Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello there! We are Lindsay Ann Gottschall and Courtney Joy Bleier, two sisters from Miami who started Ann + Joy. We make handmade real flower and resin jewelry and sell online and in stores around the world. We take pride in being one of the first companies to make real flower jewelry. During our first year of business, we blossomed almost immediately into a very successful Etsy shop. Etsy was constantly featuring our products on its website and in promotional emails. We are proud to say that since starting in early 2017 we have had over 5,000 sales online.
For all the readers, we are providing a 20% off coupon to our Etsy shop. Use code: STARTERSTORY at checkout!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Courtney Joy always wanted to be a teacher as a little girl. She used to pretend to teach in her childhood home basement on Long Island, New York. Growing up in an artistic family, she became a figurative and landscape artist and eventually attended art school. After college, she decided to merge her two childhood passions together and became an art teacher.
Lindsay Ann expressed herself through art in a different way. She was in the theater and went to school for drama in New York City. While pursuing her dream of acting, she also made beaded jewelry on the side. It quickly became a passion of hers and would help lead her down a new path in life.
Within our first 3 months, we sold over 100 orders, resulting in more than $3,000 in revenue. By the end of our first year, we had sold over 2,300 orders, resulting in more than $65,000.
The sisters both moved to Miami, Florida from New York City in 2009. In late 2016, while Lindsay Ann was working on her previous handmade jewelry company, she was experimenting with resin and taught Courtney Joy the process. They suddenly had the idea to draw inspiration from their own lives to create something special and new. Growing up, our Mother had a green thumb and had planted bright and colorful flowers throughout our backyard. We were motivated by the thought of those beautiful flowers and had the idea to come up with a way to wear preserved nature as jewelry. Using our new knowledge of resin, we were able to begin the creation of our new business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Resin isn’t easy to work with. There is actually quite a bit of science to the process that definitely took some trial and error to master. After countless tries to find the right brand, mixture, consistency, etc. we began to experiment with different mix-ins.
We played with glitter, wood, and more. We were trying to draw inspiration from our own lives when we finally decided to move to flowers. In New York, where we’re from, Queen Anne’s Lace grows everywhere. It is a naturally small budding flower, which made it easy to experiment with working within small resin pieces. We picked a few and took them home to place in different water cups filled with various food colorings in an attempt to dye the flowers in as many different colors as we could.
After the flowers had really taken the color, we used a flower press to dry each bud. Once the flowers were pressed dry, we used a toothpick to pull each flower bud off the stem and place them one by one in a resin mold or bezel frame. As tedious as it seemed, it was the perfect combination of tools and style to create a beautiful one-of-a-kind end result. Once the item has cured, we attach any finishing touches like chains for necklaces or bands for rings. We usually make a few resin pieces at a time, then move on to the hardware portion of the process.
We only make each design one time, after that it is all made to order. We do this to help accommodate flower color requests, as well as this way we are able to offer a larger amount of designs. We are constantly adding new items to our catalogs. We don’t do spring/summer launches, we just add new items as we make them! We find that helps keep our customers coming back looking to discover what is new and exciting.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Lindsay Ann was previously familiar with Etsy from a prior small business she started. When it came time to start Ann + Joy’s online shop in January of 2018, Lindsay Ann was the jewelry photographer while Courtney Joy was the model. We were able to set up our new company’s online shop easily and quickly. Within weeks of our Etsy launch, we rapidly gained attention. We were constantly experimenting with new jewelry frames and molds in order to expand our inventory and uploading them as soon as they were ready to sell.
Within our first 3 months, we sold over 100 orders, resulting in more than $3,000 in revenue. By the end of our first year, we had sold over 2,300 orders, resulting in more than $65,000 in revenue. During our first year of business, Etsy had really started to take notice of our shop and began featuring us in their marketing emails and their homepage. We credit them a great deal for helping boost our business that first year. We started selling wholesale to shops around the world and branched out onto our own website, as well as other online marketplaces.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Throughout the years, we have found that the more social media presence we have, the more customers they attract. We are continuously posting on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with new products and sales. We also send out monthly newsletters to our customers and anyone who has signed up for our mailing list at craft shows. Our grassroots approach to marketing is by word of mouth, social media, craft shows, or Etsy search. Even in the beginning, we just started posting items on Etsy, and sales just started coming in. We were posting on social media, but not aggressively. We think it was just using good SEO and getting lucky.
In an effort to bring existing customers back, we offer a 10% off coupon toward their next order with purchase. To gain new customers, in early 2019 we introduced the concept of customers sending us their own flowers from a special moment in their lives to be encased in resin jewelry for them to wear. This unique feature has allowed us to really branch out and reach an entirely new customer base. For example, brides will send us flowers from their weddings, we’ve received bouquets from Valentine’s Day, and even arrangements from funerals.
Once we started advertising custom flower pieces, we started receiving requests for other items to be used as well. Customers have sent us dog fur, glass, seashells, feathers, and more in hopes of preserving their cherished memories. Providing customers with such significant jewelry has been incredibly rewarding for us, and has proven how versatile and accommodating we are.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Before COVID-19, our business was thriving and continuously growing. We were so busy that we were able to hire an employee to help with fulfillment. Unfortunately today, due to the growing epidemic of Coronavirus, our small business has taken a major hit, as most businesses have.
We can only hope that the future looks brighter and that there is going to be a light at the end of this tunnel. We are continuing to post on social media and create new pieces in an effort to make as many sales as we can and provide customers with joy during this tough time.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Throughout the years, we have realized how helpful it was to have Etsy promote our shop. It was an unexpected advantage that really boosted our business and fanbase. Unfortunately, with that growing popularity, there were admirers of our jewelry that opened their own competitive shops. Natural flower jewelry has really become much more prominent in the Etsy world. While always flattering to be someone else’s inspiration, it is a bit disheartening when your business suffers due to imitators.
For us, this has been a learning experience. Instead of spending our time with traditional marketing, we have directed our focus on creating new and innovative ideas in an attempt to be at the forefront of our industry.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our main platform for business is Etsy. However, we do also own a Shopify store and sell on Apollo Box. We sell wholesale through Faire and Tundra. We have found that branching out to different platforms has really helped us reach brand new customers. We would say that probably 85% of our sales come from Etsy, with 10% being wholesale coming from Faire, and the 5% being from other sales channels. Although the time of year does affect all of that.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Our advice to other entrepreneurs is to ensure you have enough stock in your inventory for when you open your shop, as creating pieces made-to-order can become stressful otherwise. We also recommend having very creative and beautiful photos of your products. Pictures are so important to really promote the item. Lastly, be patient! You’ve worked so hard to get where you are, and it may take time to really launch. Never give up!
Where can we go to learn more?
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