I have been so thrilled to find so many incredible artisans making a living from their passion while looking for businesses to feature for our Success Stories series. Val from LilyEmme Jewelry is one of those ‘gems’ (pardon the pun) that I have come across in my journeys who makes incredibly professional products but manages to keep in on her home ground. Read on to hear all about Val’s journey from ‘Rock Hound’ to Gem-setting Jeweler.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I was a rock hound as a child but I never would have guessed I would end up where I am today.
I also grew up loving wildlife so when I went to college, I decided to pursue a degree in environmental science so that I could pursue my interests in wildlife ecology. I instead wound up pursuing a career in the marine insurance industry and after a few years I realized I wasn’t fit for that type of work.
All along I had been cultivating this love and obsession of making jewelry which started as a hobby while I was in college and progressed to a small side business shortly after.
Jewelry began to come to the forefront and eventually it made the most sense (financially and emotionally) to do what I love full time.
July 4th is my anniversary of becoming full time, a bit of my own independence day, if you will.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
The biggest challenge has been wearing all of the hats and running out of time.
Time is precious and I learned early that if it’s not spent wisely, I quickly become consumed in all of my to-do lists.
Unhealthy habits (like popcorn for lunch) creep up on me and personal relationships can suffer.
Every day I work on learning ways I can spend my time more efficiently.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
When Amazon contacted me to help represent them and their new venture Handmade at Amazon, I was beyond thrilled.
I work very hard to make my work stand out amongst other online shops and the fact that I was hand-picked had me elated.
Hard work pays off!
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
I don’t have many doubts because my customers and repeat-customers are always providing such wonderful feedback on my jewelry’s quality or the emotions it made them feel.
Word of mouth has been one of my larger sources of traffic to my shop.
I would love to research opening a Brick-and-Mortor shop if I had more time. I think it would be awesome to sell to people in person and really connect with my buyers.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Sometimes after a long or difficult work week, it’s easy to succumb to feelings of exhaustion or stress.
But I understand that it’s a natural part of the process in creative types of industries and I’m cool with it knowing that it’s only temporary.
During times like these, I shut off my phone and laptop and try to have a quiet evening away from work which helps me refresh by morning.
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
I achieve balance with the help of my daily planner and Siri who takes care of my reminders on my iPhone.
I ordered a great customizable planner and I write everything down, otherwise I’ll forget later.
Running a business on your own means your mind is always flooding with ideas, reminders, and possibilities so I’ve gotten in the habit of writing everything down and planning my week out so that I don’t overlook the important things. It’s no fun to schedule everything but it ensures that I make time for what’s really important to me – family and friends.
I start my typical day at 7am and usually head straight to my jewelry studio. In the early hours of the day is when the light is most beautiful it’s an incentive for me to get there.
I’m a bit slow to move in the mornings so I am admittedly not very productive when it comes to making jewelry at these hours.
I reserve these slow hours for emailing with customers, printing new orders and preparing supply orders for gold, diamonds, packing materials, etc.
From 10am to 4pm I become very productive and I usually keep my head down buried in production work or creating one-of-a-kind pieces for my customers.
From 4:00-5:30pm you can find me packaging orders and dropping them off at the local post office when I usually just barely make the 6pm cut-off time for the day’s mail pickup. After that, it’s time to go home and relax.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
Instagram has allowed me to connect one-on-one with my customers and develop a personal relationship and casual dialogue that many of my customers appreciate.
Our society’s appreciation for visual social media has allowed my work to be shared all over the work and the instant feedback I’ve received in the form of likes and comments has been priceless.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Ask for help when you need it.
I always give that advice but I truly believe that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you can’t do something on your own.
Maybe it’s because you don’t have time or perhaps it’s because you don’t have the skills yet, but there will always be someone who can help you which will free up your precious time or teach you how to do something on your own.
I’ve hired an accountant, virtual assistant, engraver, and most recently, a production assistant.
Before I hired them I was doing it all on my own and I was always stressed from lack of time. But now, I can’t imagine how I’d gotten by without all of their help which I am so grateful for.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Within 5 years, I‘d like my little business to continue growing into the fine jewelry arena.
I’m sure I will always have an online shop but maybe that brick-and-mortar shop I mentioned earlier will be closer to reality by then.