Karen Van Der Hout of Van Der Hout Jewelry is a friend of Schmooz Media and we’re so pleased to showcase her today as a Schmoozworthy Small Business Entrepreneur. Karen and her team have been hustling to bring gorgeous custom jewelry pieces to people across the GTA (and one of her lines is now carried at The Bay!) The owner of Schmooz wears one of Karen’s rings every day!
Thanks for answering our questions, Karen! I know there is a lot of learning in there for all of us.
Zoe: Why did you decide to start Van Der Hout Jewelry?
Karen: I saw there were people selling all kinds of personalized products on Instagram. Anything from backpacks to mugs with names or initials or messages. I thought, well, I’ve worked in the fine Jewelry industry for 15 years. I’ll make some pieces for myself and post the pictures on Instagram. Sure enough, people were loving and buying the styles I made. Within a month I realized I was going to need a website. Few months after that, I was earning enough to quit my full time job and go full force.
Zoe: Wow! Yes, I remember that first month well. You came to me and said “Oh my gosh, Zoe, look at how many orders I’m getting through Instagram! It was (and still is) amazing! So tell us, what have you learned about running a business that every entrepreneur needs to know?
Karen: You have to keep evolving. Keep the core values of the business but if like my marketing strategy isn’t working, or one collection doesn’t work, I do not give up. I look for a different direction, not a different end goal.
Z: I couldn’t agree more; knowing what to stick with and what to change up is really challenging. That’s why it’s great to be clear about what your values are. We do the same thing at Schmooz!
What’s your favourite social media tool and why?
K: Instagram was how it all started. I love the simplicity of the platform. I now find that insta stories specifically garner more engagement as opposed to posts. I get to showcase my day to day, my design process, my humour… people seem to like that more. Also, you gotta love the fashion influencer business. It’s a great marketing tool for little capital.
Z: It’s really interesting to watch you grow your e-commerce business using Instagram (and your website is Shopify!) Can you tell us a bit more about running a business that has inventory- any tips for other e-commerce business owners?
K: Yea, avoid inventory! Lol. If you’re lucky enough to find wholesalers who will allow you to photograph their products without investing in it, do that! If you’re custom making the pieces, start with just a few styles. Or get a focus group to help predict the trends. Or wait until you get an order and then start manufacturing. You’d be surprised how long people are willing to wait to get what they want. I gamble as little as possible and that’s why I’ve been so profitable in my first year.
Z: Sounds like a smart strategy! You know your stuff- your styling is always so great and you’ve got the business savvy to match!
What’s your favourite Van Der Hout jewelry right now?
K: I looove my threader earrings. Great day to night pieces. They come in a variety and lengths and designs and gold colours and they’re soooo comfortable. Not like earring posts that can stab the back of your ear.
K: Since I moved from NY to Toronto 7 years ago, The Style Heiress is the only place I shop for clothes. She does designer consignment and curates pieces from the overstock of high end boutiques around Toronto. And then she fully styles you from head to do. Her prices are great, but the merchandise is even better!
Kids Contemporary Exchange is the only place I shop for my kids. She also does designer consignment at the back of her store and at the front you can find all the coolest, trendiest kids clothes. Very LA, west coast. My kids look like they live in Hollywood. And I love shopping their website.
The Store on Queen is a clothing boutique run by these two fabulous women who have created a very successful business and massive Instagram following. They are the epitome of trend-setters, not followers. And they couldn’t be kinder more generous people. All the staff…It’s always a party in that store. The music is really great too. I dance as I shop.
Z: Anything else you want to mention before I let you go?
K: Best thing you can do is empower other small businesses. Don’t get caught up in competition. There’s a big enough market for everyone.
Thanks Karen for sharing your amazing learning with us! Make sure you follow Van Der Hout Jewelry:
At Schmooz Media, we understand that customers are your best brand ambassadors. That’s why we’re excited to create custom social media marketing strategies for small businesses, and take advantage of what their customers are already saying on social media.
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