On Starting A Handcrafted Jewelry Business From New York

Published: December 14th, 2019
Eileen Baumeister McIntyre
Founder, Garden of Silver
Garden of Silver
from Westhampton Beach, New York, USA
started January 2019
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Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

I am Eileen Baumeister McIntyre and I am the owner of Garden of Silver handmade jewelry which I started in 2009.

Garden of Silver jewelry is entirely handcrafted, by myself, in sterling silver, gold, diamonds, pearls, and gemstones. My jewelry is inspired by nature with collections representing flowers and gardens, the ocean and sea life, mountains, water gardens and the seasons. I create every jewelry design from start to finish, in my studio on the north shore of Long Island, New York, using traditional metalworking techniques.

As a fine artist first, I have often created botanical and nature-inspired artworks and has transitioned into working in the three-dimensional format of jewelry.

I currently sell my jewelry online on my website, in a few select boutiques, museums, and art galleries and my own boutique in Westhampton Beach, New York.



What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

About 11 years ago I took a glass fusing class with some of my art teacher friends. By the way, my day job is a full-time high school art teacher. We all learned how to cut and fuse art glass together to create colorful pendants. I got addicted to.

Be constantly learning. Do your research, learn from the best teachers, coaches, mentors.

For me, this quick, fun, creative new art form was such a great balance to the precise colored pencil and silverpoint drawings I was creating which can take up to 100 hours to complete one piece. Glass fusing was like creating dozens of mini abstract paintings and then, as a bonus, I got to wear them everyday.

As my colleagues began to notice and admire the wearable art pieces, they inquired about purchasing them from me. Another friend, who is a great cook and his wife a wine buyer, said that he would host a jewelry party for me at his home.

I had never even heard of a jewelry party before and Joe said, “bring your jewelry over, I will make appetizers, we will have wine and invite a bunch of people to attend”. I agreed, not knowing what the heck to expect. That evening I made about $2000 in his kitchen. A business was born.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

Life as a fine artist definitely did not make me a lot of money. There are art sales here and there but with my jewelry, sales definitely changed. Jewelry sales increased as I started to do more home parties. Then I decided to branch out and try doing the outdoor art and craft festivals as another income source.

I bought a white tent, set up jewelry on tables in a field somewhere or on the sidewalks of New York City, and worked it. Brutal. I dragged my mom and my husband and cousins to help during these events because it is physically hard work. Setting up a tent, tables, signage, all jewelry on displays, credit card swipers, boxes, bags, everything you need to look great and be able to conduct business had to be packed in the car, driven to the event site and set up at the crack of dawn BEFORE even making a sale.

Then dealing with the weather element. I had to hold down the tent with one hand from blowing down Columbus Avenue while swiping credit cards with the other. Torrential rains seemed to coincide with many events held in fields creating a swampy muddy mess, and finally, 100+ degree weather added to even more fun as we baked under the tent. Not fun.

I did that scene for a year, tore a ligament in my wrist requiring surgery and physical therapy and gave the tent away. There had to be another way.

Susan, a jewelry designer friend of mine, who has been a mentor to me, started selling her designs wholesale. I thought that was the answer. Do a few trade shows, get the orders, create the jewelry and ship it out. Nice. I did that and got some pretty great orders and repeat clients.

When you sell wholesale, there are drawbacks though. First, there is not a big profit margin on the pieces you sell. Second, you are making the same design over and over. This can get stale creatively. Third, trade shows are very expensive. Fourth, there are limitations to creating jewelry designs because of what wholesalers are willing to spend on pieces. You always have to make sure that pieces don’t have too high a retail price or wholesale customers get worried. This is a limitation that I do not enjoy.

When the jewelry buyer from my largest wholesale account left the company, my wholesale business took a huge hit. I had to try something else to make up for that loss of income.

I decided to try a pop-up kiosk at Grand Central Terminal in New York City as a retail test market during August-October 2016. This was a combination of jewelry and art kiosk as I also sold my fine art and art prints there. I hired a jewelry designer friend and two former art students of mine to run it while I was at the day job. I would get on a 2-hour train ride after school and go work the 5 pm-8 pm shift, arrive home around 11 pm and do it all again the next day and all day on weekends. Not an easy schedule, but, hey, you can do anything for three months!

The retail experience was great. The profit margins were so much better than wholesale. My jewelry was in front of thousands of people every day, I made repeat customers and got a necklace on the one and only Lady Gaga.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

After such a promising retail experience, I decided that I wanted to try out a brick and mortar boutique in the Hamptons, an upscale summer community. Financially, I could not do it alone, so I contacted a fellow kiosk entrepreneur, Miriam owner of Lazyjack Press. She sells gorgeous Italian silk ties with fun names and I thought that we had a complementary customer base. We opened our boutique in East Hampton in April of 2018.

Although it was a Main Street address, we were in a side alley and the location proved to be too tucked away. Sales were not what we were expecting. We got out of the lease that October, Miriam got married and went to live in California, and I decided to go it alone at a new location in Westhampton Beach, New York.

This spot, right on Main Street, is a much better fit. Westhampton Beach is a mom and pop type of town, unlike East Hampton which was very corporate. I just completed a year at that location and I am happy there. It’s basically a summer town, which is what I wanted since I still work at the day job for the rest of the year, and the first summer there went very well.

I currently represent nine female independent jewelry designer friends of mine at the boutique and three fine artists/photographers. We had our first fine art opening this July featuring the exciting work of Patti Who, a great friend of mine who is also my business partner in another businessthat we run together. Jewelry trunk shows ran all summer long which I will continue through the holiday jewelry buying season as well.

I also show, and sell my own fine art originals, prints and my art on silk scarves/sarongs and handbags.


Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Although I love my retail location, I was blindsided with the ‘Westhampton Beach Main Street Project’ that my landlord failed to inform me about and something that I did not uncover in my vetting of the location. The entire road in front of the boutique has been ripped up and the town is undergoing a total renovation of the street, water, and sewer pipes, buried electric, new pavers on sidewalks, plantings, new traffic circles, etc. There has not been any cars, or customers, since mid-September. Not a great start to the holiday jewelry buying season. All year round entrepreneurs are taking such a major hit over this. This is one of the reasons that I am thankful for the day job. Not every entrepreneur is that lucky and a few are going out of business because of it.

Work with people that you personally respect. Stay away from negativity and toxic people. If you have the opportunity to help someone else out, do it.

My landlord, who requires rent for the entire year upfront, refuses to work with me on any financial assistance due to this disaster of a situation. She has her money, expects the entire rent again for 2020 on January 1, and will not negotiate at all with me.

Needless to say, I am going to leave this location at the end of December and relocate down the road into a larger space with a reasonable landlord. Always evolving. Don’t let anyone walk all over you.

The town is going to be amazing when it is done and I want to make sure that I am a part of the growth and excitement of the ‘New’ Westhampton Beach.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use Shopify for my POS and website hosting. Shopify is an all-inclusive and comprehensive way of running both a web-based and retail store. Everything is connected, products, customer info, sales reports. It all just works. I love it.

Garden of Silver is very active on both Facebook and Instagram with daily posts on each. I also use Mailchimp email marketing.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I have always been an entrepreneur. I owned and operated a very successful art instruction studio for fifteen years before I sold it to pursue my own artistic endeavors.

That business was very easy to run compared to the jewelry industry. I knew that I needed help when confronted with terms like, ‘Net 30, or COGS or EBITDA’. I hired jewelry business coaches, Tracy Matthews and Robin Kramer, and joined a Mastermind for a year.

I also have taken Marie Forleo’s B-School, and numerous online courses by Amy Porterfield. These ladies are rock star entrepreneurs and I have learned so much about business and entrepreneurship from them. Money well spent. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My advice for entrepreneurs is to be constantly learning. Do your research, learn from the best teachers, coaches, mentors.

Work with people that you personally respect. Stay away from negativity and toxic people. If you have the opportunity to help someone else out, do it.

Strong women lift each other up. I have a quote painted on the wall of my studio, “Always believe something wonderful is about to happen”.

Where can we go to learn more?