- About Us
An Interview with Heather Duris - owner and resident artist
Where did the idea for Hip Mom Jewelry come from and how did you bring it to life?
I bought Hip Mom Jewelry in 2014 from the original creator. She had built the business for just over 10 years, and then found that she was ready to move on to other things. I had worked for her for several months making jewelry when she asked if I would be interested in taking it over. I had been looking for something I could do at home, related to creating art, and this definitely fit the bill. In the past year, I have tried to introduce new pieces that reflect my style, and to edit out what wasn’t working. It’s a work in progress, and I guess that part isn’t ever done. I want to be true to my creative voice, while watching trends and responding to what customers are looking for.
What do you do at Hip Mom Jewelry?
I create and make personalized jewelry in sterling silver and other metals which I sell online at www.hipmomjewelry.com, www.sportygirljewelry.com, www.etsy.com/shop/hipmomjewelry, and www.etsy.com/shop/sportygirljewelry, and I wholesale to other websites and a few local shops.
What is a typical day like for you?
After getting kids off to school, I typically try to fit in a workout, shower, do a little house cleanup and then head to my home studio. I check emails, try to answer any customer questions or concerns, and then get started creating jewelry for orders or creating new designs. I have a part-time employee, so I also give her a list of things I need completed, and try to prioritize our efforts for the day. I take short breaks to walk the dog, eat lunch, change out laundry or run errands. I try to get most of my work done before kids come home from school so I can help with homework and feed them snacks. After getting in some time with the kids, I go back to work until about 5pm, when I start preparing dinner. (Most Sundays I make a meal plan for the week and do prep work so that meals come together relatively quickly.) Unless I’m really slammed with orders, I typically then spend the rest of the evening with the family, going to activities or playing games. My husband and I get kids to bed by 9pm, and then usually go back to the studio to ship jewelry or finish up any pieces so I can have them polishing overnight. So my bedtime is typically between 11-midnight, but I’m a night owl anyway.
What is one thing you do that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am self-disciplined and willing to work long hours and I’m able to prioritize where my energy needs to be spent the most. I also have the best partner in business in my husband. He’s so supportive and energetic, always willing to help me out when needed, whether that means getting laundry done, or shipping out jewelry. This year I have been able to train some part-time help in my studio, and that has allowed me to spend more time on advertising and creating new designs.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you take away from it?
I worked at a salad bar in a grocery store my second year of college, opening early in the mornings, chopping vegetables and fruit until I was covered in juice. I hated being sticky!! The working environment wasn’t that pleasant, with management putting some undue stress on staff…I guess I didn’t see the need for the high stress since I was only chopping vegetables! I quickly realized I could work for minimum wage or better doing something I enjoyed more and that was a lot less messy! I learned a lot about retail and customer service at the several part-time jobs I had during college, and I saw that you have to be willing to do the hard work, sometimes in jobs you hate, so that you can get to the work you are passionate about.
If you were to start over, what would you do differently?
I look back and remember that my first time in college, I was drawn to art, but was afraid I wouldn’t succeed in making a career out of it, so I put it to the side for a few years, changed my major, and joined the US Army instead, eventually graduating with a commission and serving on active duty for four years. That was a great learning experience too, so I wouldn’t change that, but I wish that I had gone ahead and pursued an art degree and not been afraid of the outcome. After serving in the US Army, I did return to school and completed a BFA in Painting and Art History.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business and attract new customers?
I think one of the most important elements of growing my business is found in providing great customer service. When I can provide a quality product for a reasonable price and in a reasonable amount of time, then I am helping my customers solve a problem or a need, and they are much more likely to tell their friends about my services. A good recommendation from a customer goes a very long way in reaching out to a larger customer base, and I am so appreciative of that. I am also exploring social media as a way to expand my reach and connect with customers. Instagram is a great way to share photos of jewelry that aren’t on the website yet, maybe just in the development stage. I also want people to see that I am a small business, hammering away in my studio, that I listen to feedback and am always open to creative input.
What is one challenge you faced as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think as an entrepreneur, you are always blazing a new path, sometimes with little guidance, trying to figure out what works for your business and what doesn’t, taking chances, and dealing with the consequences, good or bad. I think my experience in the Army actually prepared me to jump into things before I had really figured them out. Every job I had in the Army and since then, (parenting!!), has felt like I was thrown into something way over my head, before I was ready or trained, so I just had to figure it out. I think it takes some mental toughness to tackle that every day, but it’s definitely worth it.
How do you stay motivated during difficult times?
I remember that working for myself, doing something I really love to do, getting to create something with my hands, is such a huge blessing. It’s what I always felt in my heart I would end up doing, even if I didn’t know how I was going to get to it. After the first month of owning the jewelry business, and struggling through the first Christmas orders, I was afraid that I had made the worst mistake of my life. It was so much work, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, I wasn’t sleeping or eating, and I barely saw my family that month. It was pretty rough. But, that season passed, and that steep learning curve actually forced me into really getting to know how to run the business better.
Tell us something about you that few people know?
I think most people are surprised to learn that I was in the Army. I was a soldier artist when I first enlisted, and if I had been able to leave the Reserves and be an artist on active duty, then I probably would have stayed in for 20 or more years. I really loved the comradery of the Army and the discipline, and the training environment. Life took a different path however, and I did end up serving on active duty, but as an officer in the Chemical Corps. It was a strange place for an artist I guess, but it was so much fun and I learned so much about myself. I learned that I can always push myself just a little more, and that one of the most important things in life is to just treat people with respect, no matter their station in life.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
It’s going to be scary working for yourself, and some things aren’t going to pan out. Not every idea I have is a great one, but all those failures get me closer to success. I know we’ve all heard that before, but it is so true. I am very blessed to have found work that I love and something that will help my family. Remember that yours is a unique voice, even if you feel that it’s all been done before, no one has ever had your exact experiences or point of view. Being an entrepreneur means you don’t ever “clock out”, and there will be a lot of long hard hours. But, those are seasons of growth and learning, and you will get to the point where you can manage your time better. You do have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are, and to live your life while you are doing it. Don’t become a workaholic, we weren’t put here just to work until we die…make a life that you love! Make time for relationships, and spend time with your kids while they are little, because that’s what they will remember. I don’t want my kids just to remember that Mom was always working the family business, so I try to involve them when I can, and to just be present with them. Celebrate your successes, and allow failures to teach you how to make your business better. Listen to your customers and aim to create the best possible experience for them.
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