment you’re most proud of in your business?
I love to see people wearing my jewelry. If I’m out running errands, and the person in front of me in line is wearing a pair of my earrings, it’s thrilling! To know that they liked something I made enough to purchase and wear it is very rewarding.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs when they are first starting out?
Remember that you can’t do it all. You’ll drive yourself crazy and into a spiraling tornado of exhaustion if you try. Take just a few small things and delegate them to someone competent who you can trust so that you can focus on the big picture. It doesn’t matter what those small things are-organizing your file cabinet, cleaning your studio, building your website, or taking your product photos…get someone to help!
What is one mistake that you made that you really learned from and what did you learn?
Only one mistake? I don’t think I can narrow it down! But I’d say that being hard on myself for my mistakes is an even BIGGER mistake! I’ve made them, and I will continue making them…but that’s how I learn what to do and what not to do! If you spend your time beating yourself up for what you should/shouldn’t have done, you waste energy and resources that you could be spending bettering your business. Every time I goof, I try and say “Hey, that was an epic fail! Let’s not do that again! Instead, lets do this…” It takes serious practice not to berate yourself when you mess up; For me, my business is like my baby and I don’t want to hurt it!
Do you sell your products wholesale and, if so, what is one strategy that you use to get your products in stores?
I do sell my products wholesale. In fact, most of my orders are from stores to want to carry my designs. I’d say my sales are 90% wholesale and 10% retail.
When I first began, I did cold calling myself to get my jewelry in front of store owners and buyers, but I’m not a good salesperson. I found a good sales rep who wanted to work my line, and she got me several accounts. From there, I’ve hired many more representatives-Probably 10 total-and they send me orders on a weekly basis. Hiring reps is tricky though-Finding a good one is about 1 in 10 from all the people that I’ve talked to.