A Family Business That Works
When Isabelle founded Isabelle K Jewelry over twenty years ago, she never imagined that it would grow into the powerhouse company it is today. The business started as a small enterprise out of Isabelle’s dining room and truthfully it all began as a means to sell chic jewelry to friends as well as a way for Isabelle to get home to Paris a couple times a year. As you can imagine, things changed and grew rapidly and with this growth Isabelle was able to hire me, her daughter, and my aunt, Julie. Running a family business can be tricky stuff, but we seem to have it down to a science.
Adam Dince, a social media guru with a very impressive resume, was curious about the dynamics of our family business and recently interviewed me for www.deluxesmallbizblog.com. See the interview below and check out Adam’s website www.AdamDince.com for great information on SEO, brand building, and all the other media related stuff that has you stumped.
All In The Family – A Family Business That Works
One of my favorite TV shows is Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” with Chef Robert Irvine. Each week, Chef Irvine intervenes with a restaurant in desperate need of a complete makeover. Within days of Irvine working his magic, the restaurant is running at full speed. Some of the most intriguing episodes have featured family-owned restaurants that overcome both business and familial relationship challenges. Throughout my life I’ve gotten to know quite a few family run businesses and am always impressed with people who are able to successfully navigate both the business and personal aspects of business ownership. I’d like to introduce you to a business that does it well.
Isabelle K Jewelry is a small business that thrives on the family relationship. Isabelle K Jewelry is a successful business that features jewelry from the same talented designers that create jewelry for Chanel and other top global fashion companies.
Isabelle, the company’s namesake, was born and raised in Paris, France. She met her husband, Rick, while studying in the US as a foreign exchange student. After school, Rick landed a job and the couple moved to Virginia Beach, VA. It was during this time that Isabelle, the entrepreneur, started her jewelry company in the dining room of her home. In addition to the joy that came out of building a business from scratch, Isabelle also used her jewelry business to help her get back home to Paris a few times a year. As the business started to grow, Isabelle realized she needed help. That’s where Lauren, her daughter, and sister, Julie came in. Together, they’ve built a powerhouse.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Lauren about what makes their business work as well as it does. Here are some highlights from our conversation:
Adam: Lauren, what’s one thing that really helps you and your mom fire on all cylinders?
Lauren: We communicate really well. One of the major downfalls of corporate life was the politics of communication. With our business, if something goes wrong, there’s an honest dialogue and things can be said without worrying about what may or may not happen. This allows us to quickly course correct.
Adam: How does your business define roles so that there is some sort of organizational structure?
Lauren: Julie is active in the store end side of things, and I handle the website. We all come together for trunk shows, sometimes the three of us will work one together or just two of us…depends on the show. Julie and I do a lot of communicating about keeping the back end of the business organized, while Isabelle handles more of the client relations/sales.
Adam: Was there a moment you all realized your close family bond was going to be key to the success of Isabelle K?
Lauren: Yes. Typically, it was my mom who went on buying trips, Julie and I kept the machine rolling back home. However, on a buying trip where I joined my mom, we realized that combining our strengths helped us make better buying decisions.
Adam: Do you ever have disagreements about what products to buy?
Lauren: Yes, though we really trust each other’s opinions. If one of us feels strongly about a product, there’s always the opportunity to discuss and change our minds. Neither of us has to worry about buying a product we love and have the other say it’s wrong. We have very similar taste which is helpful in our product decisions.
Adam: Is there any advice you’d like to offer other family-run businesses?
Lauren: Yes, there are a few things:
- You’ve got to communicate. It’s important you have an open dialogue at all times and never keep anything from each other.
- It’s important to allow each other to focus on using strengths to help build the business while at the same time supporting each other’s weaknesses.
- Stay organized and on top of things. Stress happens when things pile up.
- Stay on top of finances. Get someone to help you manage taxes, inventory and other financial aspects of your business. We work with such small margins that one big mistake will hurt.
- Be a subject matter expert across many areas. Learn as much as you can about all aspects of your business and stay involved.
- Don’t be afraid to change your business model. The market may change fast and if your business isn’t agile enough to change, you may find yourself left behind.
- Don’t be afraid to crowd source opinions. As an example, when I update our Website, I always ask our customers for feedback.
Chef Irvine said in an episode of Restaurant Impossible, “Every meal should end with something sweet”. If Isabelle K was a meal, the family relationship is the “something sweet” that makes their business something to be admired. If you’ve got a taste for incredible jewelry design, I highly recommend you visit Isabelle K Jewelry online at http://www.isabellek.com.
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