Creating a Modern and Affordable Jewelry Brand – Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 39:44)


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Nikki Smith, founder of Jewelry Brand Nikki Smith Designs shares her journey of hand crafting jewelry pieces as a side-hustle when she couldn’t find modern, affordable jewelry pieces to wear to work. Nikki focused on slow, organic growth and learned about customer preferences by selling at pop-up shops and farmer’s market and slowly growing her product collection while focusing on profitability. Nikki talks about organic growth, retail expansion, and business lessons learned.

Episode Summary

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs” YouTube video, Nikki shares her entrepreneurial journey from handcrafting unique jewelry to growing an affordable and successful business. Before starting her business, Nikki worked for JC Penney but couldn’t find jewelry that fit her budget. Inspired, she began making jewelry herself using stones, string, and YouTube tutorials. Nikki’s ability to adapt to customer preferences and quick analytical skills helped her business evolve from selling jewelry at pop-up shops to a lucrative side hustle. She eventually transitioned full-time after five years, ensuring profitability. Nikki’s business expanded from selling rare, one-of-a-kind jewelry to manufacturing and selling affordable, waterproof pieces using high-quality materials. She maintains a strong brand identity while catering to a larger customer base. Nikki discusses the challenges of balancing entrepreneurship with raising a family and growing her business into a national brand, drawing inspiration from companies like Kendra Scott. She also shares her experiences of making costly mistakes, such as ordering large quantities without considering logistics, and the importance of learning from them. Nikki emphasizes the value of perseverance and encourages entrepreneurs to start their businesses and learn from expensive mistakes.

  • 00:00:00 In this section of the interview on Treptalks, Sushant welcomes Nikki Smith, the founder of Nikki Smith Designs, to discuss her entrepreneurial journey and the strategies she used to start and grow her affordable jewelry business. Before starting her business, Nikki worked for JC Penney’s headquarters but couldn’t find jewelry that suited her budget. Inspired by this need, she began making jewelry herself using stones, string, and YouTube tutorials. Her unique approach involved analyzing what sold and what didn’t, pivoting her product offerings accordingly, and listening to customer feedback. Nikki’s business evolved from selling jewelry at pop-up shops and festivals to a lucrative side hustle. Her success can be attributed to her ability to adapt to customer preferences and her quick analytical skills, making her business stand out in the saturated jewelry market.
  • 00:05:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs,” Nikki discusses the evolution of her business from handcrafting unique, one-of-a-kind jewelry using rare stones to manufacturing and selling affordable, waterproof jewelry through various retail stores. Initially, she focused on creating unique pieces that sparked interest due to their rarity, but over time, her proposition shifted to offering waterproof jewelry at affordable prices using high-quality materials like gold-filled and stainless steel. This change allowed her business to expand and cater to a larger customer base while maintaining a strong brand identity. Despite the transformation, Nikki has remained open to change and views it as a valuable lesson for any entrepreneur. She also shares the challenge of balancing entrepreneurship with raising a family. Nikki started as a side hustle and waited five years before transitioning full-time, ensuring profitability before making the leap.
  • 00:10:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs,” Nikki discusses her decision to leave her full-time job and turn her jewelry business into her sole source of income. She waited for five years before making the transition, ensuring that her sales were consistent and that the risk was minimized. Now, five years into her business, she has three retail stores and distribution in thousands of jewelry shops. Her main business model is retail and brick-and-mortar stores, with online sales being a smaller percentage. Growing her online business has been a challenge due to competition and the difficulty of capturing customers’ attention online. To produce her jewelry, she outsources production to manufacturers, providing them with design instructions and files. She keeps some production in-house for unique, seasonal pieces and to avoid having all her eggs in one basket.
  • 00:15:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs,” Nikki discusses her diverse manufacturing strategies and the importance of not having all eggs in one basket. She explains that her business, which includes jewelry, manufactures overseas and in the United States, as well as in their back room. This approach has been an advantage during times of change, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Nikki also talks about the challenge of maintaining margins as the business grows and the importance of considering numbers, not just heart, when making decisions. She shares that their average customer is 24 to 38-year-old females and their value proposition is waterproof pieces under $50. The business currently operates three retail stores in Dallas, Texas, with plans for potential growth.
  • 00:20:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs,” Nikki discusses the natural progression of her business, which began with a single store and has since expanded to three retail locations in Dallas. The second and third stores were opened in response to demand and the availability of suitable spaces. Nikki expresses her desire to expand beyond Dallas but is currently focused on managing and aligning her brand across all three stores. She also mentions her successful wholesale strategy, which has allowed her to be present in thousands of other stores through attending trade shows and using online platforms. As a CEO, Nikki spends a significant amount of time working on the business, including strategizing and delegating to her team, but finds herself often engaged in operational tasks within the stores. She is currently focused on growing the business and expanding beyond Dallas.
  • 00:25:00 In this section of the YouTube video, Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs discusses her aspirations to grow her business into a national brand, drawing inspiration from successful companies like Kendra Scott. She shares her concerns about pricing and testing different price points, revealing that her passion lies in affordable and durable fashion jewelry. Smith also reveals her decision not to sell on Amazon, citing the importance of maintaining her brand’s image and relationships with specialty boutiques. However, she shares an intriguing insight about a potential solution for selling on Amazon while maintaining higher prices on other platforms, which could potentially drive traffic to her other sales channels.
  • 00:30:00 In this section of the YouTube video interview with Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs, she discusses her marketing strategies and competition. Smith mentions that she currently does not engage in paid advertising due to her pricing structure and the instant gratification aspect not aligning with her business goals. However, she acknowledges that many businesses grow through paid marketing and considers it a future opportunity. Regarding competition, Smith asserts that her value proposition sets her apart from competitors, but there are still others in the fashion jewelry category. She has a team of seven full-time employees and about 25 part-time employees to manage her three retail stores. Smith has been expanding her retail presence, opening her first store three years ago and the latest one just two months ago. She expresses her desire to focus on one store at a time and eventually hire a business manager to take over retail store management, allowing her to focus more on her family and the creative aspects of her business. Despite the ease her story may seem, Smith acknowledges the hard work and mistakes made throughout her journey.
  • 00:35:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs,” Nikki shares her experiences of making costly mistakes while growing her business. She talks about ordering large quantities of products without considering shipping logistics, participating in events that didn’t yield sales, and learning to manage people. Despite these setbacks, Nikki emphasizes the importance of learning from mistakes and not dwelling on them. She recommends the book “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell for entrepreneurs and encourages starting a business and learning from expensive mistakes. Nikki also mentions All Birds as a business doing great things due to their sustainable practices.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Book: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs

[00:00:00] Introduction
[00:00:53] Welcoming Nikki Smith to Treptalks
[00:01:15] Nikki’s Entrepreneurial Journey
[00:02:57] Evolution of Nikki Smith Designs
[00:04:43] Adapting to Customer Preferences
[00:06:10] Value Proposition: Affordable and Waterproof Jewelry
[00:08:00] Overcoming Material Challenges
[00:09:38] Transitioning from Side Hustle to Full-Time Entrepreneur
[00:11:48] Expanding Distribution Channels
[00:12:12] Online Business Challenges
[00:13:29] Customer Base Demographics
[00:14:12] Outsourcing Manufacturing Process
[00:16:30] Balancing Cost-Effectiveness and Margins
[00:18:19] Target Market for Cost-Effective Jewelry
[00:19:44] Retail Store Growth Strategy
[00:21:35] Wholesale Distribution and Trade Shows
[00:23:18] Focus on Scaling and Business Expansion
[00:23:24] Balancing Work at the Headquarters
[00:24:00] Working on the Business vs. For the Business
[00:25:08] Future Vision for the Business
[00:26:31] Pricing Strategies and Testing
[00:28:00] Amazon Presence and Pricing
[00:30:00] Marketing Strategies: No Paid Advertising
[00:31:23] Niche in the Fashion Jewelry Market
[00:32:37] Team Structure and Growth
[00:33:10] Retail Expansion Strategy and Pace
[00:34:34] Entrepreneurial Journey and Learning from Mistakes
[00:36:00] Rapid Fire Segment Introduction
[00:36:05] Importance of Learning from Mistakes
[00:36:59] Book Recommendation: “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell
[00:37:32] Exciting Innovative Product: Signature Piece of Jewelry
[00:37:45] Productivity Tip: All Hands Meetings Every Week
[00:38:17] Inspirational Entrepreneur: Mallory of ShopStyleYourSenses
[00:38:34] Best Business Advice: Just Start and Learn from Mistakes
[00:38:54] Recognizing Allbirds for Sustainable Practices
[00:39:25] Conclusion and Appreciation

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs

  1. Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell)
  2. An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Signature Piece of Jewelry)
  3. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend/Productivity Tip. (Response: All Hands Meetings Every Week)
  4. A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things. (Response🙂
  5. A peer entrepreneur or businessperson whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Mallory Fitzsimmons of Shop Style Your Senses)
  6. One networking tip or building and sustaining valuable professional relationships.
  7. Best business advice you ever received (Response: Start it , and you’re going to have expensive mistakes and you got to learn from it and move on.)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to Treptalks. This is a show where I interview successful e commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders, and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.

And today I’m really excited to welcome Nikki Smith to the show. Nikki is the founder of Nikki Smith Designs. Uh, they create modern dainty and affordable jewelry for customers that appreciate the power of accessorizing. And today I’m going to ask Nikki a few questions about her entrepreneur journey and some of the strategies and tactics that she has used to start and grow her business.

So Nikki, thank you so much for joining me today at Treptalks, really, really appreciate your time.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Hey, thank you for having me. I appreciate being here.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. So yeah, maybe we should get right into [00:01:00] your story. Um, can you share a little bit about, you know, what were you doing before starting this business? What really kind of, um, interested you about entrepreneurship? And how did you kind of. get, get started with this business

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: idea.

Yeah, absolutely. So, um, gosh, my journey goes back about 10 years now. Um, I am from Minnesota. I grew up there and I went to school in Wisconsin and I ended up in, um, Texas and Dallas, Texas, where I reside now, 10 years ago. So I moved here to work for JC Penney’s headquarters. I came here right out of college.

I came to join their buying program and I had a great job there. I was really looking for jewelry to wear to work. So I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money. It was my first job out of college. Um, I bought a couple of pieces from different boutiques here and there, but I had something break and then something tarnish.

I didn’t really [00:02:00] want to spend my money on that. So I just truly started making jewelry to wear to work. Um, I bought some stones, some string. I watched some YouTube videos. I went to the Michael’s craft store and I kind of just started playing around with pieces, um, that. People actually really loved. So a couple of people at the office said, Hey, where’d you get that cool necklace?

Where’d you get that pretty stone? And I told them I made it and I told them the price and I essentially, um, sold jewelry right off of my neck. So that kind of, that was 10 years ago that evolved into selling jewelry at. Pop up shops and festivals, farmers markets, music fest, really wherever I could pop up a six foot folding table, I did.

And I did that for quite a few years and it really became a lucrative side hustle. Um, and that is kind of where the brand was born out of just, you know, a true need for some jewelry that I couldn’t find.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, that is so interesting that you, it [00:03:00] just, uh, I mean, you must be doing something, right? Like, what was it?

Were you, because I mean, there’s, I don’t think there’s any shortage of jewelry out there. So what were you like? What are they different about yours that people were wanted to actually pay you and buy it?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Yeah, great question. Well, I would say overall jewelry is a pretty saturated market. Um, like, you know, a lot of things are the entrepreneurs get in, let’s say candles or, you know, just things that people can create.

Um, but. I don’t think any market is saturated in the right products. I think what made me different was that if I didn’t sell something at a pop up table, I would take it apart. I would reuse the stone. I would throw the chain away. I would. actually watch what sold and make more of that and watch what didn’t sell and take that apart.

I figured if a hundred people saw a necklace and no one bought it, chances are I’m not going to sell it at the next show or the next show. So, [00:04:00] um, I think that was a pretty important aspect of the business. And then that’s. Probably one of my strengths is really like listening to customers and really understanding that products evolve and products change and that it’s not so much what you love.

It’s what people are buying. So I have been pretty quick to pivot from the beginning on what people like. and follow that lead. Um, I think that the analytic piece of the business is so important, no matter what industry you’re in. And if you continue to evolve your products and you continue to listen to your customers and be okay with moving on with the times, I don’t think any market is too saturated for that kind of a business.

And so what

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: was it? What did the customers like? I mean, can you give a little bit of an idea of your, I mean, business and the kind of pieces you’re selling? I mean, they’re inspired from everything that you’ve learned. Yeah. What is, what is different about

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: it? Well, [00:05:00] okay, so let’s start at the beginning. So at the beginning, people loved real stones.

They loved cool stones, tiger’s eye, Jersey, things that would sparkle things that were wired wrap things that were truly unique. My whole proposition at the beginning was, well, I handmade this. I only make one of pieces. So. You kind of take it while you can, and people be like, Oh, my gosh, this is such a pretty stone.

So I think it really started out of, um, really you buying unique stones. Um, I made a lot of bracelets and I would put like center Jersey centers in the middle, or I would put a really great, like one off piece of a stone and turn it into an elastic bracelet. Um, if it didn’t sell, I would cut those off and try different beads around the stone.

Um, so I think at the beginning, it was really finding that unique thing. Over time, we now, um, manufacture jewelry, and we make jewelry for over a thousand different retail stores, boutiques, department stores, all sorts of different stores, [00:06:00] and, um, I have three retail stores of my own. I would say now, we are more on a proposition of waterproof jewelry that is affordable.

All of our pieces are under 50, and we’re using Gold filled, stainless steel, sterling silver, things that are great quality, but won’t break the bank. Um, so it has really evolved over time. Like for example, I have a necklace on right now. It’s nothing special, but it’s a tiny mini type tennis necklace. It has tiny little cubic zirconias.

It’s different because a lot of tech tennis necklaces are chunky, but we took that trend and we made it super dainty to be on our on brand for us. And it’s waterproof and it’s 42 and I shower in this and I sleep in this and I play tennis in this and I don’t worry about it breaking or tarnishing. So I think that is the value proposition now.

It has changed and evolved, but I have always been okay with that kind of change, um, coming with the business. And I think that [00:07:00] that has been a valuable, um, lesson. It really, that spans across any type of entrepreneurship.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And so you are, I mean, one of your, uh, value propositions is waterproof. So are you using like certain kind of, um, polish that does not fade over time?

Like, of course your, your necklace is very, very shiny. Yeah, it

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: is. It’s very shiny. And I’m not lying to you. I’ve had this on for many months. And I do all of the things in it and I don’t ever take it off because it’s so dainty. So we’re using, you know, it’s funny, we, the materials are a little bit tricky because what we found over time is that the same material doesn’t work for every type of, um, daintiness or every type of setting of a stone, but we’re using gold filled materials.

Gold filled is basically enough real gold around a base metal. That is durable enough where they just don’t turn or tarnish over time. That’s kind of the definition of gold filled. And then stainless [00:08:00] steel. Our stainless steel. Hi, sorry about that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Our

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: stainless. Hi buddy. Our stainless steel jewelry is made of, um, steel, which is, has, basically we use a PBD coating over it.

Steel already keeps its natural color very well. Um, but with that, the way that we basically coat it, it repels water. So it’s just really interesting. Um, we found a few different materials that really work and withstand the test of time.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That is so interesting. I mean, you’ve been able to evolve your product so much and basically, I mean, you’re innovating.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Yeah, we’re super innovative. Um, and the other part that’s been a fun challenge is that I have two little boys who I’m about to Turn on a TV show. So sorry for the interruption.

So anyways, sorry to interrupt this. Um, I told my husband to come in with them, but [00:09:00] that’s part of entrepreneurship too

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: is totally fine. This has happened before. Yeah. It’s

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: the whole work life balance, um, you know, thing, which is another fun, uh, part of entrepreneurship because usually by the time. You get to running a successful business.

You also probably have a family. And so that’s been a whole nother, um, challenge in

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: itself. For sure. So, so you were doing it as a side hustle for a few years, you said. And at what point, of course you said you were making good money. Um, at what point were you able to kind of. Transition out of your nine to five and make this your full time

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: project.

Yeah. So I waited quite a long time. I did this as a side hustle, um, for gosh, almost five years before I went out on my own. Um, I have always been very careful to not make more money than we were, not spend more money than we were making. Um, so, you know, meaning that profit has always been a [00:10:00] key part of the business.

And it took, I would say a solid five years until I thought to myself, okay, at the rate we’re going and the way I have my sales coming in and the volume I think I could do for going my full time job, I think I could be making a comparable salary to my real job. So I truly waited till it felt pretty comfortable.

It wasn’t, um, as much of a gamble at that point because I had a good idea of what I was bringing in. Um, and at this point, so that, you know, that takes us to about five years into the business. Now over the last five years, this has been, you know, my full time job and I do pay myself and all that good stuff.

Um, but it, it took some time and it wasn’t a big leap of faith because I am pretty conservative and I, I waited.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think that that’s a great, uh, strategy for any entrepreneur who’s kind of, you know, coming in the same path. You know, some people [00:11:00] say I want to quit my job, go a hundred percent, but I think this is really the pragmatic, pragmatic way to do it where you have tested your idea, you, you have the revenues coming in and, and you basically transition out of your job.

So I think Exactly, it takes a

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: lot of the stress away. I don’t have, I’m not a very risky person when it comes to things like that. And um, I, you know, definitely preferred having a little bit of, you know, something under my belt where it felt comfortable. And I was like, I’m actually missing sales now. I think that could be a key piece too.

For anyone listening. I mean, at what point are you truly missing business because you’re working? If you’re not, you don’t really need to transition.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, so you mentioned that now you have three retail stores and also you have distribution in thousands of stores, um, jewelry shops and so forth that you mentioned.

[00:12:00] Um, is that kind of your main business model? So you’re not. Um, your online business is really a small part of it. Your main strategy is really, um, retail and, um, brick and mortar stores.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Yeah, um, so I would love for our online business to be a larger percent of our overall sales. Um, we It was harder for me, uh, as a strength, I guess, of my own strength.

It was harder to grow the online business. Um, our website is nickysmithdesigns. com and if you hop on there, you can see, um, at this point, we have elevated pictures, we have better descriptions, we have a professional photographer, we switch things out seasonally for holidays. Um, But that took a long time for me to figure out how to do.

And so online has just grown slower naturally. Also, I think there is, you know, some very key competitors online. And it has been harder to capture people’s attention and capture some of [00:13:00] that market. So just naturally, our retail stores are a much larger percentage of our business. And our wholesale business has grown pretty significantly as well.

Um, but I would love to grow the online business, and we have focused more on that, but kind of to your point when we started, it is a tough business to capture eyes and clicks, um, at this point in the game online.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, I mean, it can be very competitive, especially like online customer acquisition with the marketing spend and so forth.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Right. Right. And it’s just something where when I got to talk to someone in a store and they usually would buy something, you know, from me, but I don’t get that personal, um, feel with customers online. And although you have this huge audience out there, it is not as easy as one would think to, um, capture, you know, their attention and their credit card.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, for sure. So, you mentioned that now you, of course, you can’t make all the jewelry yourself. Yeah. So now, now you have kind of outsourced [00:14:00] it to, um, manufacturers? Or, so, so how does it work? Do you provide them design instructions? Do you provide them design files and they kind of take that and create the jewelry pieces?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Yep. Yep. That is about right. Um, you know, we don’t really have all of our eggs in one basket because that’s another thing that I’ve always been like worried for. So we still have one, um, or actually, you know, two gals in the office that still make jewelry, um, stuff that, you know, special, Bowls that we haven’t found already manufactured things that are seasonal that we maybe will only make 50 pieces off or something.

So we’re still making, um, in our back room, quite a few of our pieces, but things like, for example, tennis necklace, we’re not setting stones in. You know, things like this. So we’re really designing stuff that we see, um, avoided the market or we see, you know, that our competitors aren’t doing. And we’re like, Hey, let’s get a real, a sample of a really skinny tech tennis necklace [00:15:00] from a couple of suppliers.

Let’s wear them. Let’s see how they wear. Let’s see what the cost is. Let’s see what we could retail for this for, and then let’s pick one. So we’re, we’re kind of diverse in that we are manufacturing overseas. We are manufacturing the United. States. We are still making stuff in our back room. We’re a little bit all over the place.

Um, and part of that is just, you know, learning and growing and transitioning. But the other part is just not having all of our eggs in one basket. Um, you know, and that way, as times change and, you know, things happen, like for example, COVID, if you’re making all of your stuff overseas, you were kind of in trouble during that time.

That was a great time where we honed in on all the things we still manufactured in our back room. Um, so it’s kind of, it’s been an advantage and it’s also just been, you know, an organic type of different growths.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So your strategy of being more of a cost effective jewelry brand, I mean, that’s, that’s [00:16:00] more of, that’s kind of a double edged sword, right?

Of course, you know, on the one hand it’s, it’s targeting a certain demographic, a certain customer type, um, but does on the other side, you know, it also probably reduces your margins, uh, you know, uh, so how are you finding, are you able to kind of manage this, um, You know, this, uh, letting go of, uh, margins to kind of go the volume route?


Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: sometimes more than others. Um, so, uh, that is something that has kind of changed over time, I would say. At the beginning, uh, making everything myself and not having a whole lot of overhead costs, no office, no employees, no nothing, really. Um, the margin naturally works. Uh, as you grow, it’s a different story and there are times where we have decided to bring something in where I’m like, Oh, it’s kind of expensive, but it elevates the rest of our [00:17:00] products.

So we’ve done some things like that where, Oh, we’re not making as much on these, but this is a trend that we wanted to follow, or this is something that is more special. Um, so we do have various different price points, various different margins. We have focused, um, part of growing a business too. Has been not to just go with your heart and what you really love, but to actually start to watch the margins.

Um, because as you grow, your overhead expenses grow way more than one than I would have thought. Um, so that is something that we are paying more attention to now. I used to kind of just do whatever I wanted or whatever I loved, or I would make something a little bit more expensive if it had to be because the cost was higher.

Um, We have now, you know, taken away some things where we’re like, this is one of our most expensive pieces. This is not one of our best sellers and the cost is high and it’s hard to source and we’re not getting the stones the same quality we used to and then we’ve cut pieces. So we have made more decisions by the [00:18:00] numbers.

Um, I would say I made more decisions by my heart at the beginning and that factor has kind of been taken out of it.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And so what, what have you learned about your customer base? Is it mostly like the, you know, you started out 10 years ago when you were a young person and we’re looking for like, uh, more of the, you know, um, cost effective jewelry to wear.

Are you finding that your customer is that persona, like young students or, you know, people who are just starting out their jobs and things like this? I’m assuming, you know, women who are more settled in life, they would want to wear more expensive pieces.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Right. Right. Well, we actually, um, funny, my marketing gal just pulled a report from me and our average customer is 24 to 38.

in, uh, age and almost all females. We, most of our jewelry is female, but that female 24 to 38 kind of our sweet spot. And our value proposition is waterproof pieces under 50. So I think that [00:19:00] does. Fit the demographic. Um, it’s not as inexpensive as going to Target and buying jewelry. So that’s probably more of a teen thing.

Um, it’s not fine jewelry, which to your point, probably when you’re about 50, you’re like, I might not be wanting to take a clasp off all the time. And you know, I want something solid gold. Um, so yeah, I mean, we have found our target market does love that price point and it’s, you know, it’s a large target market.

So it’s. It’s working for us right now. Awesome.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And it’s, it’s so interesting that you’re, you know, you have, uh, uh, your retail, three retail stores and all concentrated, I’m assuming in one city, is that, do you, do you have plans to create more, like, uh, grow your retail presence?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Yeah, so, um, we have three retail stores.

They’re all in Dallas, Texas. So, the first retail store was at the Dallas Farmer’s Market. That came naturally out of having a booth there for so long. I had a presence there. I had a pop up shop. I did what many entrepreneurs [00:20:00] do. Um, you know, I was in between someone who makes candles and someone who makes bread and someone across from someone who makes dog food.

Um, so I got the opportunity to open a store after I spent a lot of weekends there. They saw my business. They saw how many people loved it. People were asking about me and they were like, we should give her a chance. So that first store kind of came up naturally. The second store grew out of a need, um, to have a presence a little bit more north in Dallas, as well as a headquarters.

So we opened that second location really because we found a great spot that we could also use the back half for a headquarters. It was too big for a retail store. But it was great to use half for retail store, half for our warehouse, our inventory, my full time people, all that kind of stuff. Our third retail store in Dallas just happened to be a small niche space.

It was long and narrow, and they couldn’t find much to put in it. And one of the owners attended my grand opening of my other store, and she gave us the opportunity to open that. So, [00:21:00] They’ve all kind of come, you know, not for me being like, I need to be here, but just kind of the natural progression. I would love to expand outside of Dallas.

I think we’re learning how to manage stores, manage inventory, manage transferring, keeping the brand aligned at all three stores. I think we’re learning a lot of key pieces right now. And once we fine tune all that, it will be easier to open in another city or state and keep the brands true. And, uh,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: and you said that you’re, you are present in thousands of other stores.

Is that really through your wholesale strategy or are you in some major retail stores as well? So

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: mostly our wholesale strategy. So our wholesale strategy, um, we attend trade shows. And that’s where, you know, we said there are many trade shows out there, a per apparel and accessories. Um, they’re in Atlanta, Vegas, Nashville, Dallas, kind of all over the place.

We attend trade shows. Um, and then we [00:22:00] also use online platforms. If you have a store, you can go onto a website like called fashion, go, and you can look for. wholesale, um, you know, pieces you can go on a, a platform called there. So we’ve done a few different things. We’ve also, also reached out to people like just cute boutiques.

Hey, here’s our jewelry. We love doing wholesale. We’d love to get in touch with you. So we just kind of have a knack for that. And we’ve always just kept exploring that and people have reordered. They’re like, yeah, cool. I do love this jewelry. It is at a great price point. I can make a really pretty display in my store.

Um, We also sell displays, which people love. So I can buy a necklace board from her with the necklaces on it and put it in my store. So, um, wholesale is just another thing that I think we as a brand liked doing. And we found a niche and we have grown a little bit organically. And then we’ve also done a lot of like reaching out and taking advantage of the platforms that are out there.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: What kind of, [00:23:00] um, Um, as, as the CEO of the business, as a business person, um, what part of your day is spent kind of working on the business? Like how much do you think about, because to me it seems like you’re fine, found a really good product market fit and it’s now it’s kind of like, how do you scale this business?

Right. How can you bring it to more people? So yeah. Cool. Yeah, do you do spend a lot of time thinking about that?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Or yeah, that’s a great question. And that’s something that I don’t think any entrepreneur ever, you know, completely achieves because it is tough. I love being at the I love being at the headquarters because I get time with my full time employees and we get to strategize together.

We get to talk together all that good stuff. But, um, I often work for the business when I am there, um, I just can’t help it. I love to organize the displays or clean something up or put together, you know, something for a customer or open the Amazon packages. It’s just what I do when I get [00:24:00] there. Um, But the valuable piece is when you learn how to stop doing that and how to actually work on your business.

I would say my more of my creative moments and my working on the business happens outside of the office. It happens, you know, at night when I’m going to bed, I’m like, I wonder what our margin is on our top five items, you know, or who are our best customers. It just kind of is stuff that naturally I’m curious about.

And so I end up working. on the business outside of the office more often. Um, but I would say right now I’m probably more working on the business than for the business and it’s taken a long time to get there, but I try to spend the majority on my, of my time strategizing and delegating to my team at this point.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: To me, it sounds like you’re kind of satisfied with where your business is or, you know, or, or the organic growth or the organic growth that you’ve achieved. Um, do you like, Do you have any goals for your business? Like, do you see your [00:25:00] business 10 years down the road, like, do you envision your business to be like a national brand kind of a thing, where people have national presence?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Yeah, I would definitely say that’s the goal. I mean, I would love to be a national brand. Um, I, you know, obviously one brand that comes to mind, because I’m in Dallas, or I’m in Texas, is Kendra Scott. Like, they’ve built such a great business of fashion jewelry. And I’m like, Our product is that great too.

Our product is different, but just as good at a less price point. So, um, I am really motivated to continue to grow the brand. I wish I had more of a, in five years, I want to be in this many stores doing this much volume, but. I, I keep thinking about it and I pivot all the time because sometimes I’m way more excited and way more, you know, feeling the growth.

And sometimes I’m feeling the, you know, profitability pains of growing and I want to scale back. So I’m a little bit still all over the board on growth, but I truly [00:26:00] enjoy all the different aspects of the business. And I think if we can stay, you know, focused and continue to improve every day, like we have over the past, I mean, eight years or so, um, I think that we can be very competitive in the overall jewelry, um, market share.

Thinking about

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: pricing, do you, um Um, have you, uh, have you tested with pricing, like, you know, um, increasing the pricing and, and like, have you, have you done a lot of testing with pricing? Yeah,

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: I wouldn’t say a lot of testing, um, but yes, we have priced things a little bit higher, um, uncomfortably higher. We haven’t felt as good about it.

Um, we don’t feel like it sells as well as that under 50 sweet spot, but now in our lover’s lane store, our lover’s lane store is, um, in Dallas. That is a really kind of a nicer area, a wealthier area. They have. Find jewelry stores there and everything. We do [00:27:00] have tested some fine jewelry in that store. Now it doesn’t sell like the South.

There’s not as fast as our fashion jewelry. It’s just like a small capsule collection. And we were like, let’s get into fine jewelry, but it’s not exactly where my passion lies. I worry about the clasp. I worry about the diamonds. I, it’s kind of like a worry to me. Um, it’s an expensive piece of jewelry and my husband bought me one pair of diamond earrings and I lost one in the first month and I am like, I don’t ever want to have that stress again.

So it’s not, I think like where my, um, my passions super lie. I love like the affordability and the durable durability of fashion jewelry. And I would say when we price things over 50 versus under 50, we see it move faster versus slower.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Very, very interesting. Yeah. Um, and you mentioned Amazon a little bit.

I mean, given that your jewelry is more cost effective and Amazon, You know that the Amazon buyer kind of fits [00:28:00] that profile. Uh, are you on Amazon and do you see a lot of things? We are

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: not. Okay. No. So, I mean, really the reason we are not on Amazon is because we, sir, we make jewelry for so many specialty boutiques.

And I think it kind of deters the brand. Um, when you can go on and type in Nicki Smith and every SKU is on Amazon, why would a boutique carry our jewelry? And we have built that business really strong and awesome. Um, and so I just I’ve thought about it. I haven’t thought about it thought about it and i’m just like i’m not there I I just don’t want to be like, you know Fluctuating the pricing and sitting next to a sponge on the website.

It just so no we’re not

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: by the way um another entrepreneur I was talking to They kind of found the solution there the solution for that them was They put their products on Amazon, but the pricing was higher on Amazon [00:29:00] than everywhere else, like on their website and everywhere

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: else. That’s actually interesting.

That’s what I always get these, um, like Instagram ads that are like, if you buy Dawn Dish Soap for 1. 99 at Walmart, you can sell it for 5. 99 on Amazon and you can make 1 million, you know, when you use, when you sell 300, 000 units or whatever they say. I’m like. Do people really do that? But I guess they do.

And to your point, some people just want to pay for the prime, the two day delivery, they want it fast and they are, they know it’s a little bit more or they don’t know it’s a little bit more.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. But, but the rationale was that. You know, a person looks at the product on Amazon, they see the higher price, maybe they go and search on the web and then this, they come across your site or they come across others.

So it’s, in a way, it kind of drives that traffic from Amazon to, to, to your other

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: places. That’s actually really interesting. I have not thought of that and I like it. I like [00:30:00] it a

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: lot. What, uh, let’s talk about your marketing for a second. So, um, are you doing a lot of online marketing? Um, and

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: no, we actually don’t.

Well, we don’t do any paid advertising

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: because that’s because that, um, your, your pricing structure is really not, uh, aligned with that.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: You know, it’s just I have dabbled in paid marketing and I just am I kind of like I’m instant gratification purpose person and I’m like, I just feel like we’re throwing our money away right now.

Yeah. So, um, yeah, I just haven’t really gotten there to like love that. Um. throwing money at the line. But I mean, I do think that’s how tons of businesses grow and you don’t have this great website where they sell tons of orders. So I definitely think it’s a future opportunity. Um, but as of right now, we haven’t done any paid marketing.

Um, let’s

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: talk about competition for a second. Um, so you have, your value proposition is very, very clear. So your, [00:31:00] your jewelry is. Uh, permanent jewelry, waterproof, you know, pri cost effective, uh, and of course design looks beautiful, shines, everything. Are there other competitors who are playing in the same kind of category or, you know, what you have, what you have, the combination that you’ve kind of dialed into, it’s very separate and nobody is, uh, nobody’s looking

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: at that.

I think we found our niche within fashion jewelry. I think we have a different brands than any of our competitors, but I would say. Yeah, I mean we definitely, there are other people doing it and there are other people that are great at jewelry. Um, I feel like our brand is a little more modern and dainty and following the trends and keeping the price integrity.

So I think all those things together we found our niche. Um, but I mean there’s definitely competition and there are definitely other people in a similar, a similar game to me.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Um, for, for your website, do [00:32:00] you, um Do you have large enough order volume? Like how do you fulfill, what is your shipping style like?

Do you

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: So we, yeah, so we have a girl in the back. Um, we have an order, you know, she’s a order manager. She fills both wholesale and retail orders. So we do it all in-house, in our back room. Um, we print off the order, we look at it, we write, you know, thank you. And we. Put it in a cute little gold envelope with our package or suede pouch and our box and a little about us card.

Um, but yeah, we keep all that shipping and everything in house as of now. Awesome.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, what does your team look like right now?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: So I have, um, seven full time employees plus myself and they are all, you know, 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday for the most part. And then we have about 25 part time girls.

And those are gals who are covering the sales floor, both during the week and then on the weekends. Um, we have three retail stores, so about 25 employees is what it takes to get those hours covered. [00:33:00]

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So, so I, so I guess I’ll go back to my pre, one of my previous questions. Do you, do you want to grow your retail presence?

Because it seems like a scalable thing, like, you know. Yeah.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: I mean, I do. I do. Um, you know, we opened our first store at the Dallas Farmers Market three years ago, maybe two years ago. Um, we opened the Lover’s Lane store about eight months ago, and we opened Greenville two months ago. So the retail actual storefronts is still kind of new.

Um, you know, three and a half years ago, I did not have any stores. So I kind of like the pace we are. And I, um, although I would love having a lot of stores, I like to focus on one at a time, keep the overhead reasonable, and then move on to the next one.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, do you love being at the stores? Like, do you think that at a certain point you can hire like, um, a business manager that kind of takes your place, you know, in terms of managing all these retail stores and you become kind of like more of the idea [00:34:00] person and, and maybe you have more time than to focus on your family and things

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: like this.

You know, I think I kind of, I am getting there and I have gotten there, um, in the past year alone, I guess. A year, a little over a year, I’ve added three full time people to my team. Um, I’ve taken away the, you know, a lot of the design, a lot of the customer service, things that I was keeping close, a lot of the, um, scheduling of people, meeting people and hiring them.

Really, I’ve taken all that off my plate. So I have definitely moved in that direction.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Um, I have to say, you know, when I, when I hear your story, it almost seems like things fell into place very easily, but I’m sure, I’m sure that’s not the, I’m sure there was hard work and mistakes made and things like this.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Yeah. I mean, I definitely just enjoyed the journey and I have made some terrible mistakes. Like I have definitely sent 5, 000 straight to a scammer [00:35:00] before for my business thinking I was getting these incredible stones. That was a low one. I have done tons of pop up shops where it was windy, where it was rainy, where everything blew over, where only one person bought something, where it was zero degrees outside.

Um, so a lot of that growth at the beginning is, someone told me a long time ago, Being an entrepreneur, you’re going to make a lot of 5, 000 mistakes. And I was like, Oh no, I better not. Yeah, no, I have. I mean, I have ordered 5, 000 boxes that came from overseas that took up in our entire office, our entire back room, not thinking what it would be like to order.

shipping boxes, but 5, 000 of them. Um, I have done events that just like weren’t the right fit, or like were just super long hours where I’m just like, I cannot go on. Um, I have, you know, struggled learning how to manage people, learning like, you know, just the whole thing of [00:36:00] hiring and making people mesh and mingle together.

Um, so there’s been a lot of that, but I think I’ve learned that that’s like, Part of the growth and part of the fun and you’re going to make mistakes. Like you’re going to throw money away on something you never use. And it’s like, okay, I learned from that, but I better not do it again. So that’s my mentality.

I’m not one to like stew over a bad mistake. I’m like. Shoot, that sucks. I should have done that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So I think, I think that’s the most important thing. Like, you know, if, if you make a bad, bad decision or mistake, it’s like, as long as you’re learning and you know, you don’t make it again. I think that’s, that’s the most important thing.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Exactly. And sorry, I have to wrap up in a minute. I have, I have a Teacher conference tonight. So,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: okay. Okay. So, um, I’ll do a quick rapid fire segment very, very quickly. Um, so in this segment, I’m going to ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in a, in a word or two. Okay. Um, one book recommendation for entrepreneurs.

Um, [00:37:00] and why?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Ooh, one book. Gosh, I’ve read a lot of books too. Um, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. And why? Uh, I just liked learning about people and about customers and about, you know, that whole, um, point of, you know, getting past certain things and moving into the right direction of the business.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, an innovative product or idea.

that you feel excited about.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Ooh, new product or idea. Oh, coming up with a signature piece of jewelry.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity tip.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Ooh, product. Um, all hands meetings every week with the whole team. Love that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Another startup or business that you think is currently doing great things.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Ooh, that’s a tough one. [00:38:00] Um, startup that’s doing great things.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Or it could be business. It, you know, established business. Oh,

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: that’s a good one. Wait, can we come

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: back to that? Sure, sure. Uh, a peer, entrepreneur, or business person whom you look up to, or someone who inspires you?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Oh, I have a friend named Mallory that has a, um, going live business called ShopStyleYourSenses, and I think she is definitely onto good things.


Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, best business advice that you have ever received or you would give to other entrepreneurs?

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: Uh, probably two things. One, to just start it. The successful people are the ones who actually went and did it. And then two, that you’re going to have expensive mistakes and you gotta learn from it and move on.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. And then I’ll come back to that question again. Another startup or business that you think is currently doing great things? Um,

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: I mean, there’s a lot of different levels of startups that I love, but I would say, I [00:39:00] mean, I love my all bird shoes. I think that I’m loving like brands who are going like carbon neutral and using recycled materials.

So I’ll go all birds, but there’s so many kind of good ones. Awesome. Doing sustainable things.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Well, those were all the questions that I had, Nikki. I know you have to go. I know, I know you have a busy, busy day. So I really, really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for sharing your story and, and your, your business successes and learnings.

Um, so thank you so much again for joining me today at Treptalks and, uh, um, I really appreciate your time.

Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Designs: It was nice to, um, e meet you and yeah, I look forward to, um, maybe working together again on something. Awesome. Thank you. Okay. Have a

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