Shiny Little Blessings - Nifty 50 Spotlight
In our Nifty 50 spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Sabine Schoepke, owner of Shiny Little Blessings. Shiny Little Blessings sells handcrafted jewelry, is based in Los Angeles, California, and has been in business for ten years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Sabine: I never intended to start this business. In a very difficult time of my life, I created pieces for myself to uplift, inspire and encourage myself. I got tons of compliments on those pieces and soon people shared their life stories with me and asked me to create custom pieces for them. A passion project turned into a labor of love and over the years into a serious business.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
S: We had a major house fire and financially lost almost everything we had ever made. Our lives were upside down. I had 5 year old twins and under the pressure, the relationship to my life partner (my kids’ Dad) was falling apart.
I am a pretty spiritual person and soon realized the only way to make it through the chaos was by being grateful. By focusing on the incredible good in my life. By living joyfully. So the very first piece I ever created reminded me that joy was the goal. Since then, we have created about 70,000 custom pieces for customers worldwide.
Each one inspires, encourages and uplifts in its own very personal and intimate way. Each one is an expression of love and/or a celebration of a life journey.
R: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What's your process like?
S: When I started, I worked alone out of a spare bedroom. Today, I work with an amazing group of women. We handcraft everything in our studio. I love the team we have created! I couldn't have done what we do today without them.
It was my goal to create a workplace for working moms who enjoy being creative and who are passionate about the work that they do, yet our families always come first. If your child is sick or has a school performance, you are mom and we have your back. We love being working moms!
We have lunch together every day and we have created an amazing supportive community. Often, the kids are in the common room playing Legos, doing homework or they 'help us' by folding boxes or putting stickers on gift boxes. They love being part of the process. I love showing our children that as a mom, you can have it all and I am super proud that I was able to create this kind of work place.
R: What's your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
S: I still do all of the customer service. I answer every email and handle all of the design aspects. I love that! Sometimes people are surprised that there is an actual English speaking live body that picks up the phone and that really cares.
I enjoy talking and working with every single one of my customers and I wish there was even more interaction. I think some people are afraid to call - they email instead - because they are worried to 'bother' somebody. Not here though!
The other part I love is business development. I enjoy exploring new opportunities, introducing our company to new clients. I frequently go to networking events, fundraisers or community events. I am not a salesperson. I hate selling, but I am genuine and authentic and I have a lot of positive energy.
I also love to give back. We work with national organizations by donating part of our proceeds, donating goods, or giving my time for speaking engagements. Giving back and public speaking are definitely my greatest joys!!
R: Do you have a favorite piece in your shop?
S: Bruce Springsteen once said in an interview that whenever he wrote a new song he was in love with that song and always felt that this one was the best one he had ever written. I feel the same way about our jewelry. Every time I come up with a new piece, I fall in love all over again and think it is the best one yet.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
S: An unbelievable $300.
R: Where was the first place you sold your product? Where do you sell your product now?
S: Etsy was the first place I started selling. We tried all kinds of other online platforms (our own website, Amazon, other market places, etc.) and keep coming back to 'let's keep it simple!' I work really hard, I am still a mom and the bottom line is that you can split your time only in so many ways effectively and also, if it does not make me happy, I don't do it. So, we do have our own website, but all retail sales go through Etsy.
R: What do you think has made you successful on Etsy, specifically?
S: I think it is how I take care of my customers. I treat every customer like he or she is the one and only. I feel honored to do something nice for them and I love building relationships with them.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
S: I would love to work with other retailers, those who want to offer something a little more meaningful and personal. I am not about fashion and trends.
R: What's your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
S: I never did any marketing. All of my growth has come from word of mouth. I would love to do more social media, but I am just running out of hours in the day. I tried to outsource it, but I have not found anybody yet who has done a good job. I need somebody who gets what we do and why we do it. Somebody to hit the right tone and energy.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you've had with your business?
S: Finding the right people to help us grow, for photography, social media, PR, website design. I used to wear all of those hats, but eventually you come to realize that not all of this is your zone of genius. You can't do it all well. You need to learn to delegate, but finding the right people to delegate it to, while keeping it in line with your vision is super hard.
R: What techniques have you learned so that you’re able to hire the right people? What advice would you give people just starting to hire people?
S: The people that fit our team best are those referred from within our existing team. The people who already work for me know exactly what is required and they would not suggest anybody they would not want to work with.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you've had with your business?
S: I have grown so much and I am still in integrity. I still keep my eye on the ball. For me it is about creating 'Expressions of Love', celebrating life's journey, creating quality pieces that are meaningful and giving back. Giving back to the women who work with me and giving back to people who are less fortunate than we are and who need our help: through donations, compassion and simply lending an ear.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
S: ‘If you can buy it at Target or Walmart, don't sell it!!’ And ‘People come first, the people who work with you and the people you are selling to!’ ‘Really love what you do and you will be successful.’
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you've heard that you think about often?
S: I love listening to Gary Vee! I even make my kids listen to him. Lol.
R: What's your favorite thing about being a business owner?
S: My business is my life's calling. I have translated all my passions, ambitions, dreams into what I do today. And every challenge I have encountered in my life has been turned into an opportunity to make a difference in peoples' lives - whether it is the people who work with me or the customers who have ordered from me. My business is truly my 'little blessing'!