Diana Talcott is the owner of My Girlfriend’s Jewelry Box. She offers beads and jewelry making supplies, but so much more. This is a place for people to gather for friendship and bonding. You can have a party for your special occasion or the Girl Scout Troop. You can just show up for an afternoon of inspiration, conversation and guidance (making jewelry of course). My Girlfriend’s Jewelry Box is located at 222 Broad St. in Waverly, NY 14892. Diana can be reached at (607) 241-2323 or by email at Diana@myjewelrybx.com. Her website is www.mygirlfriendsjewelrybox.com.
How long have you been in business?
I will be celebrating 5 years in August, 2019. It is so exciting.
You started out with beads and bead-making supplies, right?
That was my dream, to own my own bead store. I started out making jewelry with my sister and my sister in law in my 30’s. We beaded ornaments and jewelry.
Beads are what I enjoy so beads are the primary business. Because I have two store fronts, I did add a gift shop right away. I also know not everyone is into beading.
You added the gift shop just for variety?
Yes. As I said, not everyone is into beading and there are people who like to shop together. If you bring a friend, your friend can look around the gift shop while you are searching for beads.
When did you start the back room?
Probably about a year after the gift shop. I wanted it to have more of a boutique feel.
I thought it would be nice to have the clothes, and the purses in a separate location, and only women’s items. The gift shop has men’s and children’s items in it as well.
What else do you do besides the bead-making?
I have classes and jewelry repair. We can do prom parties, or bridal parties. I have done a couple girl scout groups, which is fun. One group was 13 girls and the next group was 19 girls.
How many adults did you have with the girls?
Probably 3 or 4 parents helped. The rest of the adults either left or walked around while my husband, and I, and a couple of the leaders supervised and helped the girls. The girls seemed to enjoy it and they were good. They actually called me back for another jewelry session. We made anklets.
You did all that in this location?
We did. We did one group here and the other one in the other room and then we switched, and they had to do it in two settings. They had to do two weeks in a row to complete their badge. They completed their Jeweler’s Badge. It was fun.
Do you offer anything else?
I make custom jewelry. I had a lady going on a cruise and she wanted a necklace and earrings to match a dress that she bought. We picked out beads together and I made them for her. You know all the Lia Sophia, and that type of bracelet? They were party plans that people had. The bracelets stretch out after time, and they don’t know what to do with them. I restring that type of bracelet. I have had people say, you don’t know how many of these I have thrown away. I tell them “don’t throw them away”.
How did you get from there to here? What is your background?
I graduated from Newark Valley High School, NY. I had attended BOCES while I was in high school for business/advanced business machines. Computers were just starting out. I learned how to work with computers and a switchboard. I received the vocational award at BOCES which was exciting for me.
I moved to Florida for a year and a half. I returned and just got a job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I took a few college courses, but have not graduated, and have not taken a lot of classes since.
I worked for SCI in Owego for the whole seven years they were there. They were a manufacturing company that did work for IBM. The entire time we ramped up to 500 employees. I just did a lot of clerical work.
When that was over, I got a job at Waste Management and was dispatch in Binghamton. They are the largest garbage company in the world. I worked there for 16 years. I was in the operations department. We did safety and a variety of things.
And then what happened?
Since we were a small district, Waste Management sold their local site to the competition, Bert Adams Disposal.
What did you do for Bert Adams Disposal?
I was in the accounting department. I answered phones, I did a little bit of everything. Just office work.
I had been dreaming for years of owning my own bead store. Every time we would go on vacation I would look for bead stores and my husband went right along with me. I one day said, I knew that the owner of this place was retiring. I’m like, I’m just going to go down there and see how much she wants for her inventory.
So this (the store) was here?
This was here for 10 years before I bought it.
Wow, I didn’t know that, I thought you put this together.
A lot of people don’t know that. I wasn’t looking to come to Waverly because I never came this way. I always went the Binghamton way. The owner said “why don’t you just buy the whole building”. There’s no way my husband is going to buy a building in Waverly. I talked to her for a while. The owner suggested the four of us sit down and talk and here we are.
So you bought the building?
Bought the building, bought the inventory, and I have added a lot of inventory since. I have added the gift shop. I started out with consignments because it’s a big investment to buy everything outright. I still have some consignments. I have added the gift shop. I also have two apartments upstairs, which helps a lot.
The previous owner was retiring. She ran it as a retirement business. She wasn’t always open so people got used to that. I kind of started fresh with customers. There were some customers that came but that was the hardest part.
When you first started out, how did you get customers in here? Did you do a lot of advertising?
I did some, but I learned a lot of people don’t look at the newspaper or listen to your radio station. My best advertising has been two things: 1. Facebook, and 2. Networking. I totally believe in networking. I have some women who have totally supported me and told others about me and have given me opportunities to create. I created centerpieces, the candles with the flowers around them. I did that for a big networking meeting that we went to.
You do those as a donation?
I did them for that and then took them home after and now I can sell them. One of the networking things I went to, I met a good friend and she sells Mary Kay. We just traded. I did a party for her, and she did one for me. It was cool because then you introduce other people to each other.
When you say networking, what do you mean by that? What sorts of things do you look for? Is it just going places?
Sometimes it’s hard because when you are a single business owner, you have to be here in the store. That part is hard. I have met other groups of ladies like on a Monday since I am closed on Sunday and Monday. I am closed that day. So I have met other small business owners, and we have talked about our challenges and how they have overcome them. That helped me because I have never been in retail before. I’m learning, but it’s nice when other people will share what their circles are or what they do in a certain way.
So you look for groups of women or groups of people that are business owners?
Yes. However, every time I go someplace I’m talking about my business. That is really, really important. I also got involved in the Waverly business association and the chambers. I am a member of the Greater Valley Chamber and I’m joining them again. I am on the board of Tioga County Chamber and I am on the board of the Waverly Business Association.
How much time does that take?
It’s usually one meeting a month, so an hour.
Some people think, oh that’s a big commitment. You know, they want you to do a lot of stuff.
Exactly and it is hard and we have the Waverly Fall Fest coming up and I’m in charge of the vendors. So when I get involved in something like that it does take a little bit of time. The rest of the time you are making decisions. You know how they say, many hands make light work, like if we all take a little chunk then we are all helping each other out.
So you said the Waverly Fall festival?
September 28th is the fall Fest. When you get involved in something like that, people ask you questions or they will hear the name of your business and they will say what is that and you have an opportunity to tell them. Or they will stop by for whatever reason and then they get to see for themselves.
You are self-taught, but I believe being employed with those companies early on helped you gather a lot of knowledge and expertise doing what you did.
I learned Customer service from corporations, and training and safety. You go through a lot of these trainings and you realize I still use a lot of my knowledge about customer service. You asked about awards too and I wanted to say that being on the Waverly Business Association, I won 2017 for business person of the year from them.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I would say getting business person of the year was my biggest achievement. I just felt very good.
What about stumbling blocks? Is there anything that sort of sticks out?
The hardest part is getting customers. I feel like every year I grow a little more, but where do you go to reach people. I have people all the time saying I drive by there every day and didn’t know you were there. I have painted both sides of my building a dusty rose color. It used to be one side was red and one side was blue and it had a little white. So I painted them all the same color. I put in the bench and I put in lanterns and I have a flag. People still tell me I didn’t know you were there. Another thing is because it’s been a bead store for so long people have no clue all the rest of the items I have in here. I have something for everybody.
So how do you address that? You addressed the location part with paint, and the bench, and a flag.
I applied for a grant and I got $400 I believe through the county for the lights and the bench. They would have helped with paint but I had already done that.
Putting pictures on Facebook and getting people involved so that they will share is a biggie. You need people to comment or share your posts rather than just like them. Then you get seen a little bit more.
Do you run contests? How do you get people to comment and share your posts?
Sometimes it’s just something silly. Like you can just put a picture of something totally not related to your business and it gets people and they see your name and they will go to your page and say “oh”. I have 1100 followers.
A lot of people ask me if I do arts and crafts shows and I’ll do some but it’s a lot to carry stuff and especially my stuff. If I have a good opportunity I will do that. I got involved in the Tioga County Arts council. I have done a couple little things there or been on the art trail. I do whatever I can to get noticed or have my name put on a map or just the opportunity to tell about my business. I did Morse code bracelets for the first Friday that they had and charged $5.
Morse code bracelets?
Morse code, you do your name in Morse code with these little dashes and dots and every letter has its own identification. You could do a word rather than your name if you want. So it’s a secret code. I had a really good response. I was able to hand out a card or tell people about my store.
We did a shop hop last year. It was cool. It helps if you can find people who have already done it so you can get ideas. Honestly, when I do a sale people don’t show up. I’m still learning, I don’t know the best way to advertise.
I have learned that you don’t have to give away something to everybody, but if they show up they have an opportunity to be in the drawing. If they do something else, it gets them more opportunity to be in the drawing. For Example: if they purchase something that’s another opportunity. If they purchase $25 or more then its double or triple. You can put as many tickets as you want in that bowl. You are only drawing one. So that’s how I look at it.
One thing I have been thinking is this – there are so many different kinds of jewelry making (there’s wire, or there’s the loom); I may have different people demonstrating, so they can see how easy it is. Everybody has a different style. They are overwhelmed by the thought, “I can’t do that”. If we show them something that they can do, they may not walk away with that item, but they can at least hands on try something. They could come away with the idea “oh that was pretty easy. I would like to learn more”.
Do people have misconceptions about you or your business?
The biggest thing is that people think I only have beads. It has been a bead store for so long. I’m still looking for ways to let people know that I have other items.
Maybe one day should be a feature.
I sell these braided rugs. I put this one with a bicycle on Facebook and I sold it the same day. I have two other people interested in it if I can still get them. I was like “wow”, I need to do that more. My friend at SHEA Creations, Sarah, up the road posts all the time. She posts all day long. She had a customer come in and say what their top five items are and she listed them. Throughout the day she put each item and showed more about it. I was like, what an awesome idea.
Have you ever done facetime live?
I know it’s easy but I’m so intimidated by it and everybody says video is the way to go.
People want to see. They want it personal, they want to know you. I have some thoughts of doing some videos like easy ‘how to’ videos. If I can figure that out. I wish I had help. If I have a plan in place I will do this on this day, make this certain thing or rearrange this room or whatever, I get it done. If I don’t have a plan it doesn’t get done.
If you could have a do over, is there anything you would do over? Or do differently?
Honestly, I keep thinking that I wish I was in a different location. I’m not positive Waverly is the place to be.
Is it too far away from things, or?
It seems the people I know and that I’ve known live in Owego and that direction. I’ve always been connected to people at work in Binghamton.
I live only 15 minutes away so it’s not a bad location for me. My business is a specialty shop so people should travel to come to me. It shouldn’t matter really where I am.
I’m a member of the beads society of Central New York and I have only had a small hand full of people that have come. The people that have come say you have such a good selection here. They even told me that I’m better than the bead stores in Rochester. Which makes me feel so good.
They say get your bead society members to come. They promote the three bead stores in Rochester and they promote online stores. So I wrote them a really nice email and I said, I would love it if you would include me in your promotions. They wrote back and thanked me and said if you could do a little write up and tell us about your business, I’ll run it in the next newsletter. So she did, and I even said I would give a 10% discount to the bead society members.
Since you are an association member, could you get an email list? a mailing list? Then just target them in a mailing. If you sent them a postcard and said, “hey! you are in my region, why don’t you come see me”?
I know a girl that lives in Binghamton, she’s a teacher, when she has off she will come down and purchase.
Can you get a testimonial from people who say your bead shop is better than the ones in larger cities? Maybe you could get that testimonial and put it on your postcard.
I was going to say, there’s no bead stores in Binghamton, there’s none in Syracuse.
There’s none in Elmira, and Corning.
And Ithaca. I am central to all those locations. I need to just get the word out that I’m here. I don’t know how to reach those people like we talked about. Newspapers – people don’t always read them. Facebook has been a really big thing.
I have people say that they googled beads near me and I show up right away, so that makes me feel good and those people will come back. A lady today came in and spent over $100. She didn’t know I was here. She learned how to bead when she was in Florida. She’s like, I’ll be back.
What if you bring a friend? You could give them both a discount. Maybe have a little ‘rewards’ card that says if you come back and you bring a friend, I’ll give you both something (a discount, a special kit for a small item), have a special card just for that.
I do have loyalty cards. Loyalty cards have been very helpful. I also get email lists, and she signed up. I should send her a thank you note and give her a discount, or bring a friend like you said.
I had a Wellness preview on Tuesday for Wellness Working (another business that I own). I went home and the next morning I had personal thank you notes written. Anybody that orders $100 or more in Nikken, I reimburse them their shipping and handling. So I would put checks in the thankyou notes ($11, $10) because my stuff is more expensive. I think anybody who’s buying online and is spending $100 should get free shipping and handling. Nikken doesn’t do it so I’m doing it.
See this is networking to me, when you are able to share about what we’re doing. I’m getting ideas from you.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Owego? (laughter)
It depends on where God leads me. I have been telling myself, I need to be happy right where I am because everything has fallen into place for me to be here and I have met some really wonderful people. If I moved I would have to start all over with a lot of them. I plan on still being around for a long time.
In five years what do you think?
I don’t know if I’ll be in a different store front. I’m kind of like outgrowing this place, but I own the building. I’m thankful I have a building that has rental income because that’s helped me get to where I am.
I plan on being in business and having even more customers. That’s my goal.