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J. Shea Jewelers

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ABILENE, TX

[dropcap cap=P]roblems don’t seem to exist in the world of 31-year-old Jeremy Shea Leech. Only opportunities. Whether it’s the recession, gold’s inflationary spiral, his youthful looks (great for marketing CAD/CAM) or his total lack of experience, connections and capital when he started, everything has a plus side if you only look hard enough. “If it wasn’t for my naiveté I might never have done this,” he explains. [/dropcap]

CUSTOMERS EVERYWHERE: Of all the “challenges,” his approach to competition might seem the hardest to understand. Open a jewelry business in Abilene and Leech is likely to be at your doorstop with a warm welcome and a business card. The approach has seen him pick up watch-battery customers from Walmart (which won’t service customers who bought their watch elsewhere), custom-job clients from James Avery who can’t wait for its six-week turnaround time and work from pawn shops, which often need repairs or appraisals.

10,000 CLIENTS: By beating the sidewalk, keeping an open mind and following up on every first-time customer with a card or phone call, Leech has built up a database of 10,000 clients in a little over 10 years. “Come in the store a customer and leave a friend. That’s my goal.”

PERSONALITY: It’s a personality-centered approach that’s driven impressive growth. Since it opened in 1999, his store has enjoyed average annual sales growth of 17 percent a year, even during the recession. This year, from a bigger base, he expects to grow 15 percent to $450,000. “Business comes down to people skills and breaking down barriers,” says Leech, who keeps in touch with his customers through events such as barbecues and phone chats.

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COLUMN: The single biggest customer builder, however, has been a column he writes in the local paper. “It has nothing to do with the business. Just some life lessons. I’ve written about my grandmother’s death, when I was robbed. I let people know I am a human, that we all have our crosses to bear. It’s amazing how many customers have come in the door because of something they read.”

[span class=note]This story is from the October 2010 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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