Jewelry fashions are always changing, but the universal love for charms and charm bracelets will always remain. That is what makes Katie's Charms such a successful online shop. Katie's is poised to offer quality charms for prices far below their competition.
Like any good business, Katie's Charms has a dedicated founder, Jennifer Colgan, working in the background to make her company a success. I recently spoke with Jennifer about her company and the inspiration behind it.
Tell us a little about Katie's Charms.
Katie's Charms is an online store dedicated to selling beads, charms and accessories that fit European bead bracelets (such as those made by Pandora and Chamilia). I offer high quality materials, such as sterling silver and Swarovski crystals, but at a significantly lower cost than the brand names.
What inspired it?
After the birth of my second child we were a one-income family, and I wanted to find a way to help with the expenses while still taking care of my two little ones. I started out trolling garage sales every Saturday, looking for items to sell for a profit on eBay. This quickly became a nightmare, simply with trying to find storage for all the stuff, and the packing supplies, not to mention researching all the items to see if they had any value. I realized I needed a better product, and was looking into selling crafting items when I stumbled on a box of beads that were made for Pandora style bracelets. I did some more research and realized this was a niche I could stand out in, and something I could love selling.
I named the business after one of my daughters so I would always remember how blessed I am to be able to own my own business and work at home while being with my kids. My husband jokes that I'll need to start another business and name it after my other daughter just so she won't be jealous!
How many different bracelet styles and charms do you offer?
I have a dozen different starter bracelets and necklaces, and over 350 different beads and charms, with many more coming soon. I'm launching a new Venetian glass collection in September, and I have plans for a kids' line for next year.
What are some of your more popular designs?
My stainless steel bangle bracelets are a big hit, simply because they're more affordable and different than the regular snake chain bracelets. My most popular beads and charms are the Swarovski crystal beads and the family related ones, such as the Mother / Daughter breakaway charms, and the Nana bead.
What separates you from the competition?
Most of my dangle beads are exclusive to my store, since I modify the charms myself to fit on the European bead bracelets. I also offer free shipping for all US orders, no matter the amount of the purchase. And I strive to give every customer amazing service - most packages are shipped within 24 hours of payment, I answer emails and calls within hours, and I accept returns and exchanges without question. I treat my customers the way I would want to be treated; they are putting their trust in me and I want to exceed their expectations!
Do you have any goals you'd like to accomplish in the next year or so?
I'm starting home parties, which I'm very excited about! I started doing the parties myself, and it's been a great way to see and talk to my customers in person. I'm hoping to evolve the business so that I can share the home party opportunity with other women who want to start their own business. I'm creating a package that gets them started doing parties themselves, plus provides them with one-on-one support and guidance along the way. My ultimate goal is to help other women stay home while providing income for their families.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
I've learned a lot about tenacity. There have been a few times that I thought my business might not make it in the past two years. A good example: When I first started I was selling primarily on eBay. I had over 200 listings, an eBay store, and was really doing well (I was a top seller and Power Seller). Then one day I got a call from eBay, telling me that I could no longer use the word "Pandora" in my listings. I was using the term "fits Pandora" in my titles, not trying to sell knock-offs, but they said that any use of the word was now prohibited. I spent days revising all my listings, and then my sales plummeted, because customers were searching for beads that "fit Pandora". I thought I was done. But then, I decided to concentrate on my website and Amazon store, and by the end of that year my sales were higher than they'd ever been.
What I thought was the end of my business turned out to be the best thing that could happen, because not only did it turn my own website into my main source of customers, but I also stopped paying eBay 30% of my earnings in fees. Having a business taught me that I need to face each challenge and setback head-on. I've learned that a closed door doesn't mean the end - it just means there's a window open somewhere else.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
The best thing you can do as a business owner is to think like a customer. Get lots of feedback from others, make sure that your message is coming across the way you want it to. Talk to your customers as much as possible. I've learned so much by being open and honest with the people that have been gracious enough to give me their hard earned money. I think many businesses fail because they don't treat their customers with respect. Most of us don't have a very unique product; I know my customers can buy beads at many other stores. But they come back to me because they know they'll get treated well.
Do you have any advice you'd like to offer fellow entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Have patience! It can take a while before you see any profits that you can actually spend, especially if you're bootstrapping your business like I am. Also, set a budget and stick to it. Watching your money is so very important, especially when you're trying to decide how much to spend on marketing, versus inventory, versus fees...its a delicate balance and without a good budget you can find yourself in hot water pretty quickly.