Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey there, I am Diane, one of the owners of Inspiranza. My business partner, Dawn Pochek and I started Inspiranza Designs with just $500 and a Big DREAM!
Inspiranza Designs sells sterling silver & gemstone jewelry online across the United States. Our jewelry carries a heartfelt message to bring Inspiration and Hope, thus the name Inspiranza (the combination of two words, Inspiration, and Esperanza - Hope in Spanish) to all those who wear or receive it.
Inspiranza Designs revenue had dropped to a mere $100,000 per year just 4 short years ago and has now grown to approximately $400,000 per month. We have been named by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in American two years in a row. In 2018 we were named #157 and this year we were named #110 but oh what a journey it has been.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Dawn and I were lunch friends at the law firm that we both worked for years. We would often eat our lunch and discuss how we thought that God had a greater plan for us and how we would love to start our own business someday. Dawn had a fine jewelry background so she had insight as to how to get started and wholesale vendors to use. I had an IT background and was the firm's IT Manager. These two things were the perfect ingredients for the birth of Inspiranza Designs. One day she came to ask if I wanted to sell sterling silver jewelry with her at home parties. I thought it would be an awesome Idea as jewelry was something that we both loved!
After just one night of pondering the idea, I came back to Dawn with an even bigger idea! Why don’t we start our own direct sales business and provide the opportunity for other women to own their own business? Dawn agreed!
Only spend what you have.
The wheels were turning...with just $500 each and a big dream, off we went. We continued to work at the law firm and spend our nights, often until 2 a.m. building this dream that God put in our hearts.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Today we are instrumental in the design of many of our pieces but when we began, we just started to work with wholesale companies to build our brand. We soon found that this just simply would not work. Actually, it was a disaster! Our first catalogs cost $20 per catalog to produce and we found that after we photographed the catalogs and produced them….the wholesale companies would discontinue the products! This made for a stressful start.
We would spend hours upon hours trying to find an alternative for the product that was discontinued trying to find a replacement piece that looked almost exactly like the one we had photographed and presented in our catalog!
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our business officially launched in December of 2005 with our first home party. We didn’t have any financing, we just used every penny that we made from our jewelry sales to continue to buy jewelry and fund the business. We created a few catalogs and guarded them with our lives ($20 each)!
On May 13 of 2006, we launched our very first website (screenshot below)! We were so excited. After the website was launched we began advertising on work from home websites and the business immediately started to grow. Ladies started to join in our dream and we were packaging kits in our small home business that was started in Dawn’s basement.
The new business joy and excitement quickly turned into anxiety as we received a cease and desist letter from our biggest competitor. The company claimed that we had stolen their trade-dress and had copied some of their pieces. None of these claims were true but we were devastated.
We met with an attorney who said that the claims that they were making would not hold water but fighting a company like this could cost well over $200,000. The attorney suggested that we submit to their demands and go on.
So we decided to close our brand new catalog and begin again. Just one of the many setbacks in the early days. But remember every setback is a setup for a comeback!
By 2009 we did over $1,000,000 in sales!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Although we did see very fast success, by 2009 we started to see a shift in the economy and by 2014 we were down, drastically down, to just barely $100,000 in annual sales.
During that downturned economy, we sadly dismissed all of our employees and were over $200,000 in debt. We prayed for enough sales to come in by the end of each month just to continue to pay the bills. It was a long hard struggle but we had faith it would turn around.
During this time of drought, God taught us many things. We changed our business model from the party plan/direct sales model to selling directly to our customers online. We had a large inventory of jewelry but just felt that it was something that all of our customers had already seen.
In this industry, customers want to see things that are new and fresh. Dawn asked for wisdom and God showed her what to do and how to do it. She began to reinvent our jewelry. One necklace became several pairs of earrings and one bracelet became 8 pendants. It was really amazing. As she was making the new pieces, I was learning to photograph the pieces and offer them for sale on our facebook page through what we called “I Want It” daily deals.
Little by little, we started to climb out of the pit of debt that was created. The journey was long but we know that God was in it.
By 2018, we made our first debut on the Inc. 500 list at #157 with sales of over $2,900,000 in 2017. And this year they announced that we climbed to #110 for sales of over $4,700,000 in 2018. For the category of retail growth, we have rated #1 in the St. Louis Metro Area, #3 in Illinois and #4 in the nation.
- 2008 - 915,00.00
- 2009 - 1,405,000
- 2010 - 928,000
- 2011 - 366,000
- 2012 - 175,000
- 2013 - 113,000
- 2014 - 103,000
- 2015 - 147,000
- 2016 - 744,000
- 2017 - 2,865,000
- 2018 - 4,916,219
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we see about 165,000 visitors per month with a 3% conversion rate. We have over 100,000 email subscribers and 181,000 followers on Facebook. Our main advertising source is Facebook where we see approximately 4X ROAs.
We currently have 6 full-time employees and 2 part-time employees (not counting our college interns). Our employees, manage the inventory, assemble and hand-stamp jewelry as well as package and ship every piece of jewelry that leaves our office.
We are always trying new avenues with regard to advertising just so we don’t have all of our “eggs in one basket”. We have dabbled a bit in Pinterest advertising and Google advertising as well as StoreYa's Traffic Booster but our main advertising source remains as Facebook.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
If I could give any advice, it would be to only spend what you have. You cannot look for future sales to grow or continue the same as you project a big spend.
At our lowest point, we were over $200,000 in debt as we had planned our catalog purchases and jewelry purchases on future revenue that just wasn’t there. In 2008 we suffered from a down-turned economy and a huge spike in the silver marked that went from about $7 per ounce at the start of our business to almost $50 per ounce at its peak.
This was something that we could not have planned for and almost sunk our ship.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Sales Platform: Big Commerce
- Email Marketing: Klaviyo
- Sales Tax: Avalara & Tax Jar
- Fulfillment: Shipstation
- Customer Service: Slack for internal communication and Tawk for customer communication
- Facebook Easy Ads by ROI Hunter - Highly Recommend!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
We stumbled upon a podcast from Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales. He shared his personal heartache and painful experiences during the downfall of his business. During our hard times (years) we could relate to his story and that helped.
After the business experienced a turning around and essentially a takeoff we read Flash which was also total relatable regarding the struggles of a woman who found herself in financial stress with her own business. She and her husband quit really good jobs to start their own business and the downturn of the economy shut the income flow down to a trickle. The book is about a homeless donkey who taught the writer about life, faith, and second chances written by Rachel Anne Ridge.
I can’t say we read many books or listened to podcasts about business because we were not business-minded girls. I would just say that during our really hard time, we would listen to bible teachers and we dug into the Bible to discover God’s plan for us and our business. Some of our favorites Bible teachers were Leonard Ravenhill, Retah McPherson, John Hagee, and Andrew Womack. Each teacher brought an aspect that we could apply to our lives. We did a good deal of Bible reading and scripture professing. We had 5 pages of scriptures that we would profess and proclaim over our business every day.
The most important thing we did was pray. You are never too busy to pray. Actually, it’s quite the opposite but if you don’t pray then where do you think your help will come from. Prayer is a way of saying that we can’t do this without you. Teach us how to be the people you created us to be, the business owners, mothers, wives, and stewards of our time on this earth.
The funny thing about prayer, God hears and answers. Sometimes the answers would come in dreams, and sometimes they would come as renewed insight. God honors those who honor Him and He’s been faithful to provide direction at every stage.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Never quit! No matter what….if God gives you a dream, don’t quit. You may have to re-invent, you may have to start over but never quit. Perseverance is the name of the game with business.
Don’t go it alone! Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says… Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
If you lack wisdom, ask God! James 1:5 says If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
When waiting for a promise...don’t sell out! If you feel, as we did, that we were lead by God to start the business, do not accept a counterfeit. We once received a call when we were at a very low point. We had let all of our employees go and struggled several years without a salary for either of us. The person on the other end of the line indicated that they were working with another direct sales business that had a very niche line of jewelry and they were very successful but wanted to branch out with a more general line and asked if we would be interested in speaking with them about a possible merger/buyout scenario.
Although this sounded like it might be the answer to prayer, my business partner had a dream just the night before that she shared with me the morning of the call. In the dream there were 2 men that were “going to take us to the next level” but she saw that they then turned into werewolves. As we were discussing this on the phone the dream came to mind and I whispered “werewolves” and we politely declined any more conversation with them. This is one of the hardest things we had to do but when you KNOW that God has a plan and He is in control, it makes it much easier to trust.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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