How hard is it to be a small business owner?
It’s a beautiful level of success when your hardwork and dedication turns your passion into a sustainable small business. We work with thousands of small business owners and independent retailers across various industries in beauty, sustainable fashion, mental health services, doulas, bakers, designers, and more to support success and sustainability.
Although each small business is different, with its own evolution story unique to its founder, customers, and community they serve, there are many ways in which the small business journey overlaps. There is something to learn from every small business owner’s story, why they do it, and the obstacles they face launching and growing their business.
Most aspiring small business owners want to know how to get started, and we want to offer a space for you to hear from one of our small business owners who conquered the road to ownership. We reached out to #AllforSmall business owner Gwen Beloti, founder of Gwen Beloti Collection, a luxe, and accessible jewelry line, to tell us more about some of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face; how to launch a jewelry business and how she got started.
A Brooklyn native with a life-long passion for fashion, Gwen found that she could make bold statements with accessories after struggling to find clothes that fit her curves. She poured her challenges into making size-inclusive golden jewelry designs and launched her small business in 2019.
Keep reading our How to Start A Business feature with Gwen Beloti for more about her small business experience.
How did you start making jewelry? What got you into design?
I have always loved jewelry and appreciated how something so small could have an impact that is so big. Adorning ourselves with jewelry allows us to express ourselves in creative ways. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a creative person and have had an eye for design. My first source of inspiration was the jewelry I’d collected over the years.
When did you realize that you could turn your passion into a small business?
Though I believe in my vision and talents, outside validation has pushed me to turn my passion into a business. If not for my community rooting me on and complimenting my style, I don’t know that I would have pursued my craft in such a way.
How did you identify your target audience or consumer?
I was my first customer. Many people in the business industry might advise against that and suggest you start by researching the market. Sometimes life happens, though. I never set out to be a business owner, so naturally, I began creating for myself. I later designed for family and friends, which turned into a business. My target audience was attracted to the brand because they saw themselves in what we do and connected with our mission. I have extensively researched “our girl” and who she is so we can attract more like her.
What was the first thing you did to build your business? Did you create a website or establish an LLC?
I built my website before I established an LLC. I am creative at heart and tend to turn to the fun and shiny stuff first.
Tell us the step-by-step process you took to get started.
So I started tweaking jewelry pieces from my collection. I would make minor adjustments, like changing the chain, charms, or pendant. If there were a style change that I couldn’t execute on my own, I would work with a jeweler. I always knew how passionate I was about wearing jewelry but didn’t realize how much I enjoyed designing it. I decided to start selling some of my work. I didn’t expect the designs to be so well received. I would later research goldsmiths and manufacturers who could help me bring my more intricate designs and visions to life. I reluctantly, then proudly, began proclaiming myself as a jewelry designer, and I haven’t looked back.
Did you seek help or resources to start your business?
I did. I apply for grants and mentor opportunities all of the time. Running a business isn’t easy. Designing jewelry in what can be a pretty closed-off industry isn’t easy. When there are opportunities to learn, grow, and connect, I take advantage of them.
Why is being a small business owner in the jewelry industry unique to you?
What makes it even more unique is being a Black-owned small jewelry business. There aren’t that many of us out there, definitely not in the mainstream. I hope to be a part of that change and be an example to other designers. Representation matters, and there is space for all of us. What we bring to the industry and community is valuable.
You have an eCommerce online store. What are some tips you have for business owners who sell products online?
Growing your email list and connecting with your customers regularly and consistently is really important. Our online store has to be nurtured just like a physical store.
What were the challenges you faced along the way?
Access to resources such as capital and guidance. Being a women entrepreneur and a Black business owner brings unique challenges. We have to validate and prove ourselves more so than others. Unfortunately, we can’t let that stop us from pursuing our God-given or self-taught passions.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a small business in the jewelry or accessory industries?
I would suggest defining your aesthetic and becoming comfortable with your sense of style. It’s easy to get caught up in the noise and trends. Determining why you do what you do and who you do it for is so important. Jewelry has a personal sentiment, and you want your voice and message to shine.
Were there specific requirements, certifications, patents or trademarks you needed to apply for? If so, what were they and did you seek help navigating the process?
I started with an LLC for my business. I later filed trademarks for my brand name and tagline. I’m super grateful to Start Small Think Big and the legal team for their connections and assistance in that endeavor. This year I became certified with the Black Chamber of Commerce and joined several professional jewelry design communities. All of those mentioned above and other formalities are essential. As much as creative people enjoy creating, we must prioritize the business side of things if we want to succeed and have a sustainable business.
Need help with your small business? You can find free resources for small businesses on our resources page, or learn more about how to apply for our free legal, finance and marketing services on our Small Business Support page.