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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 76 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Doug Hucker Discusses His Colorful Life on ‘The Barb Wire’

One of the biggest names in colored gemstones talks with Barbara Palumbo.

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The BARB WIRE (EPISODE 7): DOUG HUCKER (57:02 MINUTES)


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COLORED GEMSTONES and their increasing popularity with younger buyers are the key topics when Doug Hucker, long-time CEO of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) is interviewed by host Barbara Palumbo on this month’s The Barb Wire.

Doug starts off by talking about how entered the jewelry business (4:10). His background: after he graduated university, he worked at a newspaper as a writer and photographer. Wanting to leave his hometown, Doug moved to California and started taking pictures of gemstones for the Gemological Institute of America. He ended up spending 10 years at GIA, mostly teaching classes. It was during this period that he really fell in love with gemstones, he shares. “As you know, the more you know about something, the more education you get, the easier it is to fall in love with it,” he says. “Sweaty palms and shortness of breath, I realized that I love gemstones.”

Did he ever work in retail, Barbara asks (9:30). “No comment,” jokes Doug. He clarifies by saying that, in order to provide some context to the work he was doing for GIA, he took an upaid job with a California jewelry retailer on weekends for a period. “You have to have familiarity with retail, or you can’t understand the full picture of this industry,” he explains.

Doug talks about his eventual move to the leadership of AGTA (13:05) in 1997. Before accepting the role, he was worried about having no previous experience leading an association. But, in the end, he feels AGTA turned out to be a perfect fit for him. “It’s been a fantastic career for me,” Doug says, “because I feel I was able to work with fantastic people, in a great industry, and in some ways, I was able to contribute to making the industry better.”

Barbara says she can’t remember, or imagine, the AGTA without Doug. “If the AGTA had money,” she jokes, “your face would be on the currency.”

Doug talks about the importance of volunteers and their contribution to AGTA’s success (17:05), and applauds their passion for colored gemstones.

Next, Barbara and Doug talk about the increasing popularity of colored gemstones with younger buyers (20:10). Barbara notes that, when her group of female friends was in their 20s and starting to get married, competition for the biggest engagement diamond was intense. “You wanted to be the last one to get engaged, because you knew then you could get the biggest diamond,” she says. These days, both Barbara and Doug agree, going for the biggest possible diamond is no longer an automatic choice for younger women who are getting engaged.

One overlooked factor in the rise of colored gemstones amongst younger buyers, according to Doug, is social media (22:50). “Since you have such a visual, colorful world, and you have the technology you have today, it’s perfect for colored gemstones,” he says. “Look at Instagram and Pinterest and all these different platforms where you can see all these pictures of magnificent gemstones and learn the stories, that experience and that story is very important to young people. And it’s very important that we have young people involved.”

Doug and Barbara then talk about the importance of inspiring younger industry members to join industry groups like the AGTA and AGS, as a key factor in helping them to build passion for colored gemstones (25:40).

Another topic of discussion is the AGTA’s move into this year’s big new Las Vegas event, The Collective, at the Las Vegas Convention Center (32:05). AGTA is co-hosting the event along with the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show and Premier. Doug notes that he is proud of the opportunity that the new event provides for younger, upcoming designers, especially at the jewelry-focused Premier show.

Also mentioned are a few special initiatives Collective partners have launched for the show, including vouchers for free Uber rides to and from the event.

Doug shares his favorite gemstone (41:40) as well as his close second place. He then picks a jewelry business figure, alive or dead, he’d most like to have dinner with (43:00). (“Dead is better because you don’t offend anyone who is living,” Doug astutely notes, before sharing his choice.) He then talks about his biggest influence and his biggest fan.

Doug then shares his favorite four-letter industry-related word (50:10). “I think Vegas was betting on that one,” Barbara says, after he reveals his choice.

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Luxury Retailer Nick Linca Drops Into ‘The Barb Wire’

Florida retailer has perfected the concept of the jewelry store as “third place” for his customers.

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THE BARB WIRE EPISODE 6: NICK LINCA (53:27 MINUTES)


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THIS MONTH, the Barb Wire welcomes innovative jeweler Nick Linca, a managing partner with Provident Jewelry, a seven-store jewelry retailer.

The business launched 25 years ago as a jeweler specializing in estate goods. However, in 2008, it moved in a new direction by opening a luxurious, state-of-the-art store in Jupiter, FL selling higher-end branded goods.

Linca, who had been a manager at Zale in the late 1990s and a sales manager at Hamilton Jewelers from 2000 to 2008, was brought on to lead the launch of Provdent Jewelry’s new Jupiter business.

Over the past 11 years, the group’s Jupiter location has achieved status of one of the country’s most impressive jewelry stores, selling brands like Baume-et-Mercier, Bell & Ross, Breitling, Carl F. Bucherer, Cartier, Chopard and more, while featuring luxurious amenities like a fully stocked bar and cigar bar for customers.

Chatting with Barbara, Nick talks about the background of the business (2:00), and the importance of opening a store around the right people rather than the other way around (4:00). He discusses the mindset in opening the Jupiter store of creating a “third place” for customers, a la Starbucks — a place that is not work and is not home (6:45). Barbara raves about the opulence of the drink bar and cigar bar at the Jupiter store (8:50).

Nick loves that his customers can finish a round of golf, then invite a friend over for a post-round drink and cigar at the jewelry store (10:30). He shares how the team at Provident likes to “blow it out” and have fun with store events, including an upcoming “Bubbles and Bling” party (14:20).

Barbara and Nick discuss Provident Jewelry’s wide-ranging charity activities (14:30), including dog adoptions. And Nick shares the reasons why, over time, he has connected so much with independent watch brands (18:50) over time.

One reason is loyalty. After a 2011 robbery in which Provident Jewelry lost more than $15 million in inventory, and were uncertain to survive. During that stressful period, Nick saw how some brands acted like partners, and others didn’t (20:30).

Watch discussion continues with Nick sharing how he used FaceTime to make direct sales to customers of newly released watches while in Basel (24:00). He also tells a story of an extremely unusual trade-in he received on a high-end watch recently (31:30).

In the later portion of the podcast, Barbara asks her regular series of standard regular questions. In this section, Nick shares his dream industry dinner partner (33:50), refers to his 65-year-old clients as “millennials” (35:20); tells of the useful people skill inherited from his father that helps him (38:00); identifies his biggest fan (38:40); and shares his favorite four-letter industry word, which we think could become yours as well (40:10).

He shares his favorite trade event (41:00), and talks of a few shockingly extravagant parties he has attended at this event over the years, as well as revealing the details of a fiendishly brilliant prank played with a chili pepper on a member of his travel party (44:10).

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Millennial Gem Trader Dave Bindra Steps Into ‘The Barb Wire’

Meet the gem expert and owner of one of the industry’s coolest Instagram accounts.

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THE BARB WIRE EPISODE 5: DAVE BINDRA (50:27 MINUTES)


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THIS MONTH on The Barb Wire, host Barbara Palumbo welcomes a rising star in the jewelry business, gem trader Dave Bindra, vice-president of B&B Fine Gems. Still in his early 30s, Bindra has built up an impressive resume, serving as president of the Los Angeles chapter of the GIA Alumni Association, member of the board of directors of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, acclaimed AGS Conclave speaker, not to mention running a seriously cool Instagram account @gemfluencer. (Come for the awesome collection of gemstones, stay for the awesome collection of color-coordinated shoes.)

Enjoy the newest episode of The Barb Wire. It’s talk radio for the jewelry business.


SHOW CHRONOLOGY
  • 2:00 Dave shares a short bio, explaining how he was “born into the business” when his father started selling gemstones after immigrating from India to the United States.
  • 3:50 Dave, who is in his early 30s, was asked recently how many years he has been going to the Tucson gem shows. He said he thought it was his 29th year. Receiving a shocked expression from his conversation partner, he explained that he used to “sleep under the showcases” as a kid while his parents sold gems at the show.
  • 5:10 Dave talks about his strategy of colored gemstone curation. He emphasizes: “We are not here to sell a commodity; we are here to sell a precious item.”
  • 8:30 Barbara reveals herself to be a huge fan of Dave’s Instagram account, @gemfluencer.
  • 9:20 Gemstone of the moment? Dave says spinel, noting that it has been “undervalued for centuries” and often misidentified as ruby in high jewelry through the ages.
  • 15:20 Other gemstones whose moment is on the horizon? Dave says garnet, which is following spinel’s path. Durable, highly transparent, a solid supply of material. Also, paraiba tourmaline.
  • 19:50 Discussing the lack of control over gemstone terminology, Barbara shares a funny story from her teenage years of how a QVC line of cubic zirconia with the alluring name of “Pink Ice”, became a phenomenon amongst the girls of her high school class.
  • 26:20 Barbara asks Dave what he feels the most important thing that his generation has added to the jewelry business. Dave says technology. He tells of his industry friends who, within a few years, have built social media followings in the hundreds of thousands. In a lot of cases, Dave emphasizes, these are people who wouldn’t otherwise have had exposure to the world of gems, jewelry and watches.
  • 27:50 Barbara and Dave commiserate over not being able to attend Basel this year.
  • 31:10 Barbara asks … what would happen if our current social media platforms suddenly went away? Dave bemoans a system where people’s importance is judged by how many social media followers they have. “You know first-hand, there are a ton of people out there who 2-, 3-, or 400,000 followers … half of them are bots.” He concludes, “We have to be very careful of how much value we place on this avenue and on this platform. And everything has a shelf life.”
  • 37:10 Dave selects one jewelry industry person and one watch industry person, alive or dead, he’d want to have dinner with. For jewelry, he picks Frederick Kunz, the famed minerologist who sourced gems for Tiffany at the turn of the century. And for watches, legendary executive Jean Claude Biver.
  • 40:35 Who is or was your greatest influence? Dave says his father. “I never wanted to join the family business. He never wanted me in the family business, to be honest with you. So it’s kind of funny how things worked out.” His biggest fan? His mom.
  • 43:10 His biggest morning needs? Coffee and meditation … the latter before the former.
  • 43:50 Favorite trade show? Tucson. He calls it “fun, laid-back, and color-centric.” And he also gives a shout-out to AGS Conclave.
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