Can you give me an overview of your business, what you do, what you make.
My name is Lorelei H. Scott, and my company is Indigo Eden Arts. I make jewelry. Mostly silver, but I work copper and some brass in there, and I just did a little bit of work in gold. Right now it all sort of has a Michigan theme because that’s what sells well around here, but I hope to expand that to reach beyond the state border. It’s literally out of my basement. Very small. I sell on Etsy and three different galleries in town. I joined my first gallery maybe a little over two years ago, and got on Etsy as a seller last October, so just about a year. I took my first silversmithing classes about four years ago.
When you got into jewelry-making, was it for a hobby, a business, or some of each?
You know, it was weird. It just suddenly struck me that I would, that it seemed like something I would enjoy. I had two young kids at home, and was losing my mind. I was really terrified of what was going to be left of me once the kids left.
When we were up in Copper Harbor, Michigan, the summer before I saw jewelry by a jeweler named Beth Millner, and really loved it, but obviously it was out of my price range. Then it just occurred to me that “You know, I wonder if there’s silversmithing classes?” I looked around and there were some in Chicago that were every Thursday at 5, or something impossible for me to do, but then Beth Millner did workshops, where you go up there for four days, and we just made it work. I did that a couple of times, and I always, I guess, had in mind the business, but if that fell through it would be a hobby.
Obviously you got technical advice by taking classes in silversmithing. Did you seek advice for setting up a business?
I tried. I actually, way back … This must’ve been 15 years ago, I took a starting a business class in community college, and it was the stupidest thing I ever saw. Mostly “Make a plan! Make a plan or plan to fail!” Something like that. “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” That was it. Isn’t that great?
At the suggestion of a friend, I attended a local workshop on starting a business, but again it was all about writing a business plan. The problem is that the first step of writing a business plan is to identify your potential customers and how much they were likely to buy. How on Earth am I supposed to do that? I have no idea precisely who is going to buy my jewelry, let alone how much they will spend. I knew that much of it would probably be sold to tourists during the summer but I could not tell you their age or income or how many there would be. This hung me up for 6 months until I came to the conclusion that I’d actually done a lot of this in my head already. I was not going to a bank and asking for money, so If I just kept it small and the risks minimal, I could just wing it and learn along the way. Maybe the business plan model works better for non-art businesses.
Yeah. Now … One of my frustrations with my band, Canasta, is that the reason you get into it is to make music and suddenly you’re making music 10% and 90% of the time you’re talking about your music, promoting your music, making a website to have your music, signing contracts with people … What’s the balance of making art vs. all the other crap, and do you resent the other crap, or do you not mind the other crap … ?
You know, I’m struggling with that now. I know the woman took the classes from, she does all of her, everything is cut out by hand by her, she even has employees now. I’ve started getting some of my stuff cast. I make an original and send it off to a company to be cast, which means that I don’t have to be touching every single piece all the way from start to finish.
I don’t want to be spending my life in the basement cutting up pieces of metal. In a way, I like being able to pass off some of the actual art time. I like designing, but I guess I don’t like making the same piece over and over again. Part of my problem is that my actual workspace is the most godawful part of the house, and I really need to put some effort into taking over the guest room or something. Some place with at least a window. I find myself struggling to make myself go down there to my workspace.
Some of the other stuff I enjoy. I kind of enjoy setting up the Etsy shop, for example. Now that I know what’s going on, and I kind of want to revamp it. I hate all the accounting stuff. I hired an accountant this year to do the taxes because I just absolutely loathe it. I agree with you, I spend a lot more time doing all the extras. I’m hoping to be able to streamline that if I get more space. Packaging, packaging takes me forever.
Oh, I didn’t even think about packaging.
Partly because I don’t have a good space for it. It means getting all the pieces, dragging it onto the dining room table, packaging it up and putting it all away.
Same as photographing, because I don’t have a spot to just leave everything set up. I’m hoping that this year I can get more space and streamline all of that. I agree, it’s irritating to me how much business-y junk. Inventory and money and, ugh.
Have you done any calculations on whether you’re making money or not? Do you know, when you do your taxes, does it show you?
The first year I definitely did not. Last year, I don’t, and this is going to make me seem terribly ignorant, but, from my perspective I thought I made about $1,000, but once the accountant got done with it … When she figures in how much space in the house is used and this and that … Of course, their goal is to make a business unprofitable for tax purposes.
I’m also confused. The first year I put in about $5,000 in classes and tools. What do you really do with that? I think you can’t deduct the education, but you can the tools. Does that carry over from year to year? It just gets into these gray areas, and I feel really stupid that I can’t really answer that question. Right now I’m looking and I actually have a positive balance in my checking account. But, that won’t last, because this is the flush time of year.
Do you have a vision about where you want to be in a few years, or are you operating from day to day, thinking mostly of “Oh, I’ll fill these orders … I need to post some new products … “?
Up until about the last few weeks, I would say I was just taking it one day at a time, and every six months I’d come up with a new goal. “I’m going to try and get into this gallery, or I’m going to start Etsy.” All of a sudden this summer, it kind of came together. I realized that—I had no idea that this existed— there’s a catalog that galleries will look at. You can pay to get into it. I think it’s $250. It goes out to galleries all over the country, and they’ll order wholesale out of it. My plan now is to do a bunch more designs that are not so Michigan-centereda and try and get into that catalog. I guess that’s my next step. Well, after I get some bigger workspace.
Getting a bigger workspace, though, is kind of a turning point, because it means taking over part of the house, the rest of the family’s space, for myself. It means investing a certain amount of money into infrastructure. Which is something I really wasn’t willing to do until about now.
Do you have advice you would give other people?
Oh man. I guess just start small. That’s why I don’t understand how big businesses get started. How do you start a restaurant? My husband and I once looked into a restaurant franchise, kind of a business plan of the week thing. That has such huge capital outlays upfront. You needed a million and a half dollars savings to even start the thing. If I had a million and a half in savings, I wouldn’t be starting a stinking restaurant.
I don’t get it either. I have no idea. Maybe I’ll try and interview somebody who started a restaurant. Any other things you want to add?
No, other than—to your point of whether you can make a living off of it—the only reason I can do this is my husband is paying the bills, you know? If I had to make the money to pay the bills, there’s no way I’d have the time to screw around with this. The upside may be great at some point, but to put in the years of not making money wouldn’t work. It would be great if at some point it could replace his income and give him the freedom to try something else, but I don’t know if that’s reasonable or not.
It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, for your business and for my interviews, and what we’ll learn from people who turn into something.
Yeah. I’d love to know other people’s secrets, how they make that happen.