Hey everyone! I’m so excited to be kicking off my Small Biz Stories series with the amazing small business owner Sierra Otto. Sierra just recently had an amazing launch of her first line of jewelry, The Prairie Fire Collection, and she’s here to share her insights on launching a product and starting a business.
Sarah Eggers: Tell us about Sierra Winter Jewelry’s beginning story. What inspired you to leave Silpada Designs and open your own line of jewelry?
Sierra Otto: Rewind to June of 2015. I was working for Silpada, designing awesome jewelry and had plenty of creative freedom designing collections. However, there was something missing. I was looking for a creative outlet. Weird I know. I wanted to learn something new, do something new artistically, meet new people and became very unhappy at my job. It was a long couple of months and I tried to put on my designer face and suck it up.
At the end of July, I went on a 10 day trip with my husband to Lake Tahoe, Napa, and San Francisco. We had many conversations about what I should do on the trip and by the time we got home I knew I wanted to quit my job, develop my own line, and launch my brand in Kansas City. My husband wasn’t fully on board with this decision until early September and once he was in I quit! Packing up my office in a box that day was the scariest and best feeling I have ever had. I felt free.
SE: Tell us about the struggle. What were the 2 most difficult things you had to do in order to launch your business and jewelry line?
SO: Oh boy. There were a couple of very expensive mistakes that I made when developing my line. When I say developing, I mean finding suppliers, designing, figuring out how pieces are going to get made, and working to make all of those things as cost effective as possible. I had spent so much time reading articles, books, and blog about how you have to have a business plan in order to succeed and that really stressed me out. I will say, I think it is important to write down your goals and to get super specific but a lot of my time developing was trial and error. You have to be able to change and adapt to what is happening with your business.
SE: What marketing tips and tricks did you pick up along the way to launching your business that you wish other creatives would know?
SO: I am still learning this! I have no marketing background and that has been a struggle but I am trying to teach myself a few things. For example, I spent all winter in my studio developing my collection and needed to get out of the house. I got a part-time job as a barista at a local juice bar/coffee shop. The amount of people I have met from working there has been insane and great for business! It has also taught me a lot about sales which I really needed help with! Put yourself out there, Meet new people, surround yourself with like-minded badasses and always tip your barista.
SE: You’ve said that your designs are inspired by the Kansas prairie. What is it about the prairie that inspires you, and how do you put that into your creations?
SO: I grew up on a ranch in the Flint Hills outside of Manhattan, Kansas. I have such a close connection to the prairie and to me, its the most peaceful place on earth. I love the simple beauty, contrasting colors that you only see when you really look, and the way the tall grass moves with the wind. Omg, am I going to tear up? Maybe.
After the Launch
SE: OK, let’s talk about something might be less tearful. You’ve just launched your jewelry line and even have made it local television stations. What does it feel like to be on the launched side versus the preparing to launch of your business?
SO: It is an amazing feeling to have your product launched and out there for the world to see. You spend so much time talking about what you plan to do and how you are going to do it and once it launches you can breathe. Well, for a second. Then you have to plan all of your next steps!
Advice for Launching a Product
SE: What advice would you give creative entrepreneurs hoping to one day to be where you are, having successfully launched their product?
SO: You have to be positive and break free from any shy shield you might have. I consider myself to be pretty shy and I had to let that go! Get involved in some sort of creative/business group and get feedback. You can get so stuck in your head when it’s just you, yourself, and your small business. Get some constructive criticism from people who are in the same boat as you. Also, be friendly to everyone no matter what.
Favorite Items From the Collection
SE: What are two of your favorite go-to pieces from your collection that every boho-chic woman would love?
SO: Ahh… how do I decide?! I absolutely love the Astra Necklace. It’s super sexy with a plunging neckline and classy with a high neckline. Very versatile. I wear the Bluestem Earrings in gold vermeil all the time. They are my statement earrings from the line and named after Kansas’ official state grass. I know you asked for two pieces, but I’m cheating and giving a shout out to my Primrose diamond necklace and earrings. They are slices of diamonds with facets around the outside and are backed with silver foil to reflect the light. They are dreamy.
SE: Don’t worry, the necklace and earrings combo can be as one, so you’re good. Well, thank you for taking time today to share your small business insights with us!