For many mom entrepreneurs, starting a business begins with that initial lightbulb moment for a great idea. For Jeana Rushton it came from her need for a therapeutic outlet. On a dark and stormy night as her anxiety and depression were taking a mighty toll over her mind and the illumination of lightning struck outside her window; she felt a similar jolt inside her soul. She felt inspired to grab her journal and immediately began sketching earring designs that came to her out of nowhere. The very next day her husband went shopping for jewelry making supplies for her. She found creating jewelry so incredibly therapeutic and soothing to her soul that she hasn’t quit since!
You might recognize Jeana Rushton’s name as a guest blogger for us not long ago. We were so impressed with her writing and her business savvy that we asked to feature her this week. Please welcome her into our latest mom entrepreneur series and make sure to comment with any questions or feedback you may have.
What do you like most about working with raw gemstones? Do you have a favorite gemstone you prefer to work with?
Over the years I slowly transitioned from using drilled beads of glass to working with more and more raw gemstones. I find myself drawn to them in a way I can’t deny, and from the first moment, I held a truly raw/rough piece of Turquoise in my hand and turned it into a ring I was hooked! Working with raw stones is a reminder to me that there is beauty in everything and especially within ourselves and often it is lingering just below a surface that looks a little ragged.
As a mom, I am constantly being pulled in 100 different directions and I know there are days I look like the poster mom for the term “mombie” (mom-zombie) but I look at the stones in my shop and think “how many people would walk by thinking you are just a rock when after a little polishing you are the most stunningly unique Opal with depth and color unlike any other and more beautiful because of the flaws”. And yes, sometimes I really do talk to my stones. We are each perfectly flawed, stunningly beautiful and utterly unique in a way no one else ever has been or ever will be. The stones remind me of that every day.
We are each perfectly flawed, stunningly beautiful and utterly unique in a way no one else ever has been or ever will be. These raw gemstones remind me of that every day.
My favorite of all the stones is the Australian Black Opal. About 4 years I got to hold some raw Australian Opal and I haven’t looked back since! The color play, the unique, raw and untamed beauty within those stones stirs my soul and I can’t help but be drawn into their trance.
Where do you get most of your inspiration from for your designs?
Inspiration always comes from the stones themselves since my greatest desire is to simply showcase the stones rather than create an elaborate design in which the stones are overshadowed. I’ll often just sit down at my workbench, lay some stones out and see what happens. In general, that means my design aesthetic is minimal and organic.
How did you learn how to make jewelry when you started?
What were some of your biggest hurdles and obstacles you ran into in the beginning? How did you overcome them?
Our journey began differently than most because, for the first 8 years that I made jewelry, I only sold it occasionally in farmers markets and a little bit on Etsy, but since I was only creating jewelry as a form of art therapy, I wasn’t treating it as more than a profitable hobby. Then I had my third child in 4 years and the stress of being a mom to so many littles became more overwhelming than I could handle and I again started creating. At the same time, I saw an ad on Facebook about starting an online business and proceeded to download a book (The Handmade Entrepreneur by Dani Marie) that changed my perspective.
That book made me realize that I wanted to take my business seriously and, more than that, I needed to take it seriously as an outlet for my anxiety and to ward off my creeping depression. My biggest hurdle then was in figuring out how to transition from full-time stay-at-home mom to part-time boss/full-time mom. It was rough learning what type of system worked for our family so I got the time I needed to build the business while still giving my children the time and attention they needed. In the end, I found that putting the kids to bed at 6:30 allowed them some downtime in their room to wind down before they fell asleep and gave me enough time to work in the evening.
What was your first ‘aha’ moment that made you realize you had a marketable product?
I sold the very first pair of earrings I ever made simply by showing them to the people around me. That person suggested I go into town and talk with the owner of a local boutique and when I did she bought several pairs. I realized almost instantly that people would buy what I was making so I started selling at farmers markets and in-person events. It’s not a strategy I consciously thought about but in retrospect, it was the perfect building block for my business.
When you sell in person, especially at an event with a lot of traffic, you will get immediate and varied feedback. This feedback shaped a lot of the directions I took in my business. In doing this I also realized who my target market was and how to speak to and design items for them.
As I made these shifts, I saw my jewelry start attracting the people I wanted and deterring those I really didn’t. This is essential in business: not being afraid to create a product, website or booth that deters the wrong customer from buying and realizing that there are indeed wrong customers. The narrower your target market/dream client parameters, you will have more success speaking to them directly and build the business you want based on the clients you want to attract.
The narrower your target market/dream client parameters, you will have more success speaking to them directly and build the business you want based on the clients you want to attract.
When mentoring new businesses (and I do this a lot and LOVE it!) I always suggest they spend at least a couple of weeks just researching: people, places, feeling, colors, items, photographs, Instagram and Facebook and seeing how all of this research coalesces into a clear vision of what they want to create and who they want to create it for. This is a step that often gets overlooked in the “creative frenzy” that can overtake us. When I made the decision to try selling online I had a really clear idea of who I wanted to sell to and what kind of product I wanted to deliver. This clarity helped me successfully transition from retail to online sales.
Would you do anything differently at the beginning of your shop if you knew then what you know now? If you could go back in time what would you tell Jeana Rushton before she started?
Honestly, the course of my business has been so organic I’m not sure I really would change much of how it started, except maybe to try and realize sooner that I really do have a unique perspective and truly am an artist. I fought against myself for a lot of years and, in my own mind, would disparage my accomplishments and creativity.
It took until last year before I called myself a designer or jeweler even though I had been designing jewelry full-time for 3 years by then. If I could go back and tell myself anything it would be this: life is about to take a turn you could never have expected and you will end up being someone you won’t believe but you will be happier than you think is possible. Trust your instincts and embrace your unique perspective because, in the end, this is what you will be known for. Trust your instincts, fellow mom entrepreneurs, and embrace your talents!
What advice do you have for parents who have a great idea for a product or service and are not sure where to begin?
Research! Having an idea is the perfect place to start but don’t neglect taking time to figure out who will want to buy this, where are they shopping, what are they looking at online, what music do they listen to, what celebrities do they like, what stage of life are they at, where do they live, does this information affect the product I am making and if so how?
Create in your mind your perfect client then build your business and the product around her/him. Again, the narrower your parameters for this the more successfully you will reach them when you go to create a marketing plan and the more likely they will actually purchase.
Create in your mind your perfect client then build your business and the product around her/him.
Does anyone in your family help with running your business or do you have any employees/assistants?
Two years ago on April 1, my husband officially started working with me full-time. He quit his corporate job and together we began the journey of being full-time jewelry entrepreneurs. It was insanely scary and the most rewarding decision we have made since having children.
How do you handle unreasonable customer expectations for custom orders? Any tips?
Since so much of my business is custom this is a topic I am well versed in unfortunately and the number one tip I can give is this: YOU set the expectations clearly and in writing. If possible, also follow up with an in-person video call or phone call where you also verbally express and they acknowledge those expectations. They can choose to accept those expectations or walk away and find a new designer. If they do choose to walk away, throw yourself a little party and be thankful they did. It’s the customers who should have walked away in the beginning but didn’t that you want to avoid. Someone who is aware enough to realize the situation isn’t what they want and walks away before you put time and money into it is a very good thing.
The second tip is this: don’t be afraid to fire a client. Let me say this again: you can fire your clients! If you have set the expectations but they are still being unreasonable or asking for much more than you initially agreed to tell them very clearly what you will do from this point on and what you will not do. Also, explain what will happen if they keep asking for more. This way you put the outcome completely in their hands. Then be firm and stick to your terms. For example, I was creating a custom ring for someone who changed her mind completely about what she wanted about 6 times on what kind of stone she wanted and suddenly my usual 2-5 hours of research turned into 10+ and we still hadn’t come any closer to a stone, let alone a ring design.
I finally told her, “I’m sorry but I don’t think this relationship is working out and I am not the best fit for you as a designer. Here is what we can do moving forward: 1) choose/purchase the stone you want on your own and I will set it in a ring for you or 2) I will provide you with store credit in the amount of your deposit and you can purchase something already made from my shop.” She tried to argue with me about still wanting a custom ring, but a couple of weeks later finally realized I wasn’t going to change my mind and chose the store credit option.Don’t be afraid to fire an unreasonable client. Let me say this again: you can fire your clients! ~Jeana Rushton
Like my mom always said, “give them the benefit of doubt” when dealing with others. What she meant was that you never really know the circumstances surrounding someone taking out their frustrations on you but in general, someone gets frustrated when their expectations haven’t been met in some way so the best way to combat this is set very clear expectations from the start. In business, this means utilizing all that research you did to ensure the right people are finding your product in the first place. Once they have found your product, make sure you have a very clear product description that addresses any common concerns then have very clear photos of the product.
You will always have customers that don’t read the description and this is where I find most of my difficult customers arise, but in those cases, I simply refer back to the description. In all situations, before responding, distance yourself and take a moment to place yourself in their shoes, try to understand why they are upset, then respond in a manner that you would want someone else to respond to you. We have all been upset with a purchase at some point in our lives and taking a moment to remember that before responding can help cool frayed tempers.
If there was one thing that you want to be remembered for what would it be? What legacy do you wish to leave for your children and the world?
I hope to be remembered for creating a style of jewelry that embraces flaws and reminds the men and women of the world to do the same within their own life because those “flaws” are what make us perfectly unique.
I hope my children learn that life doesn’t always look a certain way. There are so many ways to build an amazing life and it might not look like what society says. Take risks, be bold and trust yourself!
Would you mind sharing what your average annual revenue/profit is? As women, we often are discouraged to not talk finances and if we can share our wins it encourages others who are inspired by your story to pursue their dreams too.
I am so glad to see this question! You are so right in that we often don’t want to talk about the nitty gritty finances but it is so important. We gross about $140k per year. My goal is to have an annual gross of about $200k in the next 5-7 years. I do not want to have a million dollar business, but instead, I want a steady income that gives our family the opportunity to live in a beautiful house and travel whenever we want.
Thank you so much Jeana Rushton for sharing your story and sage business advice with us. You are truly an inspiration to hand made crafters and women entrepreneurs!
As a special thank you from Jeana Rushton, she is offering our readers a 20% discount on her website when you make a purchase. Apply the code WHYNOTMOM (all caps) at checkout.