DON’T GO IT ALONE!
Haverhill Collection partners Haverhill Leach and Alison Cariati give us their expert advice on partnering to put a new twist on a family business.
When did you know you wanted to pursue your business or venture? Alison: When I met my co-founder and business partner, Haverhill Leach!
Haverhill, your family was in the jewelry business. What did you learn from their business and use to launch your own line? How is your brand different from that business? Haverhill: From an early age, I was exposed to American-made jewelry of excellent quality. I often walked the floor of my family’s factory seeing just how much labor goes into making simple jewelry beautiful and learned that every detail is worth time and attention. I also learned that relationships in business are huge. There is so much competition in every industry, so a little friendship can go a long way. My family’s business, Leach & Garner, manufactured gold findings (findings are like the supporting roles of jewelry – earring hooks, clasps, etc). It was a huge brand that reached across the globe (and continues to be, though Leach & Garner was bought and is now known as Leach Garner). My father is a businessman but was very involved in the form and function of the findings he patented and manufactured. My mother is a fabulous interior designer who dabbled in jewelry design and her bold, modern aesthetic inspired me greatly with my own business.
You spent several years honing your craft with top designers like David Yurman and Kate Spade and then took a break to have babies. What was it like to go back to that trade after a few years away and return as a founder and business owner? Haverhill: Taking a break was just a very natural decision when looking into the eyes of my two beautiful babies (my daughter and son are just 17 months apart). I did have a creative itch that I was excited to explore again, but I was in no rush. I am thrilled to be starting a business with a (brilliant) partner this time around because the stuff that I don’t love (like creating a business plan, allocating money, and organizing the calendar) is in the hands of someone who adores it and handles it well. It’s wonderful to be creating again. I love that my jewelry fits any body size and fits any age (unlike fashion or swimwear). Creating jewelry that people love makes me happy because it’s so personal – jewelry lifts your mood, it reminds you of a person or an event, it lays so close to your body, and it lasts forever.
Keeping an inventory of jewelry is expensive. How do you determine what to create and keep in back stock? Or do you create new pieces as orders come in? Alison: We do keep a small inventory of product, but our stock is always changing. New colors and new styles come in, some we reorder and some we update. We do take special orders, but we have a very high sell-through rate for our product, so we don’t hold inventory for long!
What role has social media played in growing your business? Alison: To date, it has primarily been helpful for keeping customers and supporters in the loop about our events and new products and keeping them engaged with our brand.
Did your former career prepare you for running your own business? Alison: Yes. The many years I spent in corporate environments in different industries and at different stages of development left me well-equipped for the organizational demands of this business. Haverhill: Absolutely. I learned about editing my designs at Kate Spade, I learned about managing production at Mayle, and I learned about balancing the books and managing employees when I had a previous swimwear business.
What makes you different from your competition? What advice would you give to someone who feels overwhelmed by the competition? Haverhill: The aesthetic of our line is very clean and very easy. Our jewelry is designed to go with your whole wardrobe so that you can wear fine jewelry of beautiful quality whether you are dressed casually or formally. Alison: Know your market. Know what the differentiators are and be passionate about them.
What has been your biggest challenge to date? Alison: Learning a distribution channel and its cash flow.
How did you fund your dream? What are your thoughts on raising capital? Alison: Winning the 2013 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition was a big initial boost! Raising capital is a big job in and of itself. It challenges your plan and keeps your business agile. The stress of it is in keeping your business moving forward while you spend time raising money. That’s the 80-hour work week.
If I had to do it all over again, I would: Haverhill:
“I would be very clear about my demands and follow through with my vision. Whether it’s a design detail or a business decision, I have learned over the years not to let others push me into something I do not agree with.”
When you think of best people to work with, what qualities do they share? Haverhill: Bravery, diligence, and social skills.
My best advice for someone launching a business venture is: Haverhill: Have a business partner! Don’t go it alone. Find someone who has the skills that you lack.