Go behind the scenes with some of our favorite makers! We sat down with these entrepreneurs for a deep dive on their businesses, what makes them tick and what they’ve got in store for the future! Join us as we Meet the Maker!
This time, we sat down with Sloane Swayze of Sloane Jewelry Design! Let’s dive in.
Q: Give us your back story! What made you want to start your business?
A: My hobby as a kid was always arts and crafts. I was always making something. I loved to paint, draw, bead, anything I could get my hands on. When I found polymer clay, I fell in love! I made brightly patterned beads out of polymer clay and would string them into necklaces. I started selling these to classmates and teachers when I was in high school because I was accumulating so many pieces at home!
When deciding what to study in college, I looked for a program in the arts, specifically in jewelry design. I chose to go to Ball State University and received my Bachelor of Fine Arts from there in 2013. I started an Etsy shop while I was still in school and began selling resin bangles and rings that I was making. It wasn’t until after graduating that I really went full steam ahead with an e-commerce website and started participating in events.
Q: Did you come in with experience or did you learn as you went?
A: A little bit of both. I had technical experience from studying metalsmithing for four years, but honing my craft was just one piece to the puzzle. When you run a small business you have to wear so many hats! I had to learn how to effectively market and sell my jewelry, package and ship, maintain inventory and provide great customer service.
Q: What makes Sloane Jewelry Design unique compared to other companies?
A: The goal when starting my jewelry line was to create jewelry from high quality materials, but keep affordability in mind. I was frustrated when I would come across beautiful jewelry only to find out it was plated and would wear off quickly or cause a reaction to sensitive skin. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I would find really high end, quality jewelry that wasn’t affordable to most people.
I was on a mission to create jewelry that had beautiful, simple designs that would last for years to come and not break the bank. That is why I use sterling silver and 14k gold filled metal. Sterling wears beautifully with a little polishing to keep it gleaming, and 14k gold filled wears like solid gold for years without the high cost.
My designs are all meant to be dainty, versatile pieces that transition well through a variety of styles. I want my jewelry to be your “go-to” that you reach for everyday and give that final touch to polish up any outfit.
Q: What kinds of challenges have you had to overcome as a small business owner and entrepreneur?
A: When I first graduated from college, I had to adjust to no longer being in a fully equipped metalsmithing studio. At school I had access to every tool, machine and resource you could imagine. At home, not so much. I had to learn how to create jewelry that could be made with minimal equipment until I could afford new tools and expand my product line.
I did this by continuing to sell resin jewelry like I was making in college. I only needed resin, dye and silicone molds to do this so it worked out well! I created solely resin jewelry for about a year until I was able to buy some metalsmithing equipment. I still sell some of my resin pieces here and there, but at that point my focus shifted to sterling silver and 14k gold filled metal designs.
Q: How have you coped with COVID? How have you had to pivot?
A: What a bizarre time! This time last year, I was fully prepped and ready to take on the holiday season with at least one event every weekend through Christmas. This year, my show schedule is clear through the end of 2020 and I am focused solely on online sales.
Although I was already selling online before, my attention was spread between in person events and online sales. Now that events aren’t happening, my focus has changed to: How can I reach people online since I cannot bring the jewelry directly to them in person? How can I make the online shopping experience smoother and easier for them?
I have been overhauling my website with plenty of new images to capture how the jewelry will look when worn, better navigation and I have been connecting with my customer base more on Instagram and through my email newsletter.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: I make breakfast and coffee first thing everyday before I get a workout in and move on with my day. From there, it changes all the time, but I typically am making jewelry, packing and shipping orders and working on posts for social media! This time last year I would have been spending most of my days in full production mode to stock up for events, but this year I have time to focus on other things in the day that would normally get put aside.
Q: Is this your full time job?
A: This is my full time job and I am so lucky to be able to say that.
Q: What are your goals for the future of Sloane Jewelry Design?
A: My goal is to continue making jewelry and expand my line a bit! I purchased an engraver last Fall and have been creating a lot of personalized pieces for my customers such as name plate, monogram and handwriting jewelry. These always turn out so beautiful and each piece is so personal. I hope to add more personalized designs to my collection in the near future.
I have also been working with solid gold lately for engagement rings and wedding bands, and would LOVE to keep doing this! I want to add a bridal section to the website in the future, but for now I take custom orders from time to time.
I hope in 5, 10, 20 years I will still be making jewelry and thriving! The maker movement is really growing and I love how many people are shifting their focus to supporting small, handmade businesses in their communities. I hope to keep growing my amazing customer base who continue to support and encourage me to keep creating.
Q: What do you like most about what you do? What keeps you going?
A: It’s no surprise that my favorite thing is being hunkered down at my studio bench and just making jewelry all day! Time flies when I have headphones in and I’m focused on making jewelry. Those are my favorite days of all.
What keeps me going is the support and feedback from customers. This is why I love events! I value meeting people face to face so much. It is amazing to see my jewelry on customers and to hear what they’re looking for. My customers give me endless amounts of inspiration and I often make designs based on what people are asking for.
Q: What are you looking forward to most, post-COVID?
A: I am looking forward to human interaction again with customers. I miss doing events SO much! I’m so lucky to be a jewelry designer full time, so I have a lot of flexibility to travel for events. I like to go anywhere I can to share the jewelry and meet new customers and also other makers!
Looking back, I am very glad we chose to participate in the Valentine’s Markets for Markets back in February down in Miami and Jacksonville since it gave us a chance to travel, explore and connect with people one last time before the pandemic hit the USA. As soon as we can, we plan to start booking events again and traveling for shows.
Q: We’re suckers for fun facts! Tell us more about you; share some deep dark secrets!
A: When I’m not making jewelry, I love to cook, garden, and spend time outside. I enjoy making all kinds of food, but baking is definitely my thing since I have a big sweet tooth. This summer, we created a hydroponic garden in the backyard full of tomatoes, jalapeños, bell peppers and herbs; it was so wonderful to have fresh produce in reach. This was my first year doing a hydroponic garden and it grew the tomatoes over 10+ feet tall! I also have the sweetest cat, Bridgette, that has been with me through the last 11 years. She’s my studio cat and is often napping on my lap or sitting nearby when I’m working.
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