My first attempt at building a jewelry business failed. It wasn’t the kind of failure that makes you wince when you hear the story. No. My business failure was more subtle. It came in the form of a slowly emerging clarity about the things that I value most. And I’m grateful for that slowly lifting fog because it gave me time to pivot.
In hindsight, I should have known all along that selling jewelry was never the right path for me. Even before I launched my Etsy shop, I had a long history of false starts. People kept telling me that I should sell my jewelry. Everyone insisted that I couldn’t possibly fail if I’d just get over myself and start selling it. Sell, sell, sell! I heard it repeated so many times that I couldn’t imagine a business model that wasn’t solely based on selling jewelry.
Pay Attention to Resistance
There was always something holding me back, but I didn’t know what it was. So I decided it must have been fear. I must have been afraid of failure. Or was I afraid of success? Whatever the case, I’d put together a business plan on paper, and then I’d agonize over the name or over which sales platform I should use.
Once I made those decisions, I agonized over whether I should switch from the copper I adore to silver, which has a broader market appeal. Every decision was a new opportunity for analysis paralysis. And boy did I over analyze. Still, I slogged forward in fits and starts over a period of years (yes, years!) until finally, I launched an Etsy shop in 2016.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that all of that resistance was coming from a part of myself that knew I was on the wrong path from the start. If I’d have taken the time to really examine my own resistance instead of projecting it onto things like business names and sales platforms, I could have saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. And I might have gotten on the right path years earlier.
Door 44, Version 1.0
The irony of my story is that my Etsy shop immediately took off on a sharp trajectory toward success. Etsy is saturated with jewelry sellers. And I showed up late to the ball. Still, my jewelry sold. Sales picked up so quickly, in fact, that I wasn’t far into that first year before it became very clear that my business wasn’t a viable solo venture.
Sure, I could’ve made a living from my Etsy shop alone. As long as I was willing to work 12 to 14-hour days. And if I hired and trained a team of wire weavers and continued to work alongside them, I could have made an even better living selling jewelry online as well as through local boutiques and regional craft markets. Throw in a few more personally trained wire weavers and I could have said yes to wholesale inquiries, too. But at what cost to my personal life?
When I really examined that question, I realized that I’d made a serious tactical error. I chose to follow unsolicited advice instead of my own instincts. I followed a path that someone else pointed me to. And in doing so, I found myself building a business that I’d never enjoy running.
The moment I realized that I was launching a small manufacturing company, I knew that Door 44 Jewelry (Version 1.0) needed a total overhaul. It was time to pivot.
Failing is Like Arriving at a Stop Sign
Seriously. Failing is like coasting to a controlled stop — something we all do countless times a day. Failure doesn’t have to be dramatic unless you choose to make it that way. It doesn’t even have to be a true failure by definition. Instead, you can accept it for what it truly is: a moment to stop, look around, and maybe change directions.
Failing gives you time to pivot. And that’s a good thing! Could Door 44 1.0 have been successful? Yes. Absolutely. Would I have
I know this because I’ve actually worked for a small manufacturing company. In fact, that’s where I first met my husband in 2009. And because it was a small privately held company, just about everyone who worked there wore multiple hats. Including me. The two hats that I wore were purchasing manager and product owner. And in that capacity, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about designing, manufacturing, marketing, and selling retail goods.
Although the work was interesting, I didn’t love that job. And because I worked closely with the owner executives of that company (a husband and wife who clearly weren’t happily married and didn’t work well together), I also didn’t relish the idea of putting myself or my family in their shoes. I just couldn’t see how building that sort of business would ultimately be satisfying for me, a nerdy introvert who prefers to work alone.
It Was Time to Pivot
I’m stubborn to a fault. Trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do is a bit like trying to push a chain. As a result of that stubbornness, it took me a long time to acknowledge that I was going down a path that wasn’t right for me.
I rationalized and justified and made up a million excuses why it didn’t make sense to pull the plug on a business that showed so much promise. But in the end, it all came down to one thing. Promising or not, the business that I was building wasn’t a business that I actually wanted to lead.
It was time to pivot, but to what? I had no idea. So I took a sabbatical.
A Change of Perspective
By the time Door 44 Jewelry turned one year old, I’d been swimming against the current for more than seven years. That’s how long I’d fought the idea that the only way to make a living doing what I love, was to make jewelry for the sole purpose of selling it.
Seven years! That should give you some indication of precisely how stubborn I am. But as that first birthday for Door 44 Jewelry rolled around, I knew that I had no more fight left in me. I was mentally and emotionally drained to the point that I was becoming depressed. So, I cleared out all of my inventory, hung a closed sign on my shop, and committed to hitting the pause button on my business for one year.
I’d always wanted to learn to crochet, and I now had the perfect opportunity to do so without feeling like I was taking valuable time away from my business. And the best thing about learning any new skill is that the process always brings about a change in perspective.
The 5 Signs That It’s Time to Pivot
I approached learning to crochet with no expectations beyond just that: learning. I didn’t go into it thinking that I’d have anything to show for it besides some cute potholders and perhaps a cozy cardigan or two. Yet it was there, in the midst of full crochet immersion, that I finally had a long overdue epiphany.
What I discovered through my crochet journey was a large and vibrant community of crochet designers and bloggers who make a living doing what they love without selling a single crochet hat or scarf. Instead, they’re selling crochet patterns and blogging and vlogging on monetized platforms.
These smart makers had cracked the code that I’d been fighting with for seven years! The solution for my business became so clear and simple once I recognized five simple truths.
1. It’s Time to Pivot If You Value Family Time
My husband and I aren’t afraid of hard work. We’re both willing to roll up our sleeves and go the extra mile when it comes to work. But we also value our family time.
Although I knew that I could make a lot of money selling jewelry at craft shows and art fairs every weekend, I hated the idea of spending every weekend away from my family. Or even worse, asking my family to give up their own weekends to help me schlep a tent and an elaborate jewelry display around the state.
In the end, I wasn’t willing to give up weekends with my family in order to build my jewelry business.
2. It’s Time to Pivot If You Enjoy Designing More Than Fabricating
One of the things I enjoy most about wire weaving is experimenting and coming up with new designs and ideas. I enjoy the design process more than I enjoy repetition. Yet my business model was based on repeatable jewelry designs that sold well.
It’s possible that my first business could have grown to a point where I could have spent more time designing than making, but I was a long way from that point one year in. I saw no end in sight to having to spend my weekends selling jewelry. And then spending weekdays making more inventory to sell the following weekend.
Nothing about that repetitive grind appeals to me. I’d much rather be playing with wire and experimenting with new designs. I don’t mind repeating a design a few times in order to refine it. But once I’ve reached a point where I’m satisfied with the design, I really don’t enjoy sitting down to make dozens of them at a time.
3. It’s Time to Pivot if You Value Having Control of Your Time
Being a wife and stepmom, I already have a lot of demands on my time. I drive my daughter to school every morning, and I pick her up every afternoon. I do all of the grocery shopping, and most of the cooking and household chores. And I need to be able to fit my work within those parameters.
That wasn’t always possible when I was selling jewelry full-time. There are weekday craft markets in my local area that were great venues for my jewelry. But those markets conflicted with my daughter’s school schedule, which in turn disrupted my husband’s work schedule. He had to leave work early to pick up the kiddo on market days.
My husband was perfectly willing to do whatever it took to give my business a chance to grow and thrive. But I found myself resenting the disruption that my jewelry business created for my family. I felt like the business was running me more than I was running it.
4. It’s Time to Pivot if You Want Unlimited Earning Potential
Selling finished jewelry is a high-overhead business venture, and all of those expenses cut deeply into your profits. And in my case, those expenses also put strain on our personal finances because we don’t have a lot of discretionary income to invest in the business.
It was this point in particular that really hit a nerve for me when I discovered the wonderful world of crochet bloggers. As businesses go, blogs have very low overhead, and that makes them extremely profitable. Furthermore, blogs are not typically constrained by geography. Because you can reach the entire world with a blog, your income potential is virtually unlimited.
When I first discovered that I was working my tail off for roughly a tenth of the net profit that some crochet bloggers were making, I knew it was time to pivot.
5. It’s Time to Pivot if You’re Not Spending Most of Your Time in Your Sweet Spot
I’m extremely blessed to be one of those multi-talented people that everyone secretly loves to hate. And I don’t take that for granted. I also don’t want to come off as one of those people who whines about her blessings, but being multi-talented really can be as much a challenge as it is a blessing. Because I pick up new skills easily and master them quickly, I’ve had a hard time figuring out what it is that I actually want to do with my life.
Besides being told that I should sell my jewelry, I’ve often been told that I should be a professional musician or a professional dog trainer or horse trainer. I’ve also been told countless times by countless people that I should be a professional writer.
Writing is one thing that I’ve often thought I should do professionally as well. It’s something that I enjoy doing and it comes naturally to me. But I was never able to figure out what kind of writing I wanted to do. I tried technical writing and creative writing. And I did a lot of academic writing in college, of course.
None of those paths felt right. But blogging? Yeah. That’s a good fit. Blogging put me squarely in my sweet spot. And that’s how Door 44 Studios (2.0) came to be. By combining my love of designing jewelry with my love of writing and my natural ability to teach, I finally found my niche.
Have You Found Your Niche?
Is your jewelry business encroaching on your family life?
What percentage of your time do you spend working on tasks that you don’t enjoy?
Do you control your schedule, or does your business control it for you?
Does your earning potential justify the countless hours that you put into your business?
Are you in your sweet spot when it comes to your jewelry business?
These are the questions you need to answer honestly to determine if it’s time for you to pivot your business onto a trajectory that is more fulfilling for you.
Discover More Behind Door 44
Thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you found this article helpful. Pivoting isn’t always an easy thing to do. And accepting that you’ve failed, or that you’re heading toward failure is even harder. But almost no one gets it right the first time. So, if your business isn’t as fulfilling as you imagined it would be, stop. Look around. And figure out if maybe it’s time to go in a different direction.
I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions for new jewelry business blog posts. So, please connect with me @door44studios on Instagram, and Facebook. And if you’re a jewelry maker, join my private Facebook Group where we talk about all things related to making wire jewelry.
Until next time, go find your sweet spot and spend as much time there as you can!