Bonnie Riconda of Calico Juno Designs is this week’s Artisan of the Week, not only for her wonderful jewelry, but also because of the great advice she gives other handmade artisans.
Tell us about your handmade business.
I’ve been making jewelry by hand since 2002. I started out buying some wire and beads and experimented with it (I have no formal training nor have taken any jewelry making classes). Once I came up with some styles I liked and felt like they could be sold, I created my website, starting with about 30 original designs. Then I tried marketing myself, contacting magazine editors to get featured. I was featured in a number of national magazines, and once that happened stores, galleries, boutiques, etc. contacted me, setting up wholesale accounts. I’m now carried in over 350 places all over the country. I also tried expanding into other venues, such as selling on other sites, but found that doing dropshipping (letting others sell my jewelry online) was much easier, and less hassle, for me.
Tell other handmade artisans an interesting anecdote about your business or your product.
Upon opening up my own actual brick and mortar retail store (in 2009), I realized it took on a whole different level of customer service, with actual people coming into my shop that I had to deal with (my studio was in the back of the shop, separate from the retail area).
While it was an interesting experience, I eventually found that I preferred working at home in the privacy of my own studio (having closed the shop 8 years later), and not have to deal with all the details of running a boutique.
Explain a turning point or defining moment that changed your business.
When I got featured in InStyle magazine in 2004, I got so many orders that I realized I needed to hire help. I ended up making so much money in such a short period of time that I was able to put a down payment on a house! But I realized that I had already greatly expanded at that point that I needed help, that I couldn’t do it all myself anymore.
How did you overcome any setbacks your handmade business faced?
I always try to go away from any situation learning something, whether it was something good to repeat, or something that went wrong, to keep from repeating and preventing from happening again.
Some of the biggest problems I’ve faced were with dealing with employees, the ones who didn’t work out for various reasons, as it’s not just figuring out how to make designs and selling them but having to deal with the human element. I learned not to take anything personally, and to not make things of a personal nature. And as always, when something bad happened with different employees, just get back on the horse and figure things out and plunge ahead, not dwelling on the negative.
How do you market your products?
Through my own website, through others’ websites (dropshipping), on Etsy, and in other stores, galleries, boutiques, museum stores, etc.
I still try to get my jewelry featured in magazines, but it is difficult without having a PR firm doing the work for you (which I stopped doing years ago as it is very expensive).
I also do paid advertising, in select magazines and trade publications. I try to get myself featured in trade books and magazines too, as that’s free, and sometimes they even pay you! I’ve been in a number of jewelry books and magazines, and it’s another good way of getting your name out there.