the blog of jewelry designer

August 11, 2016

Hitting The Reset Button

Graphic above and copy below is from the current edition of
EO/Entrepreneurs' Organization's Octane Magazine.

I have had my own jewelry line since my early 20s, when I quit my job to follow my passion. It wound up being one of the best decisions of my life, launching a career that has supported me, introduced me to a wonderful cast of characters and stretched my brain in ways I never could have anticipated. Now, after almost 20 years in the business, I’ve decided to take a bold step and change everything. I’ve decided to hit the reset button by clearing out my inventory and taking a creative sabbatical to figure out what’s next.  
The idea for my business came to me while on a trip to the Bahamas in 1996 while in these beautiful waters.  I returned there this summer during my creative sabbatical to recharge.

My break from the business started with dissolving ties with my brick-and-mortar retailers. Once the lifeblood of my profession, selling in stores has changed so dramatically, it’s as if it has transformed into another type of business altogether. Many Octane readers will know what I mean: the increased competition; the customers’ prerogative to explore endless comparisons; the demands retailers place on you to ensure your inventory sells, all while existing under the unspoken threat of being replaced. And I’ve been one of the lucky ones!

I am still happily selling through Neimans, as they are a marketing machine, and I have found a way that is a win-win (I think ;). I plan to discover/uncover 'win-wins' for working with retailers again in the future.

While severing my brick-and-mortar ties proved challenging, the next steps were more difficult. Over the course of several months, I have rolled out massive sales on practically every piece of jewelry I’ve ever made.

I knew that breaking with the past also meant getting rid of baggage I had been holding on to for too long. I needed to get back to the place where all I had was passion and a purpose. Now, several months later, that is just what I have done, and I’m looking back at all of it with a clear perspective. In the spirit of 20/20 hindsight, here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey:

Do something with every single contact you get! I can’t tell you how many business cards I’ve let pile up without ever reaching out. Take action immediately when you meet someone. Send an email, set up a coffee date, write a “thank you” note, etc. My network would be so much larger if I had taken this advice earlier in my career.

In a non-threatening (and hopefully fun) way, shadow
your employees to see how they do their jobs. When I’ve
done this, I’ve discovered efficiency improvements that increased
productivity by as much as 30-40%. Sometimes it’s as simple as
getting a feel for how team members operate and spend their time,
and then making subtle tweaks to their routines.

Establish a daily group huddle, even if it’s just for five
minutes. I realize there’s a growing trend against meetings that
distract employees without increasing output, but I’ve found that
short huddles (instead of drawn-out meetings) can boost morale
and serve as a reminder that everyone is on the same team,
working toward common goals. Plus, it helps everyone—including
myself—to get a daily check-in for the sake of accountability, and
to introduce the potential for collaboration and fresh ideas.

Trust your gut first. It’s important to reach out for help, but it’s
even more important to trust yourself. I’ve spent close to a million
dollars on consultants over the years. Many of them I hired just to
validate what I already knew. Most of the time, I could have just
listened to myself.

Tune in to your financials weekly, if not daily.  An intimate
understanding of the bottom line clarifies every decision you
make. It can be tempting to be a people-pleaser to the detriment
of your financial health; for instance, offering raises you can’t
afford or scrambling to purchase things that employees request
but don’t necessarily need. It’s the same for customers. Early on, I
remember thinking, “No problem, we can absorb this US$25,000
chargeback off the entire sale because we’ll get this incredible
marketing and promotion in the process. We’ll make it up in all
of the future sales we’ll get.” And then I was left with no profit,
clambering to find money to pay the company’s obligations. Being
ever-mindful of the financials makes all the difference in the world
when faced with choices like that one.

When working with investors, be as clear as possible
regarding how you plan to use the investment money
before spending a dime. In fact, I recommend putting it in
writing, with the understanding that the plan is a set of ideas
and intentions, not a strict contract (which should be handled
separately, of course). The idea isn’t to nail you down but to start
these important relationships with as much mutual understanding
and transparency as you can. Cultivating a climate of harmony
with investors is itself an art, one from which every business owner
would benefit.

Let mistakes lead to insights, not fits.  It’s so easy to freak out
in the moment when things go awry, even over little things. But
when you remain calm and absorb the hits as they come, you give
yourself an opportunity to learn. I’ve stopped believing in the words “mistake” and “failure,” as people commonly use them.  Obstacles and unexpected outcomes light the path to truth about your business and where to take it next, and truth about your strengths and where your energy is best focused.

Make room for yourself so you can get into “the zone.”
The workday is packed with opportunities to self-distract and self-destruct. We all struggle with getting out of our own way. When you tune in, you can become aware of the ways you lose focus and prevent yourself from entering the zone. Change your work environment and work style to make it easier to operate distraction free, even if it means leaving the office to get away from your team for a while. I can only go into the zone when I create the space for it. It’s a challenge, but the rewards are huge once I get there.

I could go on and on— about getting enough sleep, listening to your customers, the importance of meditation … about a million other things that occur to me every day. I’m still learning, that’s for sure. The lesson of the moment, however, is a big one:  Learn to let go of those parts of the past that don’t serve you and move forward carrying all of your hard-won knowledge by your side.

Click here for a direct link to this article on EO Octane's blog.

June 14, 2016

Going Rogue

I went rogue. And I'm so glad I did.

Last September, I decided to take a plunge I'd been fantasizing about for years.  After some sleepless nights, many heartfelt conversations with my partner, Tommy, and close friends and family, and a Netflix binge (I highly recommend these 2 comedy series:  Silicon Valley and Grace and Frankie),
I dissolved ties with most of my retailers and focused on selling direct to customers via my website. I held my breath and jumped in, readying myself for any outcome.  It was a relief - to say the least - when I sold 75% of my inventory.

After a lot of worry and uncertainty, the decision to focus on direct-to-consumer sales was the right move after all! I can't tell you what a good start that made for 2016. I've felt such a renewal of energy, optimism, and excitement about the future.

It could not have come at a better time.  After 20 years of designing jewelry and running a business, I needed a career shift - especially since I'm already living a new personal life with a soon-to-be-husband and stepchildren (Harley and Ethan). 

So many changes!

Oh, and did I mention that Tommy and I are working on having a baby?
We have an unconventional timeline for the things we want to do, but it works for us. For example, we finally scheduled an engagement party for late September, and we've been engaged for a full year already!  We'll figure out a wedding date soon. (Note: my "soon" is different than my mom's "soon.") 

It's been such a period of joy and transformation that it has taken awhile for me to recognize what lies underneath all this hectic excitement:  fear of the unknown.  Particularly where my career is concerned.

Some days I feel like I'm waiting for a burning bush to tell me what's next. But the reality is that I have so many burning bushes right in front of me:
  • I have built a brand over 20 years with an important, life-affirming message:  reminding women of how beautiful and precious they already are.
  • I have amazing customers who enrich my life. I truly love, adore, and appreciate all of them. ;)
  • I have a vast and beautiful portfolio of jewelry designs from the past 20 years....and fun, exciting ideas for revamping them.

   I have so many really cool loose gemstones, with an opportunity to design one-of-a-kinds with each of them.

  • My mom - Jan Showers - and I designed a jewelry collection two years ago, which exists in renderings only right now. She is so well-regarded in her interior design world, and it could be quite an adventure launching a collection together.
  • Some smart and talented ex-employees do contract work for me, and they are available to help move the business to its next stage.

So while I haven't found the singular "burning bush" I was seeking, I am rich in ideas, but it may take some time to know where all this exploration is leading. I know I am not alone in this - many of us struggle with decisions every day. I would love to hear how you make decisions when options are plentiful. How do you know which one is right?

Even though I lack a crystal ball, here is what I am sure of:

       I am 100% certain that I am soon going to offer a small handful of my bestselling styles of jewelry online (and keep in stock), and offer them at a new retail price that is below the previous store prices. (there are already some available on the site now)

I am 100% certain that I am going to roll out a special order business of my 100 bestselling styles from over the past 12 years.  I already have special orders from many of you for jewelry styles that I haven't carried in awhile. (We actually just uploaded a handful of bestsellers for special order that are now available on the site. Check it out!)  

I am 100% certain that very soon I will launch my Itsy-Bitsy Hope Star collection that includes several precious NEW Hope Star styles that I think people will love.

The most exciting part comes now, seeing which burning bush has the biggest fire, and what will happen next. I hope you'll stick around to see!

November 17, 2015

You and me together, we could do anything, Baby! (We're engaged)

Meet me at The Modern
Tommy invited me weeks in advance to a photography exhibit at The Modern in Fort Worth for 4pm on a Friday afternoon.  When I tried to reschedule with him to meet with one of my best friends visiting from Canada, he said you can't change our plans (Tommy is typically more flexible in changing plans.  I knew something was up). 
My favorite view of The Modern Museum.

The Ruse

While I did suspect he was going to ask me to marry him on this night, I had absolutely no idea of how and when he would do it. A museum guide approached us to say she was getting her certification to be a docent, and needed more practice in the process, offering a free tour. I said, "of course!" --not even thinking of any connection to Tommy's proposal. (it was all a ruse!)


The museum docent-in-training gave us a short tour, of which I asked a lot of questions (and Tommy later told me he was anxious for me to quit asking questions). Then she led us around the corner outside the museum to "show us Richard Serra's tall sculpture, Vortex." I turned the corner to see an adorable blown-up photo of the two of us, and I still didn't realize what was happening!

AH! At this point I realized what was up....very quickly Tommy was on one knee and asking, "Elizabeth Showers, I love you very much. Will you marry me?"

"YES!" I said!

At this point, I still had no idea that there was a photographer capturing all of this.

I love Tommy. He is such a good man and the perfect partner for me. We are perfect partners for each other.

Tommy found this ring on Etsy to use as a placeholder ring until the Love Monkey Ring that we designed together was complete.  I love this ring--it's an infinite row of ampersands, to symbolize all the things we will do and create together... and and and and and and....

 The rain was exceptionally beautiful on that day.

He had champagne glasses made to commemorate this wonderful day.

Engraved on the bottom of each glass is one of our favorite songs from the Dave Matthews Band:
"You and me together, we could do anything, Baby!"

I look forward to soon sharing with you my engagement ring that Tommy and I designed together.

Remember how beautiful you are,

October 12, 2015

Catch Me While You Can

I've got big news for all my customers and friends. I'm preparing for a new incarnation by stepping back from business as usual as of January 2016. I am hitting the reset button on my designs and inventory, slowing down to create the space to reinvent.

I am not yet sure the meaning of "reinvent" for myself... this could be in the world of jewelry or not. I took an aptitude test recently that said I would make a great engineer, surgeon, architect, and alas, a designer!

I am happy and gratified with the work I have done as a jewelry designer and entrepreneur over the past 20 years. Since I have been in this field, the landscape has become more crowded and in some ways less diverse. At the risk of sounding too self-congratulatory, I'm proud to say that most of the jewelry styles I've designed (and have in my inventory) still strike me as beautiful, versatile, and amazing.

However, I am ready to move to a new phase in my career. We are dramatically discounting almost everything in my inventory. 

Now and throughout this fall season, we are rolling out and putting ON SALE 400-500 unique jewelry styles many of which we only have one or two left, which means if you really want something, buy it now.  These jewels will be at our lowest prices ever. 

Celebrate with me by shopping this once in a lifetime sale event, and let me remind you of how beautiful and precious you already are!

It’s an End of an Era at Elizabeth Showers.

Catch me while you can!

June 22, 2015

Vintage is Back

Before my blog post, I have some REALLY FUN NEWS! Though it has been years since we at Elizabeth Showers Studio have sold our Vintage Collection, that’s all changing this Thursday, when we will begin offering a few styles from our classic collection online for a limited time.

During our (incredibly successful) moving sale event last month, my staff was thrilled to uncover a treasure trove of our beaded Vintage Collection!  What a surprise!  Customers ask for these designs all the time, so we were so excited to find them. We hope you’ll be excited about them too.
Be sure to pop in to on Thursday to check out the Vintage Collection!

It’s been great looking back through this collection that meant so much to my career and development. Holding these pieces in my hands really got me thinking about the history of my business, its humble beginnings and its not-so-humble aspirations.

The necklace I have on below (at age 26) is the first necklace I ever made, all the way back in 1997.

Okay, this is actually the first unique necklace I ever made. 
I made my first piece of jewelry in 1996—an anklet made of super-cheap round, smooth amethyst beads. It was nothing special, but it was enough to get me hooked.

That first unique necklace was made of 24kt gold leaf Venetian glass beads, which I popularized in the late 1990s. At their peak, I couldn’t design enough styles using Venetian glass gold leaf and silver leaf beads.  Although very simply constructed, they were so popular and distinctive. If only online shopping had been mainstream then!

I started my business at age twenty-four, driven by a mostly-unexplored talent, blind optimism, and a passion for designing and selling jewelry. Like everyone starting out, I was a portrait of youthful naivetĂ© and cluelessness about how to build a successful business. Though I didn’t have anything approximating a sales strategy, nor anything so straightforward as a written business plan, I possessed an incredible surplus of focus, time, and determination.

My first mission was to make my mark with unusual materials that others weren’t using. When I discovered Venetian glass beads, I understood right away that I had found my breakthrough. Specifically 24kt gold leaf Venetian beads in clear (my favorite) and in colors stuck out like magic in the jewelry scene of those days. They were so distinctive and fresh. I knew I was at the beginning of a fun adventure.

I started selling wholesale at Carol Quist showroom in The Apparel Mart, and southern US retailers started writing orders for my jewels right and left. I was a real designer!

Tootsie’s in Dallas was the first retailer to sell in my hometown. Susie Calmes, the buyer there at that time, is a friend of my mother. She called me and said, “When do I get to see your collection?”
I said, “I need more time to prepare for you. Maybe we could meet in a couple of months.”
She said, “Okay, I will see you this Tuesday.”

It was totally nerve-wracking. It would be an understatement to say that Susie has good taste and high standards.

Tootsies in Dallas

Naturally I was terrified of her reaction to my work. But I’m still so grateful to Susie. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for pushing me to be ready before I was. I showed up with my jewels in Ziploc bags with no price tags, and she bought almost everything I took with me that day.  What a life-changing and affirming experience! It really was an occasion to remember.  Thank you, Susie!
All that was just the beginning of the uncertain road that eventually led to my selling at Neiman Marcus, and onward down the path to a lasting business. 

Some of those early pieces I still love as much as the day I made them. In some others I can see the beauty and the good instincts, but they don’t represent me in quite the same way. But all of them are a part of me, part of the work that has led to this moment in my trajectory.

This is me modeling my jewelry!
I’ll talk more about the progression and development of my business in a future post.

In the meantime, please remember to stop by on or after this Thursday to take a look at the pieces that started it all for me.  You just might find the perfect thing you didn’t even know you were looking for!

Feel Beautiful!

May 27, 2015

Sweet Memories of My Jewelry Career in Dallas

Dallas has been home for my entire adult life. I went to college in Dallas, at SMU. And not too long after, I started my business here at the age of twenty-four. It began in my humble $450/month, all-bills-paid apartment in Preston Hollow. Those apartments don’t even exist anymore, but I can still remember moving my sofa out to make room for my first employee. We worked together in the living room for a year before I finally leased my first office space in the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff.
That was 1999, at the dawn of the Bishop Arts' revitalization. That same year, Neiman Marcus picked up my collection. I thought life couldn't get any better.

My first office is now a restaurant, Café Veracruz

Earrings from the collection I was selling at that time,
 now we call it our Vintage Collection

In 2002, I leased a warehouse-style space on Monitor Street, north of the Design District, and hired my first sales person. Then I hired another. And another.

That office is now a gallery (pictured below). And they still have the security bars that I had installed!

We were in that space for five years before relocating in 2007 to our current showroom overlooking Turtle Creek. That’s when I launched my first 18k yellow gold collection, followed a few years later by my first semi-precious silver collection.

Turtle Creek in Dallas

Our showroom overlooking Turtle Creek

I live in Fort Worth now.  I bought my first house in Dallas in 2007, and had great fun making it my own style and giving dinner parties there.  I sold my house in Dallas and moved west in October of 2013, see my blog post here.  

These past couple of years, I've kept my business and showroom on Turtle Creek, and I’ve been commuting, sometimes spending the night in Dallas to make the transition a little easier.

Now, after a lot of thought, I've decided to relocate my business at last. We are moving in two weeks!

“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining where we are.”

- Oprah

I can hardly believe it. I’m sad to be leaving Dallas, but I’m excited about finally jumping in with both feet, and truly living and working in Fort Worth.

Many of you know that I grew up in the small town of Hillsboro. After that upbringing, in many ways Fort Worth seems like a perfect fit. It has a calm, small town feel—as much, anyway, as any city with nearly 800,000 people could. The city is absolutely filled with incredible things to see and do. I’ve fallen in love with its energy and spirit. And I get the best of all worlds—the small town feel and the big city adventure. I’m excited, and, you know, life is good.

Elizabeth Showers' earrings from past to present

Looking back at every phase of my life and business, I can also trace the trajectory of my evolving style, tastes, and skills. A focus on vintage, then stones, learning about metals, gold, silver. Learning about myself and what I could do, where my own creativity could take me. Every new place and experience has informed and deepened my work in a way that now seems like a critical part of my artistic development.

I know this new phase and locale will have the same effect. Every time I take a leap, I’m rewarded. I hope you’ll continue to follow me as I make this one.

Stay tuned for details on another major leap in my life! (hint: Molly from A Piece of Toast leaked it here!)

“Every day is a journey, and the journey
itself is home.”

- Matsuo Basho

Feel Beautiful,