Today we’re interviewing Penny Cordova of Penny’s Treasures. Penny is a little bit different from our normal collection of coaches and artists and teachers. She is a metalsmith and jewelry designer who sells her jewelry on Etsy, and she just recently left her day job to focus on her jewelry-making passion full-time. In this interview, we talk about what it’s like to make that transition and how you would go about starting a business where you’re making things by hand and selling them to people individually.
Penny: I worked at Walgreens as an assistant manager for a long time and made pretty good money there, but I always felt like something was missing in my life. I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I had started making jewelry off and on about 20 years ago and I had taken a lot of metalsmithing classes. I really felt like that was what I was passionate about, so I decided to start making jewelry to sell and I sell it on Etsy.
I started this long before I left Walgreens, I would say in about 2008. I left Walgreens just this year so it was about six years ago, but I was working full-time so I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it. It’s very time-consuming just making the pieces. Then I have to photograph them and edit the photos and create the listing, so it’s a long process. Earlier this year, Walgreens went through a restructuring and I basically was given a choice to stay on or leave. I decided to leave and pursue my passion.
Meredith: So while you were still working at Walgreens, how successful were you in terms of selling your jewelry through Etsy?
Penny: It was pretty slow. Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it. Now that I’ve left Walgreens, I’m devoting a lot more time to updating my site, changing my titles and tags to improve the SEO, and doing things like getting on social media so that I can market it and grow it that way.
Meredith: Many people say that if you’re planning to leave a corporate job, something like Walgreens, then it’s a good idea to start off part-time in your spare time and build that up until you realize a big enough income that effectively takes over your actual “normal job” salary. Were you in that position, or did you just take a leap of faith and say, “Well, this is going to work. I just need to get on and do it”?
Penny: I took the leap of faith. My jewelry business is not making anywhere near as much as I was making at Walgreens, but I knew that I needed to devote all of my time to it. Working at Walgreens left me with virtually no time to spend on making jewelry or getting things listed, so I have a lot of money saved up that I had from the years of working there. I just left, quit my job, took the leap of faith, and now I’m trying to make it work.
Jasper: So what plans do you have, because I’m thinking that jewelry-making is one of these businesses where it’s really difficult to outsource the actual art, right?
Penny: You could always find someone. I could design one piece and then outsource it to someone who could make duplicates of it. A lot of jewelers do that, but I really love the creative process. I love making the pieces myself and I would really like to keep on doing that. If I were to outsource anything, I think it would be the photography or the listing, things like that, or social media content.
Jasper: It’s interesting for our listeners, because the art world is very different than other things. Artists want to keep doing their art and then build a business at the same time, so there’s some tension there between all the stuff that needs to be done to sell the thing that you’re making.
Meredith: So are your pieces all individual, or do you have a range that you make over and over again?
Penny: Up until now, all of my pieces have been completely different from one another. I’ve never made the same design twice. They’ve all been unique and one of a kind. Recently, I thought I need to create a line that’s cohesive with different pieces that could go together like a necklace and earrings or a bracelet and a ring, so that’s something I’m working on right now — developing a new line. Then I’ll offer it with different variations in color or shape maybe.
Meredith: Very cool. So do you exclusively sell this though Etsy, or do you actually do a stall somewhere or anything else?
Penny: Exclusively online on Etsy, but I have started doing craft shows. This past October and November, I did several shows in the Houston area. I intend to continue doing that, but I’m also looking into getting my pieces into a boutique somewhere, maybe on consignment or sell them wholesale.
Meredith: Interesting. There must be a lot of competition involved in getting into a boutique, so how do you go about that?
Penny: Well, I’ve been going around and just checking out some shops that I think would be a possibility and talking to the owner or whoever is in there, finding out who I would need to get into contact with about that. My next step will be sending out emails to those contacts to let them know what I have available and that I think my pieces would be a good fit with their shop, and just see what happens from there.
Favorite Resource: Etsy
I am a designer of unique genuine gemstone and metal jewelry. I make everything by hand with much love and care. Please check out both of my websites at www.pennystreasures.etsy.com and www.pennystreasures.artfire.com.
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