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Commentary: The Business

Karen Flyer: Love is The Answer



How Karen Flyer came to terms with selling luxury products

I’VE NEVER BEEN a ?jewelry person?, so to speak.  

So when friends and associates of mine remarked that I must be flush with jewelry, being marketing director for a top fine-diamond-jewelry manufacturer, I used to simply shrug my shoulders. The truth was, I was embarassed that I made my living hawking an expensive luxury product. 

I mean, it’s not like I’m a hitman, or a defense attorney defending criminals who are obviously guilty. I am not even a collections officer (which I actually did formerly do over holiday breaks when I was at college ? and, believe me, the pleas I received from debtors around Christmas time were heart-breaking). All I do is develop advertising for a jewelry designer and manufacturer. But I always felt that it was a person’s duty to spend their life helping other people. And jewelry ? well, it seemed to me to be the epitome of the impractical luxury product. The truth was, I never really appreciated exactly what it is that I was selling … until a four-year-old girl with a big heart opened my eyes. 

Some background first. I grew up in a lower middle-class household in rural New Hampshire. The big joke around town was that there were more cows than people in my local village. Granted, that may have been an exaggeration, but there was only one stoplight in my entire town, and it was only a blinking light. On a typical Christmas, my brother and I might receive a pair of slippers to keep our feet warm during the cold season, or some urgently needed school supplies. Never mind toys or video games. And certainly not extravagant gifts such as jewelry.  

My mother was no hypocrite; she did without as well, and served as a role model for me that favored practicality over glamor. 


Like the majority of my family, I planned to pursue a career in medicine. After all, helping people was the noblest of all professions.  

Unfortunately, a soon-to-be-discovered weak stomach and tendency to pass out at the sight of blood quickly ended that dream. After a detour through pre-law (the kind that helps people, of course), I ended up majoring in business, and later pursuing an M.B.A. But to help myself sleep at night, and earn the much-desired respect of my altruistic family, I began my marketing career working for a pharmaceutical company doing advertising for a women’s health product that alleviated the symptoms of menopause. Okay, I wasn’t saving lives directly, but to listen to the complaints of roomfuls of hot-flashing women in focus groups, I could see that I was benefiting society. 

After I gave birth to my first child in 1999, I gave up my full-time job and accepted a very generous offer from Martin Flyer to become the company’s marketing director. You’d think the flexible hours and autonomy the job promised would have made the decision a no-brainer.  

But I, the practical minimalist, actually had to talk myself into accepting the job because I was no longer marketing a product that I felt benefited humanity. Still, for the sake of my children and being available to them while they were young, I reluctantly accepted.  

I had to talk myself into accepting the job because I was no longer marketing a product that I felt benefited 

And thus began my years of justifying my existence to myself and concealing my embarrassment over my career choice.  


Luckily for me (and my self-respect), my then four-year-old daughter thought otherwise. 

One day in nursery school she made a heart necklace out of clay, decorated it with beads, and hung it on a piece of red yarn. She presented it to me proudly for Valentine’s Day, professing a love for me that can only come from a small child, not yet moderated by the influence of friends and life experiences.  

I wore the necklace proudly to the office the next day, as a reminder of this love. Funnily, my business associates who first noticed the necklace asked if it was a piece from an up-and-coming artist in SoHo. They, of course, did not notice my daughter’s name scribbled in red crayon on the backside. My answer to them was simple. No, this was from my daughter, and it was a symbol of her love for me. I was wearing it not only because the rudimentary design of a four-year-old was actually somewhat appealing, but also because of what it stood for.  

And then it hit me. I was not only marketing jewelry; I was marketing a symbol of two people’s love for each other. I was helping couples find their true expressions of their feelings for one another ? feelings that are embodied in a simple, yet beautiful, piece of platinum and diamonds. And what could be more important than that?

Since that moment, I have rested easier at night. I no longer feel the need to justify my career choice to my family or friends. In fact, when I am asked what I do, I often joke that ?I sell love … but not in THAT way, of course.? I then go on to explain.  

I think many of us in this industry need to remind ourselves that we are not just selling jewelry. We are selling expressions of love. We are helping couples come together and celebrate their feelings for one another.  


We should be proud of this critical role we play in the process, and should remember it when we are in the midst of dealing with a customer. We should step back and try to appreciate the feelings going through his or her mind. This empathy, as I learned in business school and my years at Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, helps us to be better marketers and sales people.  

All it took was a four-year-old girl to open my eyes to this fact. And I will always love her and thank her for that revelation. 

KAREN FLYER is marketing director for Martin Flyer, Inc. Contact her at (866) 459-8700.

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