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A Colicky Baby Kickstarted This Jewelry Designer’s Career

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Raising an infant focused Harvinder Keila’s creativity.

Harvinder Keila was thrown for a loop when she became a stay-at-home mom to a newborn daughter who had colic the first nine months of her life.

But within a few years, long after the problem had resolved itself, she felt blessed to have had a “difficult” baby, because it focused her creativity, brought her inner strength and led to a promising career in jewelry.

Harvinder Keila

Introspective Inspiration

Keila had dabbled in making jewelry and selling it on Etsy before her daughter was born. In 2008, she’d taken a metalsmithing class; she loves, she says, hammering rings. “It was a fun hobby,” she says.

But her profession had been in environmental science.

Preparing for her daughter’s birth, she closed her home jewelry workshop and thought she’d get back to it much later.

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Keila had left her full-time job, too.

In her unfamiliar role as a stay-at home mom with a crying infant, she found herself off balance and uncharacteristically unmotivated.

But her scholarly curiosity was intact.

As a child growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Canada, she hadn’t had much exposure to her Indian heritage. So she decided to spend what time she had studying Indian history, inspired by stories her grandfather had told her.

“I found a book with a lot of shields and swords made out of gold and ruby and emeralds and engraved with beautiful animal figures. Something connected. I felt like if I wore something that represented protection, like a shield or a sword, then maybe I’d feel strength or balance within me.”

She was inspired to create a distinctive double-headed horse pendant that represented her and her daughter. Each horse head was equal in size. The piece felt protective to her and just knowing it existed already made her feel better.

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From Design to Production

“The problem was I didn’t know how to make such a complicated piece,” she says.

A caster she knew recommended a wax carver. “I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had created or thought of,” she says.

She held onto it for a while and in her search for a manufacturer, she found Victor Velyan’s website and learned that he produces jewelry for select, emerging designers.

She went to see him.

“I was so intimidated because he has this python in his office that is 6 feet long,” she says. “He has these parrots. And huge dogs, really, really, tall dogs, all black. I was a little scared when I walked in there. All I had was this wax carving of this horse pendant. He said, ‘Give it to me, I’ll take care of it.’ We worked together for two years, talking about manufacturing and the art of design and keeping things unique. I saw him maybe once a month and he was literally my mentor in those 10 to 15 minutes a month.”

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Velyan says he admires Harvinder’s dedication to her craft.

“Life is always a challenge and it always will be, but I know how to find strength inside me.” — Harvinder Keila

“She has an incredible work ethic, and from the very moment she started designing, she has worked incredibly hard and has refused to give up on achieving her goals. That kind of determination is going to serve her well now and in the future.”

After she’d made about 20 pieces, Velyan suggested she apply to the JCK Rising Star program in 2014.

“I got it! JCK Rising Star. I was amazed and happy and shocked and I felt like I received this difficult child as a blessing.

“Ever since then I have felt acknowledged and happy and I wanted to keep going in this direction. I got into branding and everything came together, and the collections kept growing.”

She had found her balance, along with protection, strength and clarity, which her jewelry represents.

But, as she began to think about the future of her business, she knew competition was tough, and her sales skills limited.

So, resourceful as ever, she landed a job in sales in the Neiman Marcus jewelry department, where she worked for a year.

In particular, she learned which brands appealed to which types of people.

After the sales job, she began to develop the Bindi Collection and found the confidence to begin telling her story in an artistic way. She enlisted a model and a film producer and made a short film for her website to begin to tell the story of her brand.

Although her jewelry has been available intermittently in stores, Keila has sold her work primarily by meeting people who connect with her story — cancer survivors, new moms and the divorced; people like her, who are trying to find strength.

Her latest collection, Bindi, represents both her nickname and a symbol – the red dot – that shows inner strength in the Indian tradition. “When I realized how meaningful my nickname was, I was inspired to create a collection around it,” she says. “Bindis are beautiful and their symbolism should be shared.”

When she thought about what it would look like she envisioned the red dot not as a ruby but as the perfect shade of red enamel.

Again, she sought out an expert, working with enamelist Sinork Agdere of Lord Jewelry in Los Angeles, a kindred soul. “When I work with enamel,” Agdere has said, “I am reminded that life is colorful and joyful.”

The pieces are also accented with diamonds, but otherwise are the epitome of simplicity. “They stand out because they’re so simple,” Keila says.

With the Bindi Collection, she wants to emphasize the importance of slowing down to reflect and devote more time to self, which leads to inner peace.

“When humans need strength to move on, it’s always found inside,” she says. “Life is always a challenge and it always will be, but I know how to find strength inside me.”

 

 

This story is an INSTORE Online extra.

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Wilkerson Testimonials

When It’s Time for Something New, Call Wilkerson

Fifty-four years is a long time to stay in one place. So, when Cindy Skatell-Dacus, owner of Skatell’s Custom Jewelers in Greenville, SC decided to move on to life’s next adventure, she called Wilkerson. “I’d seen their ads in the trade magazines for years,’ she says, before hiring them to run her store’s GOB sale. It was such a great experience, Skatell-Dacus says it didn’t even seem like a sale was taking place. Does she have some advice for others thinking of a liquidation or GOB sale? Three words, she says: “Wilkerson. Wilkerson. Wilkerson.”

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Eileen McClelland

2019 Big Survey: 10 Times When Jewelry Store Employees Left the Job in Dramatic Fashion

Results of the 2019 Big Survey have been rolling in. Here’s a sample.

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WE ASKED SURVEY respondents to share the most epic ways they’d seen someone quit or be fired. Dealing with employees on their way out can be touchy. Sometimes these unfortunate encounters even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have parted ways with jewelry stores:

Top 10 Countdown

The award for best dramatic performance goes to the employees who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, then quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised in the air, saying “he’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

1. The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted in September and October and attracted responses from more than 800 North American jewelers. Look out for all the results in the November issue of INSTORE.

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Wow Your Customers with This Video Messaging App

Jewelers can make online experiences feel a lot more like in-person experiences.

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DO YOU REMEMBER the last time a business did something unexpected for you? Something you truly appreciated? Of course, you do. Those are the moments that imprint themselves on our memories. For me, it was with a video messaging app called Bonjoro.

My Wow Moment

When I signed up for their free trial, I expected to get a video message from them. That’s what they do. And they told me I would. What I didn’t expect was to get a video answer about a tech issue I was having minutes after I emailed them about it. That blew me away.

In the jewelry industry, we pride ourselves on our in-store service and fret about our online marketing. Gone are the glory days with greater foot traffic. Now everyone wants to kick the tires online before they commit to coming in. But what if you could bring your amazing customer service to customers before they ever stepped foot in the store?

Bonjoro to the Rescue

That’s exactly what Bonjoro allows you to do. Bonjoro is an easy to use video to email messaging app for businesses. They make recording and emailing a personalized video to customers almost effortless. And you can even send these videos when they’ll have the biggest impact, like right after they fill out a contact form on your site.

Imagine a prospective customer visits your site. They fill out a contact form with some details about the type of engagement ring they’re looking for. After they press submit, someone on your sales team gets a notification. Once they have a free minute, they pull out their phone and record and send a video in less time than it would take them to respond to the email.

“Hi, Jim! I know exactly the style that you’re looking for, and we have some great options for you. You can see a few of them in the case behind me, but I have a few more that I’d like to pull out and show you. You mentioned that you have a lunch break at noon. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow, and I’ll have them all ready for you? In the meantime, there’s a link to our website’s engagement ring gallery in this window. If you see anything else you like, you can write me a quick message, and I’ll be sure to add it. See you soon!”

An Experience Like No Other

This is an experience most jewelers aren’t going to offer. The enthusiasm and confidence communicated in a video are hard to match in an email response. And the customer has likely never received a response like this from a jewelry store. Just the thought that someone took the time to personally address them with a video will make them more likely to stop in. Plus, they already feel like they know you.

Almost Face-to-Face

Bonjoro is a way to send quick, personalized videos to customers. They’re meant to be mixed into the daily routine and workflow of your sales team. This isn’t the time for high-quality video production or perfect angles. This is much more personal and organic than that.

People online aren’t used to being addressed personally by video. It gives them a personal touch that usually only happens in the store. When you use Bonjoro, the most important thing is to press the record button and talk to the customer like they’re right there in front of you. What a wonderful way to wow your customers!

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Commentary: The Business

Customer Fired for Cause

Her phone manners left something to be desired.

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Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery says her daughter Heidi, now 15, is not afraid to answer the phone despite what happened and calls it “a learning experience.”

WHILE VISITING A great friend and store owner, Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery in Alberta, Canada, we were commiserating over coffee. I have always loved hearing her stories about community involvement or win/win sales interactions. This time, she had a real doozy.

A customer had recently purchased a $300 ring for her daughter and had sent her back to the store for a free sizing. The young girl had decided it was not going to be on her third finger but the much larger first. That meant the ring needed to be sized from 5 to 10. For this, there would be a charge. The girl left the ring.

Laurelle’s daughter, Heidi, was answering phones as her mom finished closing the store. It was the last call before locking up. Heidi asked how she could re-direct the caller and then, holding the phone to her chest, asked her mom if she wanted to take the call. Mom assured her she was doing fine. It brought a smile to her face when she heard her daughter tell the caller that she would pass the message along to their HR manager.

But later at home, the true story emerged. The call had been from the original purchaser of the size 5 ring, and using a long string of vulgarities, she had demanded a full refund. The next day, typically affable Laurelle left a message requesting a return call. When the return call came, Laurelle informed the customer that the swearing she had done over the phone had been directed at her 13-year-old daughter. She added that she would not allow that treatment of any of her staff. After informing the customer that she would process a full refund, she asked for her mailing address so she could mail it. Laurelle calmly informed the customer that she was not to come back to her store.

But the story was not over. The customer ignored the request to not return to the store and instead brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a neatly written card. She wanted to personally deliver them to the 13-year-old child who had listened so intently to her vulgar language. This customer knew that the depth of her apology could only be appreciated by a face-to-face meeting between an embarrassed adult and precocious child!

If there are lessons here, they are written between the lines.

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