From a hobby in a closet to a major business in only a few short years? Jill Donovan has certainly accomplished a lot with her business, Rustic Cuff, which makes beautiful cuff bracelets. Jill's amazing story is laced with the theme of people and their importance in making her dreams a reality.
On the Podcast
02:50 – The Oprah Show!
15:10 – Still Handmade?
16:54 – Strategies to grow
22:00 – Early sales
25:15 – Scaling
29:05 – Expanding Inventory
35:12 – In Stores
37:08 – Total Sales
38:15 – The Importance of Packaging
40:58 – Questions about Starting a Business
42:20 – Jill’s Fun Mom Moment
43:45 – On Balance
44:16 – Creating the Ideal Work Environment
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear her Full Story. Jill is so much fun – you'll want to tune in and listen to her tell it in her own words!
The Oprah Show!
What does the Oprah Show, Canadian etiquette, and mortification have to do with Rustic Cuff’s beginnings? You’ll have to listen to Jill tell this story!
We were so curious, with the huge sales volume that Rustic Cuff does now, are the cuffs still handmade? Jill definitely got to the point where she couldn’t make each cuff herself, so after a year in business she found a work space outside of her home and hired women to help her continue to make the cuffs by hand. Jill now has 22 employees, 6 of whom are dedicated to the handmade production of each cuff.
Strategies to Grow
Early on Jill decided she didn’t want to spend money on advertising, she wanted her business to grow in a grass-roots sort of way. She selected 20 celebrities and sent them each several cuffs that she thought they would enjoy. She found beautiful wood boxes and packaged the cuffs in a special way. Jill sent them off and waited to see what would happen. Then one day, she saw Kathie Lee on the Today Show wearing one of the Rustic Cuffs Jill had sent her! Gradually she saw other celebrities wearing them in magazine photo shoots or on TV. Jill has a page on Rustic Cuff dedicated to all of the celebrity sightings of Rustic Cuffs, check it out!
Early on, making cuffs was something Jill was just doing for fun. She had given a cuff to a friend who worked at a make-up counter. One day her friend called her to beg Jill to begin selling them because so many of her co-workers and customers wanted to buy one. At first Jill protested, saying she was just making the bracelets for fun. Eventually Jill gave in and made some to sell. Another friend convinced her to have a home party, and she sold 200 the night of the party. Things began to spread by word of mouth at that point.
Sometimes Jill says it feels like she is Noah and God handed her a hammer and said I know you don’t like animals or like to build, but I want you to build an ark. I’m not going to show you the whole blueprint. I’m just going to give you one board at a time.
Every day Jill just learned what she had to learn for that day. She took growing her business one day at a time, and one plank at a time. Now she is part of Thrive 15 which would have been so valuable when she was plunged into the world of business, and didn't know what she was doing. Thrive 15 is great because you can learn from business mentors in short 15 minute videos on so many helpful topics.
Inventory management can be tricky. You never know how your customers are going to react to a new product offering. Jill has definitely misread in the past and had thousands extra or been thousands short on products. It’s better to have more demand rather than over-spend and have too much product left over. Over time you get enough history and you learn the patterns and get a better idea of how much to buy. Jill would rather be left with people wanting a product that sells out, because the next time a new product comes out, they’ll remember that sometimes items sell out quickly, and they will be primed to buy immediately and not wait.
Jill has so many ideas for new cuffs, so sometimes she has to reign herself in and not do everything all at once!
Getting Into Stores
Rustic Cuff can be found in hundreds of stores across the country. For the most part the stores contacted Jill about selling her cuffs in their stores. It's amazing how growth can happen when more and more people wear and love your product.
How many cuffs has Jill sold since she started her business? Listen to hear! We were blown away!
The Importance of Packaging
Jill wants to invest money on the front end so that each cuff is presented as a beautiful gift to each person who purchases. Jill's advice: make sure everything you do is better than anybody else and is done with amazing quality. Create packaging that makes you look like a bigger company than you really are. Jill actually changes the packaging a little bit each season so that it stays fresh for her repeat customers.
Questions about Starting a Business
Jill gets a lot of questions from people about how to start a business. She points them in the direction of Thrive 15 where they can get great business advice from various mentors in 15 minute video segments. If you use the code RUSTIC you can watch as many videos as you want – free for a month.
Jill’s Fun Mom Moment
Jill’s girls think they are ready to enter the world as entrepreneurs! Listen to hear their declaration!
Jill doesn’t balance her two worlds, she just merges them! She brings her kids into her business world so that they are not alienated from it.
Creating the Ideal Work Environment
Jill has created a work-place where women have freedom and flexibility to work around their personal schedules and their children’s activities. They can leave work to pick up kids or attend a school event. They can even bring their kids to work, and all the kids hang out together while the moms finish up their day. This fabulous work environment creates a fun atmosphere and inspires a lot of loyalty among employees. Jill always hires people she really likes before she even needs them. She doesn’t hire people because they have a certain skill set. Jill feels that you can train people to do the jobs that need to be done. She tries to figure out what each person enjoys doing and what they are naturally good at. (Jill says she’ll hire both of us at Rustic cuff! If we lived in Oklahoma we'd be on it!)