In summer 2004 I helped launch an innovative product configurator for a jewelry manufacturer.This Flash-based application allows the customer to choose ring size and stone type as well as place a customized inscription inside the clam-shaped ring.
The application increased retail sales and sales for the company’s channel partners as well as reduced mistakes and reworks.
Here’s the full text of a Chicago Tribune article on the company:
MINDING YOUR BUSINESS
Artist’s savvy adds glitter to jewelry firm
Knack for business helps designer craft sparkling results
By Ann Meyer
Special to the Tribune
July 18, 2005
One hit can lead to even bigger opportunities, if you manage it right.
For Chicago jewelry designer Tammy Kohl, her patented TakohlTreasure Rings, selling for $990 and up, have become a cash cow for hercompany, she said.
"I had a vision to come up with a piece I could protect and call my own," she said.
Kohl, who is president of Takohl Design Ltd. and also runs Takohl–AGallery of Exceptional Jewels in Chicago, attributes her success to herbusiness savvy as much as her creative ingenuity. She started sellingjewelry to pay her college tuition bills in 1984, but she had toyedwith having her own business since long before then.
"When I was a little girl, I played cash register instead of dolls,"said Kohl, the Wisconsin-born daughter of farmers. "I’ve always beenfascinated by business."
That’s unusual among most creative types, suggested Cindy Edelstein,president of Jeweler’s Resource Bureau in Pelham, N.Y., specializing inbusiness advice for jewelry designers.
"So many artists say, `I don’t like sales,’ but how else are yougoing to get your art out of the basement?" she said. "I have countlessclients that are just treading water."
But Kohl is different. To free up time to focus on the business,Kohl no longer makes her own jewelry, though she buys her own gems anddesigns all her work. Instead, Kohl uses in-house jewelers and aChicago jewelry manufacturer for production.
"Tammy Kohl is making it work," Edelstein said. "One idea is trademark-patented, and she can market the heck out of it."
Kohl’s Treasure Rings, which have bands that swing open to reveal apersonal inscription, are available at more than 100 stores and at herWeb site, www.treasurering.com. Customers choose the metal and gemsthat go into each ring, and create their own message, so each ring isunique, Kohl said.
To ease the ordering process, Kohl’s Web site includes a specializedform that reduces errors, she said. Even retailers use it. "By makingit easier for their customers to buy the product and for them to sellit, I’m a step ahead," she said.
Kohl’s emphasis on the Web puts her ahead of the curve, suggested Toni Lyn Judd, an independent jewelry manufacturers’ rep.
"Craftspeople need to reinvent the way they do business,particularly with the opportunity for consumers to buy goods in so manydifferent venues," Judd said. "People are going to do less shopping inretail stores and more in the confines of their home and office."
The Treasure Ring has another advantage over most artists’ work inbeing personalized yet available in quantity. While many consumers likeone-of-a-kind products, retailers don’t like to disappoint customerswith unavailable merchandise, said Merle White, editor in chief ofLapidary Journal, based in Malvern, Pa.
"To get a retail venue to take their work, it has to be repeatable," White said.
While the patented line, launched in 1997, has become Kohl’s breadand butter, fully 40 percent of her business is custom design work, shesaid. Many who own the Treasure Ring come back for something different,she said.
Employing a staff of three to help with daily operations, Kohlconcentrates on building the business. The result is a businessgenerating revenues of between $1 million and $2 million a year, shesaid.
Besides operating her retail gallery, Kohl works as her ownwholesale sales rep, often visiting retailers in person and attendingtrade shows where buyers scout for products. She takes out national adsand uses public relations to build awareness of her brand. Having hercreations adorn the fingers of celebrities such as Helen Hunt, KevinKline and Steven Tyler helps attract attention as well, she said.
Kohl made the most of the downturn following the Sept. 11 attacks toaccelerate advertising, taking out national ads in slick magazines suchas Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar at lower-than-usual rates,she said. The ads, in turn, have helped land her jewelry in more stores.
A public relations campaign also can lure new clients.
The bigger your reputation, the more likely you are to sell to stores outright, instead of on consignment.
"It’s a huge expense to have 20 pieces at a gallery on consignment.It’s like making a long-term loan, which is difficult to do," saidEvanston jewelry designer Noel Yovovich said.
Yovovich hopes recent media exposure of her titanium jewelry willhelp her pick up some new gallery accounts. She has been featured inseveral articles, and her $8,000 teapot is included in a recentlypublished book, she said.
While Yovovich would like to expand her business, she acknowledgedthat she hasn’t made the leap to put business before art. "I would loveto hand the entire business aspect of it over to someone else," shesaid.
Consultant Edelstein encourages jewelry designers to see business as another opportunity to create.
"Once they get that there’s a lot of creativity in business, thenthey can really rock," she said. "They need to fall in love with thecreative challenges of marketing and promotions and sales."
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune