Janine Robinson has been designing exquisite custom jewelry for clients since 2005 when she opened up her jewelry business Kai Expressions. What started as a side business of making earrings for family and friends, quickly blossomed into a full scale jewelry brand and business. Kai Expressions excels in offering clients unique handcrafted jewelry made with semi precious stones and high quality metals. As a key player in a highly competitive industry, Kai Expressions sets itself apart from other jewelry brands by focusing on the details. Robinson understands that when it comes to fashion women want original pieces, and something that they won’t see other people wearing. Robinson travels the globe to find unique stones to incorporate into her Kai Expressions jewelry line, in order to cater to the needs of her fashion forward clients. Now based in Los Angeles, CA, after recently relocating from Boston, MA, Robinson is excited about the growth instore for her company.
YBM had the opportunity to sit down with Robinson and get the scoop on how she got started and her advice for budding entrepreneurs. 5 Tips from Janine Robinson on Getting Started:
#1 Figure Out Your Product.
According to Robinson, many people have a lot of ideas, but the key is to focus in on one. Before Kai Expressions started, Robinson made handcrafted event favors for family affairs and bachelorette parties under the business name Weenie Delights. Though it was nice to be able to create a special gift for friends and family, she realized that her interest was really in jewelry. Her passion and pride came from creating works of art with her own hands, no matter how big or small. Robinson made the decision to focus on creating these jewelry masterpieces.
#2 Figure Out How To Market & Sell Your Product.
Now committed to the jewelry industry, Robinson was ready to shift gears and kick off her business Kai Expressions. With several pieces sold and a couple happy clients, Robinson realized she needed to switch hats from designer to marketer.
“How do I sell my products and let people know they exist?”
Initially, Robinson would upload pictures of her jewelry to Kodak Photo Gallery and send invitations to the gallery out via email. Response to the gallery invites were moderate, so she kicked things into gear by creating a website and an e-newsletter. Robinson shares that when you’re getting started selling a product that it’s really about creating exposure and getting your name out there.
#3 Engage Your Customers.
Though she had strong support from friends and family, Robinson’s jewelry business had a slow start.
“Things didn’t begin to take legs for me until I started selling in craft fairs.”
Weekend after weekend, Robinson would consistently be at the same location building her mailing list and interacting with customers. Overtime her consistency paid off and her client list grew.
“People like to touch and feel” says Robinson.
Now Kai Expressions does craft fairs, home shows, and bridal parties. The increased face time with clients has increased sales for Kai Expressions.
#4 Do Things to Stand Out From Your Competition.
Robinson knew from the beginning that the jewelry industry is very competitive, so Kai Expressions always did things to stand out. Since many people have allergies to metals, Kai Expressions offers pieces made with surgical steel. In response to peoples heightened sensitivity to price given the state of the economy, Robinson searched for vendors with reasonable pricing and even traveled internationally to purchase stones in order to keep the price of her pieces between $40-$75. To set Kai Expressions apart from other jewelers at street fairs, Robinson incorporated rich maroon drapery into the Kai Expressions booth display. Additionally, since the companies inception, Robinson has proudly contributed a portion of Kai Expressions’ proceeds to a women’s shelter in Boston. With her recent move to Los Angeles, CA, Robinson will now be contributing proceeds from Kai Expressions’ sales to the Southern California Downtown Women’s Center.
#5 Think About Your Future.
Kai Expressions is now five years young and Robinson is busy planning the companies next moves. On the horizon for Kai Expressions is a formal entry into bridal custom pieces. Robinson has three weddings under her belt where she designed custom jewelry pieces for the bride-to-be. Her eyes are also set on getting Kai Expressions into more retail boutique locations. We asked Robinson if she would do anything differently, and she shared “I wish I had laid out a business plan from the start.” Robinson says she is now writing her business plan and highly recommends the book entitled, “Guided Business Plan,” for those who are in the same boat.
Thanks for checking out our interview with Janine Robinson. To view some of her jewelry please visit the Kai Expressions Facebook Page or her website Kai Expressions. We look forward to reading your comments about Robinson’s advice.