EP 150: Juggling A Jeweler’s Business Model with Designer Christy Natsumi

The Nitty Gritty

  • How Christy’s sustainability values inform her minimalist and unique jewelry designs — and where she sources diamonds and gemstones from
  • What her weekly schedule looks like — from meeting with clients, working in the studio, sketching, and tending to longer-term projects
  • Who she hires to create a sustainable business model from accountants to lawyers to web designers to marketers
  • How Christy infuses her multicultural background into her work

The jewelry trade isn’t always known for its sustainability — especially when it comes to sourcing diamonds. Today, that’s changing because jewelry designers like Christy Natsumi are making conscious choices to source diamonds and gemstones from vendors with honest supply chains.

Through that thoughtful choice — and oh so many more — Christy creates change through her business: from where she sources raw materials from to the local artisans she hires in San Francisco to the unique and timeless designs she produces.

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The importance of having help and hiring experts

“I’ve made my choices mostly on intuition and trust. It’s invaluable to have people who have your best interests in mind. It’s a foundational point that you need to be able to grow and thrive.” — Christy Natsumi

While Christy doesn’t have any employees (yet!), she outsources specific parts of the jewelry manufacturing “to people who specialize in those particular techniques to accelerate the production and delivery time.”

This includes local-to-her contract artisans in San Francisco. “It’s a very conscious choice to work with local makers and trade workers,” Christy adds. But it’s not just artisans she’s working with: she also works with an accountant that she meets with monthly as well as a lawyer that she consults from time to time on web copy. Her lawyer also drafted the contracts for her custom work. “Sometimes I’m taking in grandma’s diamonds so there needs to be protections in place for that,” Christy says.

Beyond the legal work, Christy’s hired business coaches, videographers, and marketing and PR contractors. And lucky for her: her husband is a web designer and photographed all pieces since she opened her jewelry design studio.

Making time for yourself keeps you engaged in your business

“I bring attentiveness to my personal needs at the end of the week to make sure that I’m staying engaged and focused and to avoid burnout.” — Christy Natsumi

Being your own boss can sometimes feel like you’re operating in a vacuum. That’s why Christy’s created specific workweek flows to keep her vision front and center. At the end of every week, she prints out photos from clients as well as kind words they send in an email.

This ritual is part of Christy’s work week — and it’s something she intentionally does to stay inspired. “It honors the craft and it also honors the people you’re serving,” she says. “It’s really important to take a moment at least once a week to be reminded of that — and center back into why you’re doing something.”

Is there a way that you can build in time to reflect on the value you’re creating for your customers and clients every week?

Including custom pieces in a product-based business model

“The custom process allowed me to be a little bit more environmentally mindful. I struggled in the beginning with the thought of making things for sake of producing a ton of things. I loved that the bridal pieces allowed me to not only merge value and client needs but it served my business in terms of having healthy profit margins — and my yearning to have and create pieces that had some type of permanence and importance in my clients’ life.” — Christy Natsumi

When you operate a product-based business, so much of the day-to-day work is creating the same product again and again. For passionate small business owners, the daily production work is sometimes at odds with the desire to connect with clients on a deeper level or create bespoke pieces.

That’s why Christy now offers custom design work. “I started to notice people were asking me for wedding rings and custom engagement rings,” she says. “I would do a couple here and there. After awhile, I started to notice there was a real gap between what people were asking me for and what I actually had for sale. It was an aha moment.”

To start, she created a men’s wedding ring collection. “It was fairly straightforward for me, production wise,” she says. Now, custom design work is part of her business model and she works alongside clients to create unique — yet timeless — designs that will stand the test of time.

Listen to this episode to hear how Christy runs her jewelry design business day-to-day, what it means to run an environmentally conscious company, and what she’s working on next.

By Tara McMullin

Writer, Podcaster, Producer. Founder of What Works.

Sep 18, 2018

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support