How a Jewelry Designer Built a ‘Pretty Fun’ Business [VIDEO]

“I love playful words, and when I was looking for a name for my business, I kept writing down ‘pretty’ and ‘fun’ to describe my jewelry,” says Riquelle Small, the artist behind Pretty Fun Designs. She sells her wares online and at arts-and-crafts fairs and boutiques in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Inspired by vintage and Victorian designs, Small works with metals and gemstones to create whimsical jewelry, such as propeller cuff links, brass feather earrings, unisex compass rings, and birdcage necklaces. “My jewelry is developed from things I love,” she explains. “My designs keep evolving.”

The GoPayment Blog spoke with Small recently about taking baby steps to build her business — and just how big she wants to take it.

GoPayment: How did you get started?

Small: I’ve been making jewelry in varied styles for 25 years. A few years ago, I started making more playful pieces from designs I found: art deco images, ’60s patterns, and images I found in books, magazines, and online. I worked with charms and iconic symbols to keep myself entertained. In 2008, I opened a store called Well in Oakland for clothing, jewelry, and art. I wanted to incorporate healing, art, beauty, and show the work of local talent. I closed it in 2010 to focus on my jewelry business.

Have you had to overcome any challenges?

Yes, fear. It comes in many disguises and can stop you in so many ways. For some, it’s self-sabotage; for others, it’s not following through. I love creating and wanted to share it, but I had to start with very small steps because it was overwhelming. Where would I get all of the information I need to be successful? How should I price my jewelry? Is this the way I should be spending my time? What if nobody likes my stuff? I had to figure and refigure it out.

The craft explosion has been great, because now there are blogs and so much more information on the web. I had so many questions — how to set up at a craft fair, what happens if all your stuff blows away. (I’ve had racks blow away in the wind, and other people’s tents have blown into mine.) You learn.

How do you market your business?

I started with small fairs around the Bay Area to figure out how I should get more exposure. Then I created a page on Etsy with photos of my work. Etsy is great, but it’s also huge and easy to get lost in, so I created my own website where people could find me. I also took my pieces around to small boutiques and collectives in San Francisco. I could see my jewelry in museum stores, but was too afraid to approach them.

What has been your most successful way to get business?

Craft fairs work best for me. I’m by myself a lot making the jewelry, so it’s fun to be out talking to people, amusing them with my work. Of course, that means being “on” for five hours, lots of hauling, unpacking, then packing up at the end of the day when it’s cold and windy. I enjoy it. My second largest source of sales comes from stores, and my website is third.

What is your primary business goal?

I’d like to see how big I can grow. I’d like to get more wholesale accounts and get into more stores. I feel honored that people around the world love my stuff. I’d like to have an international business and just be in a place where I could design and have someone else create the pieces and help market them. I do it all myself now, so I would need to allow myself to let someone help me.

How has GoPayment helped your business?

I like the convenience, the technology, the ease of use. It’s enabled me to increase sales. I used to have a wireless terminal and pay about $45 a month in fees. I’d have to write down credit card numbers and then go home and log them in. With GoPayment, I’m only charged when I use it. I also like the interaction I have with customers – the less tech-savvy ones get a kick out of signing with their finger.

How does energy play into your designs?

When I’m in design mode, I’m very aware of my energy and allow myself to go into a flow. The evening is a lovely time to work, because all the energy around me has calmed down and it’s very still. Once I get in that flow I lose track of time, and the next thing I know it’s 2 a.m. My intention is to have all my jewelry charged with healing energy to balance the person who wears it.

Which part of the business do you most enjoy?

The magic for me is in the designing. The more I do it, the more validated I am by it, so I let more of myself come through in the designs. It’s a form of expression. I’d like to just work with bringing more fun to more people.

About Kristin Ewald

Kristin Ewald, a former Time Inc. editor based in California, has written frequently for the SMB audience. She is also a small business owner who helps companies write and produce user-friendly websites.
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