In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Cherryl Anderson, owner of Ayla Jane Designs. Ayla Jane Designs sells lightweight leather, rattan & acrylic earrings made for sensitive ears in mind, is based in Cave Creek, Arizona, and has been in business for three years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Cherryl: I started Ayla Jane Designs because I was frustrated that I couldn’t wear big statement earrings without having them irritate my skin. I have metal sensitivities so what started out as a hobby turned into Ayla Jane Designs after finding out how common this issue was.
Ayla Jane Designs is named after two of our girls (Ayla & Lily Jane). Additionally, one dollar is donated for each pair purchased to Journey Learning, a preschool for kids on the autism spectrum. The founder, Mary Villarreal, was our son’s occupational therapist. Being able to give back was a big aspect of my business plan.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
C: My first prototype was simple, statement earrings made out of leather in three different styles that I could easily cut by hand. Now, I have over 50 different styles made out of leather, acrylic and rattan. These materials are all lightweight and I love that I can offer something for everyone.
R: How do you make your product? What’s your process like?
C: I am a one woman show. I select all the materials, hand make them (cut & treat leather) and ship. Basically, I am part of the entire process and yes I do a little happy dance every time I ship something out.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
C: Everyday is an adventure. I am a mama first to my three littles. Most of my work is done when they are sleeping at night. I organize everything during the day when they are at school and finish putting together items at night and work on shipping. One of my favorite things about my job is getting the opportunity to meet the people who I help style.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
C: My initial investment was small, it consisted of a good pair of leather scissors, an exacto knife, a cutting mat and lots of leather and earring hooks. The more I sold, the more I was able to re-invest and buy more supplies and experiment with other styles.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
C: I officially opened my Etsy shop when we lived in Texas in the summer of 2016. Most of my business when I first started was local and it took some time for my online shop to grow.
R: Do you have a favorite product?
C: Eeek that is so hard! My clothes are always so neutral in color so I love a pop of metallic. I live in my gold leather studs and my metallic pendant earrings and braided bracelet.
R: Where do you sell your product now?
C: Currently, I am at two boutiques in Texas and several schools in their spirit shop (they love their school spirit). I am in two shops in Arizona and I also participate in several pop ups throughout the year, especially before the holidays.
My online shop also keeps me busy on orders that I ship out of state. I love making custom orders so I give the option of shopping in my studio for those who are local by appointment.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
C: It’s been a dream for me to expand and I have loved every minute of it, even the ups and downs. The opportunity that I have with Abound is something that I have been waiting for and I can’t wait to see where this opportunity takes me.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
C: Social media is such an important aspect of my business. It really is another job and I have to make time for it because it truly works. I love partnering with other makers and bloggers to collaborate.
Try-on sessions in Instastories and taking polls on new styles/colors have been a big help. I really value the opinions of my followers and I’ve had several custom orders that have become permanent in my shop because of them.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with your business?
C: In 2017, right as I was approaching my 1 year anniversary, my husband took an amazing job opportunity that required us to move to another state. I had to close my shop for a few months and I felt like I had to start from scratch.
What felt like such a big obstacle turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was able to find dedicated studio space. I also set aside more time on social media, my website and I joined several pop ups locally. The small business community in the Phoenix area is amazing and what started out as an obstacle in my mind ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise.
R: What are some of the greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with your business?
C: The feeling of having my heart burst with excitement the first time I saw someone wearing a pair of my earrings when I was out running errands. It’s the same feeling I get every time I see someone wearing them.
Last Spring, I was featured on Good Morning Arizona’s #localove segment by Jaime Cerreta. She came to my studio and filmed a couple live segments, it felt so surreal. My kids were watching the live feed on TV and I could hear them in the background with my husband cheering me on, it was the best feeling.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
C: Two pieces of advice: success doesn’t happen overnight and take good pictures. It is so important to make sure you showcase your product by taking quality pictures. It makes a world of a difference.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
C: One of my favorite quotes from one of my college professors that he mentioned during a lecture was, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
I love this quote because of the meaning behind it. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of frustrations with owning a small business, but the good that I’ve seen come from it far outweighs the bad.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
C: My favorite thing about being a business owner is being able to use my creativity daily.