Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at A Gilded Leaf and how you got started?
My name is Isabelle, and I am a co-founder of A Gilded Leaf. We sell minimal, classic essential fine jewelry, which includes rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets in our collection. We specialize in engagement rings and wedding rings, with and without diamonds and precious and semi-precious stones.
Having worked in a corporate setting in NYC for some time, we often had a hard time finding accessories that matched our "dress to impress" outfits, especially if there were work/social parties that followed. We found that our peers often were in the same predicament. So in 2015, we started our company with a mission to provide quality fine jewelry at affordable prices.
Our designs are inspired by the working woman, the everyday boss, the ladies who handle business by day and home by night. From custom-designed engagement rings to colorful everyday rings, we use nothing but quality materials for our jewelry. If someone is shopping for an engagement ring, they’re going to be looking at it for a long time. We want people to love it years down the road just as much as they did the day they bought it.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
At first we took inspiration from Pinterest boards and Instagram posts and saw what was popular and trendy. At the time, we didn’t know any better and thought that if we made what was popular, people would just come. We learned that that was not the case.
Since then, we’ve started to develop and roll-out collections, versus a product that stands by itself. For example, when we create a line of engagement rings, we have to develop a collection of wedding bands to match each one.
How did you get your first sale?
Definitely through word of mouth. With zero prior experience in sales and very little capital to launch our business, we decided to reach out to our network of family and friends. After all, these were people who wanted to see us succeed.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
The biggest lesson I learned was that there are a lot of things you can do yourself, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. After launching, we spent the next few months tweaking the site, fixing and re-fixing product photos, writing and re-writing copy, and doing all those tasks that take a lot of time but must be done.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it takes a substantial toll on time. The thing is, if we had hired someone to do these things, it would maybe have cost around $1,000, but we would have been months ahead of schedule and had a much more professional appearance from the start.
So figure out what you’re good at, do those things, and get help with the rest.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
Since we run our business online as a direct-to-consumer brand (less markups!), the ability to create a clean, easy-to-navigate, and pretty website that didn’t take much customization has been imperative to our success.
Having worked with Shopify in our previous job, sticking with the platform was a no-brainer. It’s user friendly, and the gurus are wonderful.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
Unfortunately, just because you have a website, doesn’t mean people will know about it. When we first started, there were long stretches of $0 days, making us second-guess our efforts and wonder if we were doing the right thing.
My advice would be to start your marketing strategy when you’re in the beginning stages. It’s really as simple as sharing your page with friends and family. It doesn’t need to take months of planning to get something built and to start getting traction.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
* Privy - for email pop-ups
* Shippo - for mailing labels and invoice creation.
* Snapppt – for adding shoppable links by clicking on the pictures from my Instagram Feed on my website
* Product Questions Answers – for adding a button on a product page and making it easy for a customer to email us directly
* Tracktor by ShopPad – for allowing our customers to track the status of their order. All of our jewelry is made to order, and can take anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. This app makes it easy for us to mark where we are in its production stage.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow A Gilded Leaf?
We started on the organic side, reaching out to our network of friends and family. Now our traffic comes mostly from social media, though we are still working towards audience growth. Lately, we’ve seen an uptick in followers when we’re working with influencers who share the same target audience.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
In our mission for transparency, we definitely try to give our customers as much information as we can, even if they haven’t asked for it. There’s a lot of value in an informed customer - communication keeps customers engaged and educated, which sparks repeat business. So we’ll email them, we’ll call them, we’ll text them if we have to.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
Our business was founded in 2015, but officially launched in 2016. Over the last couple of years, we have seen our numbers increase steadily. From 2016 to 2018, we’ve seen an increase of almost 6x in revenue. This was due to a 45% increase in store visits and a 42% increase in order volume.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
One thing we can attribute our growth to is hard work and our willingness to keep at it. We have faith in our products and our customers. We truly believe that what we make and provide is quality fine jewelry and we stand by our mission.
What are you working towards now?
2018 has been a busy year so far because we have just launched our engagement ring collection, with plans to grow next year! We're no Tiffany's, or Blue Nile, or even James Allen, but the difference between those big companies and us is that we hand-make all our jewelry in-house in our NYC studio. The whole process, from start to finish, is cared and handled by our own hands.
Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
Shopify Masters Podcast – the podcast is very informational and I get to hear how the interviewees built, launched, and grew their business.
Shopify Blog - shopify’s blog providing tips on ecommerce marketing, running an online business, and interviews on business owners.
How I Built This Podcast - inspiring podcast with stories behind some of the world's best known companies.
As for resources where I can search and get answers, are in Facebook groups, Reddit, Pinterest, and the ladies at my local Post Office :)
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. I do this all the time. I think “wow. they are so amazing and so successful, why am I not there?” And then I remember that they have been doing it for many years and have a whole team behind them.
Never compare yourself to brands/companies that are at a different stage. It is discouraging and not productive. Instead, be willing to put in the work. I think one of the key characteristics entrepreneurs need is grit. Owning a business is gritty and messy and you just have to be willing to do that work.
Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. So it’s important to take care of yourself and make sure you’re fit to be in it for the long-haul.
Great! Where can we learn more?
~ Isabelle Tan (with Co-Founder Sara Beznicki, Left)