Calla Gold

Calla Gold, owner of Calla Gold Jewelry, a Santa Barbara based jeweler, has been a Personal Jeweler since 1983. Calla is a by appointment jeweler, specializing in custom jewelry design, wedding rings, jewelry restoration and revitalizing of unworn and under worn jewelry.

Calla is the author of “Design Your Dream Wedding Rings, From Engagement to Eternity” a book for people wishing to learn more about what makes great wedding rings. The steps and options in her book work for all types of jewelry, not just rings.

Calla loves to teach. She took her blog, “Jewelry without Walls,” gems of jewelry wisdom to the web world ten years ago, and with over 400 blog posts, now educates jewelry lovers from as far away as Europe and Asia.

Where did the idea for Calla Gold Jewelry come from?

I was a Fuller Brush Lady, then I started my own house cleaning business, Cinderella Services, then I sold that and needed a new occupation. I surveyed my clients and the consensus was, be a jeweler.
I got some training and then leaped into it like a leaf in the wind, twisting this way and that as requests directed me to learn this and that. And delivery this and that.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I chose to be a personal or by appointment jeweler, visiting people at their homes and offices and doing parties and fundraisers.
I made multiple hours of phone calls a day to book my schedule to minimize the need to cold call. Although at the start of the business I did a good amount of cold calling.
Having appointments ahead of time made my day flow, so I tried to always be fully booked before leaving home.
I would do six to eight appointments per day for custom design, repairs and sales. I don’t sit back and wait for the phone to ring, I am proactive in calling previous clients and following up on the leads my clients give me to stay booked and cash flow positive.
I typically worked the phones from 8am to 9:30 am, did on site appointments from 10am to 4 or 5pm. I worked Monday through Friday, with one day each week or every other week to meet with my sub-contractors to discuss projects, get repairs done and search for gemstones and jewelry requested from clients.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I would draw custom designs while discussing ideas with clients till I knew what they’d like.
We used CAD to show the design once the bid was accepted and used 3D wax creation before casting, polishing and setting their piece of custom jewelry.
I also blogged to share design ideas, to explain jewelry repairs, upcycling older pieces and otherwise inform jewelry lovers. This lead to jobs from people out of my area who found my blog.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The internet changed how I did business. I no longer had to rely on client leads to pad my appointments, though I love a good referral. The internet, which I was suspicious of at first, turned out to be a real business generator.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I came to the jewelry world from a sales and project management background, so I hit the ground running, knowing I had to generate business myself and do excellent follow-up.
I didn’t just take a day off if I didn’t have appointments. I’d force myself to either make hours of phone calls, or mix it up with some cold calls. I didn’t love cold calls, so I’d do calls and it always filled up my appointment book. I also went to mixers, joined clubs and asked for referrals. And did volunteer work. These different areas of putting myself out there invariably led to more work. Yay! I guess the habit was, at least put in your eight hours, no slacking off. I’d end up working more hours doing evening call follow-ups and drawing custom design bids etc.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d say, “Look for mentors, ask for help from women you admire and men too.” I thought I had to ‘prove myself’ and foolishly bootstrapped myself up the ladder of business. If I’d asked for the help I needed about how to run a business, how to delegate, and how to plan for the future, by laying the groundwork now, I’d have hit my half a million in sales years earlier.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I can do this. Over and over again I’d say I’m going to do this thing. IE, write a book (did it,) write a blog (did it and it was successful,) sell jewelry without a store (my mom thought I was insane,) and sell a half a million dollars by myself in one year (did it multiple times,) create a viable business based on trust and good service (people thought without a store no one would value my service,) and finally when I realized I needed to use social media along with my new website to get seen more broadly, I decided to start a small business social media group called SMART, Social Media Action Relationship Team, to learn and simultaneously teach how to do this. I was told that’s just stupid and that’s the blind leading the blind, but with guest speakers and the internet of generosity, I was soon giving out multiple monthly assignments and watching as my web visibility and that of the members rose significantly.
I got a lot of ‘advice’ about getting a real job, needing to have a degree (I didn’t go to college) and not being uppity, unrealistic, pie in the sky dreamer, etc. Yes, in retrospect I was unrealistic, but as my professionalism caught up with my dreams and my persistence outlasted the mistakes and losses, I got where I was going. Even if it looked a lot different than I thought it would when I started out a clueless newbie elbowing a spot for myself in a sometimes hidebound industry.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

My husband and I would have a weekly strategy meeting from twenty minutes to an hour. I’d talk about what worked that week, what the best client was like, and how they came to me, and what I’d like to confront, achieve or try out in the next week. IE, try going to a new business group and see how it feels, write letters to three non-profits and offer to do a jewelry show fundraiser with their help, write five letters out to my best clients and tell them how special they are and suggest a meeting about some new idea, or go through the notes I keep on clients and call the ones I haven’t seen in six months and ask if they’d like to talk about that grandma ring re-do we chatted about in the past. We’d write an action list and I’d keep it on my desk till the next meeting and report how it went.’
We also problem solved. I realized I had all these people with future potential jewelry needs, but no way to remind myself about them short of digging into the 3X5 card file. (Yup.) So we came up with the tickler file, my husband would input name, number, and brief project description, month to call and a code from hot lead all the way to non-client cold lead. Calling the ticklers yielded a lot of business. Then I had one too many people say when I called, oh too bad you didn’t call last month, it was my anniversary. Bummer. So we instituted a birthday and anniversary list. My husband had to write computer programs to create these lists and do the data entry. Gruesome, but that’s true love and support right there. I made sales based on that list every time I used it.
Innovation after innovation administratively came from those weekly meetings. And it kept him on his admin side of the business and me in sales, design, marketing and outreach side nicely. I needed to know what he was doing and he needed to know what I was doing so we kept our rolling boulder of productivity in the right channel and didn’t bounce out into wasted time and unworkable time sucks.
We didn’t always know what was an unrewarding time suck until we discussed it. IE, having too many social media channels going rather than picking three and focusing.
Loved those meetings.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Figuring out what aspect of the business is profitable, maybe easier and well-liked by the clients, as pivoting to throw more fuel under that particular fire.
We pivoted our business focus on multiple occasions based on our meetings and observations. It always led to a bump in productivity and sales.
Another important strategy was to ask, what am I doing that I can pay someone else to do? Every month or so I’d write up a task or ten and either (sorry babe,) foist it off on my lovely admin demon husband Jeremy, or into the capable hands of my administrative assistant.
As a working mom and neatnik, I’d get up before my husband and son, and neaten up the house, empty the dishwasher, etc then do needed admin in the home office.
One day when I was feeling particularly overworked, I said, “That’s it. I’m going to the office to catch up on admin when I get up. I need you to do the household tasks I have been doing. I shed more and more household time sucks and put that time into the business and it soared.
My wonderful husband was cool with it and used his organizational skills to make our family run smoothly.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I undervalued my worth. Over time I raised my prices, but realized near the end that I had never gotten over that tendency. One of my competitors considered buying my business, in fact really wanted my client list. But in a trial, giving them a small sample of clients who needed work done, too many of them balked at that jewelry store’s prices.
I had gotten them used to ‘a deal’ and the real world jewelry work pricing put them off. I still sold my business, just not to them. But it left me with the realization that I left much on the table.
If I had a mentor or chatted more frankly with my jeweler friends, I might have realized the error of my pricing. I wish I had.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

If you are in a visual business and you use social media, when you have a superlative result and your client is leaping out of their skin happy with you, take pictures of the two of you together with the fruit of your helping of them. Get permission to use it and blog about it, social media the picture and the story about it and use it in email promo, picture and story.
That was a repeated homework in my SMART group and always engendered conversation and engagement and often new business. It worked because it was a happy and could be an informative story. Social media is stories. People want to see their happy smiling friends or a happy relatable stranger and what they are happy about. They don’t care that your mouse trap is red, or snappy, or ‘the best.’ They care that Suzy caught two rats that were eating her internet cables and now she can watch ‘The Expanse’ in bingy, happy, sci fi glee.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I’m a fiction writer as well as non-fic jewelry author. I was feeling in need of some mentoring. So I popped into my local bookstore and got three books on writing including the fantastic, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
I read a chapter and then take a piece of my fiction and work on the chapter’s advice. It’s like going to a writing class and doing homework. And it improves my writing.
It didn’t actually cost $100.00, but it was money brilliantly spent. Books are such an incredible value. Someone spent so much time writing their book, especially references in your field. They may charge $250.00 an hour to consult, but their book is $30.00 or something crazy like that.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I used the All Clients, Customer Relationship Management service.
It had the contact info on my clients and it was an app too. So it was on our computers and on my cell phone. No more carrying a binder with my client list in my car. Which invariably did not have my new client contact info when I needed it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

This may be a weird recommendation, but here it is:
Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
I grew up poor and as a person, I tend to say yes easily. This included how I spent money.
I read this and it gave me a path forward for how to turn my profits into assets. In my field I didn’t have a retirement plan other than IRA’s. And no one cared about my retirement.
Now that I am retired, I’m grateful that I didn’t just have my entrepreneurial ride and the joy that it was, and memories. I used what I learned from that book to ensure that I could retire one day. I am now retired and happy and hiking and mountain biking and writing.

What is your favorite quote?

Live, Love, Laugh

Key Learnings:

  • Ask for the help you need
  • Follow your vision and decisions
  • Push your business, don’t wait for stuff to come to you
  • Do weekly meetings about your business with a smart person and take positive actions based on your observations of recent activity
  • Value yourself and the contributions you make to the world and charge not what your issues say you are worth (less,) but what you are worth (more.)