In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Nikki Smith, owner of Nikki Smith Designs. Nikki Smith Designs sells vibrant, fun jewelry, is based in Dallas, Texas, and has been in business for four years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start Nikki Smith Designs?
Nikki: I started making jewelry to wear to my corporate buying job. People loved the pieces I was wearing and I began to sell them off my neck! The reason I started was really to dress up my own outfits when I couldn’t find affordable quality jewelry that I loved. As soon as I saw the desire for my designs, I just kept it going!
R: What products did you buy for at your corporate job?
N: I bought kids accessories, basics and seasonal (swimwear and outerwear) for JCPenney for 5 years.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
N: I got some jewelry tools handed down from a wonderful lady, Pat, who could no longer make jewelry. I played around with stones, string, wire wrapping, beads, etc.
For the first two years I hand made every piece myself. I would stay up half the night finishing orders! Now, I have a few awesome team members that assist in putting together pieces. I still design each piece myself.
R: How big is your team now?
N: We have 3 full time employees, and 6 part time.
R: What’s the hardest thing about making jewelry?
N: The most difficult thing about making jewelry is not over doing it, as the current trend is very modern and simple. I have had to learn to take elements away instead of adding- it took me a long time to learn simplicity sells!
R: How do you make your product? What’s your process like?
N: We handcraft our pieces in our office in downtown Dallas. For some of our categories, such as stud earrings, we now design them and have them made for us.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
N: My days are crazy, especially now that I have a baby! He is 6 months old and the love of my life! Him and I typically get into the office around 9, work a few hours, head home to do some things around the house, run some errands, then go back to the office in the afternoon. Once he goes to bed, I’m able to go into turbo mode- ordering materials, responding to emails, making to-do lists- anything that has to get done that day!
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
N: $2,000. I used the money from my salary to buy some materials. I would only buy more materials once the items I made had sold.
R: Where was the first place you sold your product?
N: Local festivals and events, the community around you will most likely be the biggest support group initially. I also started my website right away, which started very simple and has really been a work in progress. I learned a ton from building my own website and I am proud that I launched it right away because it has evolved so much!
R: Where do you sell your product now?
N: We sell to specialty boutiques around the country. We also do pop up shops all over the Dallas area and have a retail website.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
N: Large boutique stores with more buying power! Also I’d love to sell to boutique gyms and spas, as well as get into the bridal business.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
N: Absolutely- the majority of our online sales are from Instagram and Pinterest!
R: What social media techniques do you use to get your products noticed? Is there anything that’s been particularly successful?
N: We’ve gained a lot of our followers by doing in person popup shops and getting customers to follow us! Having a preset filter has made our photos look much more cohesive, this is my #1 to do for anyone not using a preset. And photo quality over quantity! Lastly, again, simplicity in photos- less is more in photos!
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Nikki Smith Designs?
N: Learning to scale a business while having a baby. As you scale and the demand peaks faster than supply you learn how important smart growth is for the bottom line. No one is going to do the job like the owner, so I’ve had to learn to let things go as I take on more employees.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Nikki Smith Designs?
N: Hiring employees, it is so rewarding to support others! I also love getting into new boutiques and seeing their reorders come through! Every time a store reorders, I know we are doing something very right!
R: How do you listen to what your customers want? Have you set up ways to get feedback?
N: We get a lot of feedback at our popup shops. We also do a lot of polling on Instagram to see what people like! We have not set up other ways to give feedback formally but it is something on my to do list!
R: Do you have any suggestions for how to hire the right employees?
N: Every one of my employees I have met in person and knew they were right for the job. I have followed my intuition and made sure their personality fits with our culture.
Also, it’s important to develop a company mission, vision and culture to ensure your employees fit your big picture! I value good energy, openness and devotion. I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for the people who work with me!
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
N: Just start! I loved that I started small, never went into any debt, and paid attention to what people liked and didn’t like. We are constantly improving and listening to customers- at the end of the day it’s all about listening to what people want!
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
N: Know your numbers! Everything you do should be thought through- write it down and sleep on it if you need to! I make much better decisions the next day! Also don’t look at anything as a failure, look at it as a lesson to get better!
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
N: Supporting boutiques across the country as well as my employees! I love being part of the entrepreneurial world, I learn so much everyday and come into contact with the most amazing, hard working people!
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