How I Did It: Andrea Groussman, Founder of AG Fine Jewelry
After graduating college, I moved to Philadelphia to help my mother in her estate jewelry business. I spent a great deal of time assisting her at trade shows, tracking inventory, and helping her cover all of the meetings she had with vendors and other jewelers.
I developed a love for jewelry and had always wanted to move to Los Angeles, so when I met a Beverly Hills jeweler who offered to move me out to work for him I didn’t think twice.
During the next nine years, I worked for a variety of people in a number of capacities in the jewelry business -– from making loans and sales for a high-end pawn broker to opening and running an antique jewelry boutique.
Working for other people could be challenging at times, but I realize now how fortunate I was to have so much varied experience and to be able to learn from both the successes and failures of others.
I knew I wanted to go into business for myself, so I attended a diamond certification course at the Gemology Institute of America (GIA) in New York before returning to Los Angeles to go out on my own.
Becoming a gemologist gave me the knowledge about how to grade diamonds thoroughly and gave me credibility in the jewelry business with other jewelers and clients.
As I contemplated opening my own store, I thought about how much time women spend in the hair salon with nothing to do while they waited. I found a salon in Beverly Hills that had space available and began my business, Andrea Groussman Fine Jewelry.
Being located in the salon not only kept the overhead costs down, but provided an automatic audience for my jewelry.
Meeting new people every day helped me to establish a loyal client base, which eventually enabled me to leave the salon and work by appointment only in order to create more privacy and intimacy for my customers.
To me, jewelry is part of a person’s individual style. Aside from having my line of jewelry that I sell, I also custom make fine jewelry based on my client’s vision and personal taste.
I believe that my business is more than making and selling jewelry. I create jewelry wardrobes with people over time.
I know every item that each of my clients has purchased and I feel like I have a special talent in matching people with jewelry.
I never pressure clients to buy -- its not about the sale, but about finding the right piece for the right person, kind of like jewelry matchmaking!
I am very direct and will tell someone if a piece isn’t right for them. That philosophy is reflected in my pricing as well. I prefer to make lower margins and repeat sales rather than relying on holidays, special occasions and one time sales.
Making my clients happy is what gives me the greatest satisfaction.
Some guidelines that have helped my business succeed:
Relationships are Key: My business wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t for the special relationships I have with my clients. I take the time to get to know them, their lifestyles and their tastes. I consider them friends as well as clients. I do establish clear boundaries in terms of my business policies so that there are never any grey areas and I don’t make exceptions for anyone because I respect all of the people I work with equally.
My clients know they can trust me, and that is very important. My relationship also extends to their significant others who are comfortable calling me when they need something special for their partners. They know I will pick the perfect item because I have taken the time to get to know them.
I am also never in a relationship with someone just to have them as a client. If the person is especially difficult or disrespectful or we just don’t have good chemistry, I refer them to someone else. This is something I learned in the very beginning and a rule that I have consistently followed.
Integrity: I think that the universe takes care of you if you are forthright, truthful and honest both with yourself and others. I come from a place of integrity in dealing with both my clients and my suppliers. Trust and mutual respect creates a win/win situation.
Eliminate Unnecessary Stress: My approach to the business side is simple: purchase, resell, and reinvest. I think it’s important to pay for inventory upfront so that I don’t overextend myself. This keeps work low-stress which is important to me because it allows me to focus on the creative and personal level of my business, which is what I enjoy.
Giving Back: I feel blessed to have great clients and to really love what I do. It makes me feel good to make someone’s life better if I’m in a position to do so. I always take a portion of what I earn to help those less fortunate. I love to do house parties for my clients and their friends in which I donate a percentage of the sales to the charity of their choice.
Attitude Counts: I don’t think anyone can be successful if they operate from a place of fear. You have to be confident in yourself, your abilities and the product you are offering. Coming from a place of love, creativity and appreciation creates abundance and success financially and emotionally.
Are you thinking of starting your own business? Are you an entrepreneur who has some of your own tips for success that you'd like to pass on? Share your story in the comments section below.
Andrea Groussman was born in Denver, Colorado and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, BA Communications. She attended GIA in New York and is certified in diamonds. Andrea has had her own Jewelry business for 12 years, Andrea Groussman Fine Jewelry, where she custom makes fine jewelry from individually chosen precious stones and diamonds.