PROPAGANDA New Orleans and Jess Leigh Jewels are documenting the triumphs and tribulations of owning and operating a small business in New Orleans. For the backstory, see Jess’ first journal entry here. (Editor’s note: Jess’ documentation of her journey is a collection of her thoughts, struggles and successes as a relatively new business owner, not a series written from an expert’s perspective. -LJA)
Wednesday, June 26th – Today is the day. I have a zillion errands and tasks to do and I finally make a list.
The list for Wednesday:
- Go to the bank and post office
- Contact potential wholesale account in the East
- Take photos
- Finish another wholesale order and ship out
- Pedi emergency
Yes. It WAS an emergency. This week I promise to myself that I will: Update my website, re-merchandise the shop, enter and update the email club, make a romantic dinner for my super patient and supportive fiance, apply for a wholesale account for paper supplies, and work on the plans for the grand opening party. I also make a list of things that I need to accomplish in July (since I’m on a roll). I had a sale as soon as I finally got to the store for one of the cool short pendants that I really love. I’m happy to say I did get MOST things on my list accomplished for today. It’s really amazing how a few short errands add up to all the hours of the day so quickly.
Thursday, June 27th – New day, another list. I still need to finish a wholesale order, but there isn’t a rush. The store has asked me to pick what they should sell (everything!!!) so it does take me a bit longer to really think about what will do well for them. Naturally, this gets pushed aside so I can knock out other tasks. I finished entering the 300+ email addresses I had backlogged over the past year (bad bad bad!), designed an email template announcing my new shop and location, and went ahead and sent it out. I contacted a local DJ friend to see what his availability and costs would be to work the grand opening party. I also start to brainstorm a few decor ideas. I talk to Elizabeth (of Fairy) and Katie (of Katie Malone Makeup Studio) about the date, and we come up with Thursday, July 11th. I go ahead and book Todd to DJ. I use my awesome Facebook event skills to create the event and invite everyone on my friends list. People in Ohio might come, right? (Here’s the link to the event page.)
Friday, June 28th – I tinker with my new Constant Contact account and decide that I would like to use a social media sweepstakes to build awareness and my email audience. I enter all the needed info and start the giveaway with a free wire-wrapped cocktail ring as the prize. I have entries immediately, and everyone is excited. I’m kicking myself harder for that backlog now! I meet with a dear friend, Rebecca, for coffee in the early afternoon. She has offered to do a little photoshoot for JLJ and I’m really excited. She has some great ideas and we spitball a few more and then catch up a little, too. We walk back over to the shop and she snaps a few inspiration pics to ponder, and she’s off! I sell a cute little stone ring today (one very similar to the one I’ll be giving away next month) and that is all. I go back to work on my technical chores (that are now almost all caught up) and call it a day.
Saturday, June 29th – Elizabeth saw my vintage brass initial letters that I have for custom necklaces and remembered a customer that needed one. She had texted him earlier in the week and he came by today to see it and pick it up. Thanks, Elizabeth! I delete all the sold items from the website and update my plugins today (insert whiny pout here). I really would much rather make something beautiful than sit at my desk and stare at my computer screen for several hours each day. I’ve been procrastinating these “chores” for that exact reason for months now. I like my messy desk and my messy imagination. Although I don’t think I’m terrible at the technical stuff, I am guilty of avoiding it. I am learning that I can no longer afford to be that way. I will have to have days where I work on these things, or my business will not grow beyond this point. Lecturing myself in this way usually works, and seeing the response from my community helps significantly.
Monday, July 1st – Wednesday, July 3rd – These have been the scariest three days thus far. No sales. Very low traffic. My multimedia and social media posts have increased exponentially, but with the upcoming holiday, I suspect people are already out of town or getting ready to be. I use this time to make some new items for the event I’m doing on the 4th. I was invited to the First Annual Bucktown Bash and I’m really hoping it pans out after the week I’ve had so far. I email the surrounding businesses inviting them to the party we are having next week. I also extend the invitation for the businesses to bring items or samples to our party in order to help promote themselves as well. Vom Fass, Blue Frog Chocolates, and P’s & Q’s (Pies & Quiches) are all invited and I think they all appreciate the heads up. My order for tissue, raffia, gift boxes and new bags came in, so I stamp everything with my logo by hand. I go ahead and make a few mock gifts for display in the shop. I think they look really cute.
Thursday, July 4th - I set up at 9 a.m. at the Bucktown Marina for the Bucktown Bash. Stephen is there to help with the tent, and then I release him to go enjoy the day elsewhere. The event opens at 11:00 a.m. and I’m all set up and ready. The weather was overcast in the early morning, but has now cleared and people are pouring in. I set up on the main drag so I get a lot of traffic. The event staff seem very excited that I’m here. Several of them come by to tell me they were really looking forward to my booth in particular, which is very sweet. I have good sales the first three hours and I break even with my booth fee to participate in the event. After that, I had a few hours where nothing really moved (lunch time) and then around 4:00 p.m., things picked up big time. I sold two large pieces and several small items. This was a successful event and I’m glad I gave up my holiday to do it. I’ll be back next year if they have it again, but I’ll wear closed-toed shoes since the red ants were so bad.
Friday, July 5th – I have decided to be closed this weekend at the shop. You’d think that means I wasn’t working, but you would be wrong. Since I have all the inventory already packed up from the Bucktown Bash, I made an appointment with a potential new wholesale account. I go through the jewelry and reorganize everything by category and set out to Bella Lucca in the early afternoon. The meeting goes extremely well, and we find a lot of items that they believe will do well for them. I cannot say enough good things about my experience there with the staff ,and the owner, specifically. It is so important to me to work with genuinely good people. I never want to compromise that for a dollar amount. Even if my week or month is bad, I know I have to stick to my guns on this! I’m really pumped that they are now a part of the little network I’ve created for my jewelry. I leave there feeling proud and happy. When I get back home I clean up the booth display mess that I made in my living room. I organize the stuff that needs to go back to the shop on Monday and put the rest back into storage.
Saturday, July 6th – I dropped off the new items to my photographer this morning. The new images will be uploaded to www.jessleighjewels.com when he is finished. I also go to the party store and buy the needed items for my grand opening party that will be Thursday, July 11th. I start working on the huge tassels that will tether the giant white balloons I’ve purchased. I sketch out a layout for the front of the building, and count my tassels when they’re finished. I’ll have to work out the indoor layout with Elizabeth on Monday. I got an email from the girl that owns P’s & Q’s across the street and she’s going to bring some mini pies for the party. That’s awesome, since I’ve been wanting to try them anyway. Elizabeth also forwards me an email from Vom Fass saying they’d like to participate in any way they can. I answer Chris’ email and let her know I’ll stop by on Monday to see her and go over everything in person. I also want to meet everyone in the n’hood since I haven’t had the time yet. It’s Saturday night, so I have a glass of wine while I log into Constant Contact. I re-share the sweepstakes on Facebook and Twitter and start designing more email templates. I still haven’t been able to make more than two in advance, but I’ll keep at it.
Monday, July 8th – I clean the shop first thing today and start putting up the displays. I do a little more rearranging for the upcoming party on Thursday. I want to make sure it all looks full and stocked. I hate it when I go into a store and it looks sparse. I’m happy with the new layout and take 10 minutes to go speak with Chris at Vom Fass, as well as the ladies at Blue Frog. I talk to Elizabeth and Katie afterwards, and we work out where to fit everyone into our stores so it’s not too crowded. I’m happy with the level of participation from my new neighbors. I hope it’s a successful party for everyone, so we can all do more group events on our block. I take a few hours putting out all of the jewelry that I still have left from the Bucktown Bash (there’s a lot!). I’ll be getting a new wholesale order today at home, and I’ll be making new items the rest of the week in preparation of the party and another event the following Saturday. Made a few sales today and I’m happy to see that this week will not be a repeat of the last!
i actually think this is how a small buiness develops isnt it? you start with an idea and develop a plan and see where it leads.... not every small business needs to begin with more than one- but. hopefully with support of her customer base the business will grow to include more than herself.. and to me anyway it will be interesting to folllow along to see how it pans out--- and quite possibly someone who has their own ideas of starting something will see and take note of the struggles and triupmhs and learn from it!
We love our friend Jess Leigh and are so happy for the huge turnout for her grand opening party. We'll post the pictures here later!