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Podcast: Jen Cullen Williams Enters “The Barb Wire”

Industry trade shows, motherhood, and the challenges facing professional women are on the agenda.

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THE BARB WIRE EPISODE 2: JEN CULLEN WILLIAMS (61:38 MINUTES)


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IN EPISODE 2 of The Barb Wire, host Barbara Palumbo chats with Jen Cullen Williams, managing director of Luxury Brand Group, a leading luxury and jewelry brand communications agency.

The aim of The Barb Wire is to allow listeners to eavesdrop on engaging jewelry industry conversations that range the gamut, as real-world conversation do, from personal to business issues.

Says Palumbo, “My favorite thing is when my guests actually forget they’re on a podcast, and it’s just like we’re kicking back on the phone. “ This episode achieves that standard throughout its duration — in fact, at one point, Jen reacts in surprise over an intimate revelation she has just made, “Wow, that was really personal!”

The episode includes in-depth discussion of industry trade events — including the dangers of “trade show arrogance” as well as the opportunities for industry events to better serve their audiences with new technology and focused education.

But there’s also lighter discussion of trade show dress codes, the importance of careful shoe management during a trade event, as well as the towering personal confidence provided by zero-humidity “Vegas hair”.

On the personal side, Cullen Williams, who has a 1-1/2 year old daughter, shares her experience of having a child while in the midst of building a career, as well as the pros and cons of being married to a fitness industry entrepreneur. (Cullen Williams’ husband runs a California-based group of fitness businesses.)

Industry members who get shout-outs in this episode include Frank Proctor, Peggy Jo Donahue, Rebecca Moskal, and last month’s Barb Wire guest John Carter. Also mentioned: bygone teen idols Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Palumbo shares her surprising(!) celebrity crush as a teenager.

Enjoy this episode of The Barb Wire!


SHOW CHRONOLOGY
  • 3:10 The uniqueness of the Tucson gem show experience.
  • 4:25 Jen learns a lesson about Tucson’s very different dress code.
  • 6:40 The fine details of swapping out shoes, and alternating pressure points, to minimize blister pain during a multi-day trade event.
  • 8:25 Jen and Barbara discuss a major challenge for professional women — choosing the best time to start a family while still managing a successful career.
  • 9:35 How women with children, especially those who travel frequently for work, can sometimes be interrogated as though they are neglecting their children.
  • 11:15 Jen on planning for her first child. She had been with her husband for more than a decade, but each year, they would decide to focus on their careers — deeming it “the Year of the Hustle”. Finally, they decided they were ready.
  • 14:30 Jen tells a “really personal” story of how she learned she was going to have her first child right after JCK two years ago.
  • 18:30 Discussion of Jen’s husband’s career as a fitness business owner, and what degree of dietary oversight a fitness professional imposes on his partner. Jen is addicted to exercise, but concludes: “I don’t look like a gym owner’s wife. I could be a lot more cut and fit and be a better marketing advertisement for him. But I like wine.”
  • 24:30 One poster-worthy motto of her husband’s gym business: ”If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
  • 25:40 Jen shares her special motherhood motto, as well as her motto for getting through challenging periods at work. It’s just two words, but there’s power in its brevity.
  • 30:20 At trade shows, the importance of treating show attendees (and journalists) with care and empathy, and making every person feel like they’re being paid attention to. And what happens when some shows — ahem, ahem, BASEL! — stop taking the best possible care of their customers.
  • 35:00 Jen on the continuing importance of trade shows in jewelry, as well as the need to continue to innovate in the field.
  • 36:30 How technology is adding new wrinkles to the trade show experience.
  • 38:00 Jen took the Harvard Business track at the GIA Symposium, which she loved, and wonders what Harvard accreditation she can truthfully claim — “I’m not really a Harvard grad, but I like to say I’m a Harvard grad.”
  • 40:10 Why trade show education is important and what happens to a business owner’s slice of the business pie if he or she stops learning and lets their business grow stagnant. Says Jen: “It’s not going to be a pie anymore … it’s going to be an empty plate.”
  • 43:05 The importance of creating partnerships between vendors and buyers at trade shows.
  • 45:35 Who would Jen like to have dinner with, alive or dead, in the jewelry industry? She mentions two possible choices — one an iconic French fashion designer/businesswoman of yesteryear, and the other the current French CEO of one of the world’s top watch brands.
  • 48:40 Print magazines or online publications? Jen is a big fan of magazines, and refers to a “Scrapebook” she created in her teens stuffed with clippings about her favorite stars of the day — including a few nostalgic mentions of former idols from “Party of Five” and “Home Improvement”. Barbara also reveals her surprising, and surprisingly short, top crush from her own teen years.
  • 50:40 Jen’s biggest influence? Her parents, first and foremost. And then her “career tribe”.
  • 52:00 Jen lists some of her biggest fans — with her sister coming in on top, being her “best biological friend”.
  • 54:20 The five-minute meditation exercise that Jen starts her work day with.
  • 55:15 Jen shares her favorite industry event. It’s not a specific trade event — but it’s a special kind of experience that only happens during trade events.
  • 57:10 The accessory that Jen won’t leave the house without.
  • 59:20 Gold or platinum? Jen makes a choice, and then immediately tries to take it back.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Ben Smithee Isn’t Just Another Social Media ‘Influencer’

He calls social media “the great equalizer” for small businesses.

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The BARB WIRE (EPISODE 10): BEN SMITHEE (65:02 MINUTES)


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THE BARB WIRE celebrates its tenth episode with a visit from Ben Smithee, CEO at The Smithee Group (thesmitheegroup.com), a digital consultancy whose mission is “helping big brands think small and small brands think bigger”.

Talking with host Barbara Palumbo, Ben shares why he decided to originally focus his consultancy on the jewelry business (8:10), and Barbara refers to him as one of the industry’s few true “influencers” online (11:10). He talks about his unusual upbringing in Dallas as the adopted Asian son of white parents (17:00).

He’s passionate about social media, calling it “the great equalizer” for small businesses (29:30). And he later shares one of his pet peeves — retailers who can’t stop complaining about the things their customers do (32:50).

He also cites a specific behavior that he guarantees, if a retailer performs it daily for the next 365 days, will net them a six-figure sales increase (36:20). Later, he outlines the series of questions he asks potential clients to convince them to invest in building their social media following (40:30).

Catch the full podcast above.

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: From Tanzanite to Greenland Ruby, Hayley Henning Loves Selling Color

Her current project is marketing a gemstone that’s “been buried under ice and snow for 3 billion years”.

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The BARB WIRE (EPISODE 9): HAYLEY HENNING (57:59 MINUTES)


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MARKETING COLORED GEMSTONES is on the agenda when Hayley Henning visits The Barb Wire with host Barbara Palumbo.

Henning is currently vice-president of Greenland Ruby, where she has been working the last two years after spending most of her career as one of the key faces behind the rise of Tanzanite since the mid-1990s. (In fact, Barbara says that before she knew Hayley personally, she thought of her as “the Tanzanite lady”.)

The South African native shares some of her personal journey (2:55) from her homeland to a career in the U.S., working for a company called Afgem that eventually became the well-known Tanzanite One. Hayley calls the company’s efforts to market Tanzanite “the start of colored gemstone marketing as we know it today”. (6:55)

Now Hayley is involved in a similar effort to increase public and industry acceptance of Greenland ruby (12:10). Says Henning: “There is no real instruction manual on how to introduce a new gemstone to the gem and jewelry industry. But we’re figuring it out.”

Her company, Greenland Ruby, is the first business with government permission to mine, market and sell ruby material found in Greenland. She is passionate about the story behind Greenland rubies, saying: “It’s not as though we went to some fancy marketing agency to say, “Alright, help us make up a story. We are telling the story of a gemstone that has been buried under ice and snow for nearly 3 billion years.” (25:20)

Later you’ll hear some of the work Hayley is doing with retailers to promote rubies from Greenland, as well as best practices for retailers looking to introduce new gemstone varieties.

Want to learn more about marketing colored gemstones to your customers? Don’t miss Hayley Henning on The Barb Wire.

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’

Retailer says of his new location: “This was my destiny, to be here and nothing was going to stop me.”

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The BARB WIRE (EPISODE 8): CRAIG HUSAR (50:04 MINUTES)


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WATCH COLLECTORS, vintage jewelry, adventures in treasure hunting, and a showplace new store are on the agenda when jeweler Craig Husar steps into the Barb Wire this month. Husar is the owner and self-titled “Chief Romance Officer” at Craig Husar Fine Diamonds & Jewelry Designs in Brookfield, WI.

Barbara notes that Husar is her first podcast guest she hadn’t previously met in person, then tells the photogenic owner she thinks he should be in a Crest toothpaste commercial (2:30).

The conversation quickly turns to Husar’s spectacular new store (9:30), which opened in January during the week of the polar vortex in Milwaukee. (Spoiler alert: it was extremely cold.)

Husar had decided to move from his long-standing store site when he saw an available location opposite a major new free-standing outdoor lifestyle center in his community. Says the owner about the difficult store-creation process: “I was relentless. I’ve never been so focused and passionate about making something happen in my life. And it was that passion, that drive, that led me here. It was almost like, knowing somehow, that this was my destiny, to be here and nothing was going to stop me.”

The two discuss key features of the new store, including its monumental chandelier, called “the Star of Husar”, which features almost 3,000 Swarovski crystals (13:35). Since the store’s opening, the chandelier has become a focus of selfie-taking in and around the store.

The two discuss last month’s Las Vegas jewelry shows, with special praise given to the Antique Jewelry and Watch Show at the Collective (20:20). Says Husar: “I walked out, and wanted to sell everything I currently have, make it all go away, and start over with all vintage and antique jewelry.” He adds that he is currently developing the vintage and pre-owned part of his business as a new profit center (20:50).

Husar also discusses his previous jobs — including work with legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher (23:40), with whom he worked on a dive site (a sunken Spanish galleon with valuables worth an estimated $500 million) off the Florida Keys. Around that time, he did a tour of jewelry stores to show off a 90-carat emerald found at the wreck. Barbara doesn’t remember, but then she does remember … mostly because of a specific hairstyle Husar wore at the time.

Husar shares his thoughts on lab-grown diamonds (29:10), and provides a useful analogy retailers can try on customers choosing between naturally-mined and lab-grown diamonds (31:10).

In the closing segment of the show, Husar shares his preferred industry dinner partner (35:50), role model (38:50), favorite jewelry industry word (40:00), and the one accessory that he simply can’t do without (43:25).

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