Hot! Holly Daniels Christensen, Dune Jewelry

Dune Jewelry of Dedham, Mass., launched in 2010, features a keepsake, collectible jewelry line made with beach sand from around the globe to preserve coastal memories and adventures.

“Ah ha” moment that led you to launching this business: I began making the jewelry in 2007 for friends and family. There’s one particular friend who happens to be the most traveled and fashionable of all of us (in my opinion). One day I ran into her in the grocery store wearing two pieces of my jewelry. There were times that we got together and she would have it on, but I thought maybe it was because she knew she’d be seeing me. It finally clicked that she loved the designs as well as the sentimental value of wearing a part of her beach back home in England. That gave me the confidence to move forward and get serious about my craft.

Ideal customer/target market:
Beach lovers, travel enthusiasts (we even have sand from the Sahara Desert), beach brides or anyone who wants to preserve a special adventure or vacation.

First customer or client: A coastal arts & crafts show in October 2010. We did almost $1,000 in sales.

Measuring success: Success is when I’m looking through new orders and I see repeat customers or when a retail client calls to reorder product. It’s an incredible feeling to know that our customers realize the high quality and unique nature of Dune Jewelry. There are also times when I receive emotional calls or emails from clients explaining why their jewelry means so much to them. So many people have a great sentimental attachment to specific beaches or locations.

Biggest struggle: Every day is a struggle due to the custom nature of the jewelry. Each piece is made to order because we have over 900 beach sands in our Sand Bank so it would be nearly impossible to carry stock of each design made out of each beach. I’ve surrounded myself with great employees and I’ve also started working with a SCORE mentor. I would recommend that to anyone starting out.

Promoting business: I hired a sales representative who specializes in coastal boutiques which has helped immensely with market awareness and sales. I also searched LinkedIn and found an assistant buyer for a national catalog/website called Uncommon Goods which we are now featured in.

Two things you wish you would’ve known: 1. I would have created a formal business plan to help me stay focused. 2. I would never have imagined how rewarding yet lonely it can be. While your business becomes your life, your friends and family don’t want to hear about it 24/7. I suggest finding a mentor or entrepreneurial group to join so you have people to bounce ideas off of.

What keeps you up at night (business-wise)? Getting orders out in a timely manner, whether our customer service is good enough, constant PR ideas, how to come up with a solid and accountable training structure, how to make sure we stay fashionable and not a novelty…the list goes on and on.

Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job? I had a job for the first year and a half of Dune Jewelry and when it became a choice between real estate or Dune, it really wasn’t a choice. I’m fanatical about my business. I can’t imagine feeling this way about any job.

Biggest business goal over the next year: We added 60 boutiques in 2012 and I would like to add 80 more in 2013, preferably on the East Coast. I’m in the process of trying to find a good sales rep who handles the New Jersey coast and who is willing to take on a brand new concept/product.

Pricing/advice on getting it right: If you’re selling a product, make sure you not only account for the cost of material but you need to account for your TIME! Time is money: you need to understand that first and foremost.

A few tips: RioGrande.com is an awesome website for basic jewelry findings. For packaging and shipping use ULINE.com…the prices are literally a fraction of what you will pay at your local office supply store. We manufacture everything in the USA but if you’re looking to outsource, Alibaba.com is an amazing website to find manufacturers of almost anything. Last but not least, social media is your friend in the retail business. We run contests on a monthly basis to obtain more “likes” on Facebook and to get people talking about Dune Jewlery.

The absolute best part of owning my business is: the direct satisfaction of hard work and creating jobs for local artists and all around cool people.

If I had to start over again, I would: have spent more time on the infrastructure and written a detailed business plan to follow. This would have allowed us to keep up with production and orders especially during the holiday season.

I never imagined: delegating responsibilities and letting go of certain tasks would be so difficult.

If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout, “Stay positive and believe in yourself, nobody else will until you prove them wrong.”

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