How I Started a
Modern Clay Jewellery Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Nicole. I’m a project engineer, professional photographer, wedding coordinator, and owner of & everlasting. At & everlasting, I design and curate contemporary and modern clay jewelry for slow fashion. I make clay earrings everyday after work and find so much joy in this business.
This clay jewellery is made out of polymer clay and is durable yet flexible, and surprisingly very lightweight after baking. The colour and design spectrum is limitless when it comes to clay jewellery.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I graduated from CSULB in California in 2017 with a degree in Communications and Marketing and started working full time in construction as a project engineer. While I love the technical aspects of my job, I also love expressing my creative and artistic talent in professional photography, wedding coordination, and developing & everlasting as a brand.
I find clay making to be very therapeutic. If you fight with the clay, it fights back. If you are patient, it agrees with you. The amazing thing about polymer clay is that it remains workable until we cured in the oven. This means you can keep perfecting your craft until it’s just right. The gap in the market is limitless because your designs are always unique and one-of-a-kind.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
When first starting off, you find there are a couple major clay brands in the US market, and the further you get into it, it seems like there are multiple clay brands trying to make it in every single city. A seemingly non-competitive market just became very competitive.
The biggest challenge I overcame was believing in my own work. Since my jewelry is handmade, you may start to think it’s not attractive if sales don’t snowball in. This isn’t the case. There are so many established clay brands with loyal customers.
Anytime you start a business, I do not recommend correlating your sales with your product value/quality. Sometimes, the main factor missing is brand development which is something I am working on daily with & everlasting.
My differentiator is customer service. I get to know my customers and become their friends and take a genuine interest in their life- which many people can appreciate and need right now especially during a time like this where many people are isolated experiencing COVID-19.
Who is your target market?
My target market is anyone who likes clay jewellery! It ranges from an Indian man in his 40’s getting a contemporary style, clay necklace as a gift for his wife to a 13 year old tik-toker that has to ask their mom first for a custom pair of Snail Inspired Earrings.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
When it comes to ad spend, I am not concerned with the idea that I do not have enough money for marketing. As a business owner, my mindset is that I am money. The amount of time I put into brand development is entirely up to me, so I see it as my funding being unlimited. The only ads I use are Etsy ad’s which aren’t super successful and I do not recommend for other Etsy shop owners until you have at least 15 sales and a couple of good reviews, otherwise, you’re shredding your money. Utilize all product photos and tags that Etsy allows.
My number one marketing methods are engaging with my customers genuinely and reaching out to shops in my local community as well as other business owners to collaborate. Put simply, the more people that know, the more people know.
One of my favourite quotes is, “sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Tell people about your business, then tell more people, then don’t stop!
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Similar to my previous answer, I love engaging with my customers as if they are my friends. I ask them about their hobbies too and take genuine interest in their lives. Below is a message from a client after finding out some personal things were going on in her life and reaching out to see how she is doing.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
The culture that exists at my company is very free flowing and open-minded. I love encouraging team members to bring new ideas to the table and also making sure everyone on our team has a good relationship with each other where we can all feel confident in sharing their ideas in a safe and open environment. Visit my website to see more information about our team.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I honestly use Google Sheets and Docs for EVERYTHING! It’s simple. I love how I can send it to anyone and we can edit at the same time to work and develop this brand. I also use Google Photos. Thanks Google!
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
You are going to want to give up and that’s ok, just don’t. If you start today, even if you get no sales for ONE YEAR, that’s a year worth of research, study, brand development, and more knowledge you know that you didn’t know before.
The top 2 misconceptions I come by are that 1) people expect to get sales right away and 2) when they don’t get sales, they get discouraged and quit. Please do not give up on your dreams. Reach out to me if you need help or inspo in whatever you’re doing.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I wanted to start designing and creating something that brought me happiness and that I’m passionate about. & everlasting gives me that. I love being able to work on my own time and also push myself to take on as much as possible between clay and my other hobbies as well.
I have complete brand design leadership which I love. It’s rewarding when other small businesses ask me for my advice or information and I love helping others grow. Also, getting to see my earrings being sold in stores was really cool!
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The pressure! It’s all fun and games until you’ve been trying so hard and you still have 0 sales. Then, eventually, sales start coming in and now you are bombarded because you didn’t expect so many so fast! Ahh! It can be stressful but I definitely feel thankful that people really have taken a liking to & everlasting and that I have the opportunity to make custom orders for people and that people love my designs and artwork.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
My boyfriend has been a huge inspiration and help on this journey. Maybe TMI, but I remember when I first started, our dining room table was COMPLETELY covered in clay bits, and he didn’t even mind at all, even when it stayed like that for 3 WEEKS! He helped me prepare for my first pop-up event-loading in and unloading-and at times when I’ve felt completely overwhelmed, assured me again and again.
Through all the late-1AM-nights packing up orders, he has helped me print shipping labels and put the final touches on the packaging. Now I have a desk dedicated to clay which is nice (which he gave me as a gift for my Birthday), but he really has been there for me through brand development thick and thin.
I remember when I got my first real Etsy sale, we celebrated together and I ran around our home in excitement!
He’s very inspiring to me because he is really into entrepreneurship and I see how he develops his own brands of several different companies. It’s inspiring. I have no podcast, books, or content to recommend, all I can say is the people you hang out with really do influence you. Surround yourself with people who support you.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
& everlasting represents a mentality that can be applied to anything: a memory, or experience you share with a loved one, or how long we promise our handmade earrings will last you! My goal is for & everlasting to be in 10-15 stores in the US and 3+ stores internationally.
I am currently in 3 stores in the US and 1 store internationally. Find out more about our stockist on www.andeverlasting.com! I am also teaching my first workshop on making clay earrings in Long Beach in just a couple months! I hope to continue teaching others and helping my brand grow. I also see a full-time marketing manager joining the team with my guidance as well as inviting new interns to learn about business development and growth.
I would also love to be able to focus on this full-time as well as photography!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this interview! I hope I have the opportunity to make a one-of-a-kind order for you!