We love to share stories about entrepreneurs, and yes, we admittedly have a bias towards women entrepreneurs. Last week, we talked about OMG and their Gold Glitter Floor. This week, SB Louisville Editor Heidi Potter goes behind the scenes for a look at W&M Jewelry, a company whose baubles are instantly recognizable across the South, and whose founders took a desire to re-enter the workforce and a great idea and built a national brand:

An earring here, a cuff there, a slew of bangles…

W&M Jewelry is sprinkled like fairy dust all over the ladies and boutiques of Louisville, and now across the entire nation. Their baubles are instantly recognizable. Their jewelry pops up with regularity on our SB Finds, our fashion stories and gift guides. Many times, people will say “Is that a Megan?” or “Is that a Becky?” without even referring to W&M, for everyone knows the women behind W&M: Megan Walz and Becky McClellan.

Seven years into their business, they sat down with me and we reflected on the growth of their business, their success, their failures and their advice for others thinking about starting and growing a business. The best part about this assignment was not just collaborating with these ladies, but also getting to try on and touch every piece of jewelry their studio.

As most business partners do, Megan and Becky began as friends. They had a mutual friend from Megan’s hometown of Danville, Kentucky, who introduced them and it was an instant friendship. They were just starting out having kids and were adjusting to the new lifestyle that motherhood brings. They often discussed what they would do when they went back to work and decided that they wanted to go into business together, but they were not sure what that business was.

One year, Megan gave Becky a beautiful necklace she had made for her birthday. Megan’s jewelry creations started when she was young, making jewelry as a child and selling her creations at the swimming pool. They both loved design work, everything from homes to fashion. Jewelry was going to be their business.

From the time they made the decision to make jewelry to the time they actually went into business was fast: five months. That required buying inventory, learning skills and laying the foundations of their business. They knew immediately that they wanted to be more than trunk shows and home parties at friends’ homes. They wanted to sell in boutiques all over town.

The vision for their lines was simple. They wanted to make jewelry that was versatile, that they wanted to wear themselves. They knew women wanted jewelry that they could wear to a soccer game, as well as to a cocktail party, that was also affordable.

They hit the ground running. They cold-called all the boutiques in town and had all of them selling their jewelry EXCEPT one. (That one boutique would only sell earrings for a flat rate of $29 and that didn’t work for W&M.)

Their personalities come into play in this partnership. Both ladies are confident and ambitious and, most importantly, are great with people. Megan is the Queen of the Ask. She can go in anywhere, anytime, product in hand and walk out with a new client.

Becky muses that she would stand there silently as Megan did her magic. Becky takes over from there once the account is established, handling the business end of it. They both agree whole-heartedly that customer service is the crux of their business.

Flexiblity with their product is a huge reason behind their success. A boutique will mention that yellow is trending in their clothes and ask W&M to create necklaces in that color to coordinate. W&M will go to market with that color in mind when looking for beads or other semi-precious stones. (Insider tip: this spring, it’s all about yellow jade).

Their most successful product has been earrings, specifically any matte gold earrings or bezels. Currently, their most successful product is their long chain necklace, mainly because of its versatility. Their course has not been without a few pitfalls, though. But luckily, if a new line is not successful, most of the product can be repurposed.
At the end of their first year of business in 2006, they decided to expand to Lexington and then to Nashville. After that they were in Greenville, South Carolina. Now W&M is sold nationally, but the company’s growth has been slow and organic, so they could maintain the personal relationships they have built with the stores and the customers.

Remember that these ladies have five children between them. Running a small business with a family is no small feat and they definitely have learned how to establish a balance that was right for them. They have great advice for women thinking of starting their own business or getting back into the workforce:

Decide whether you want a hobby or a business. If you want to run a business you have to be 100% focused and dedicated to making unique product that is in demand while also making a profit. Be prepared for lots of trial and error and be prepared to work 3x harder than you do now, but know it is all worth it in the end.

Let’s get back to the real matter at hand, shall we: the product. What are their favorites?

Most of all, their favorite thing about W&M Jewelry is that they  “love making people feel confident about themselves.” And that, they do well. Bravo ladies, for a job well done.

W&M Jewelry is sold in Nashville at Stacey Rhodes Boutique and Monkee’s. Outside of Nashville, locations can be found here. You can also order on their website: http://wandmjewelry.com.

Thank you to our photographer Adele Reding for her beautiful work. To see more of her portfolio, check out our regular FACES of Louisville articles, where Adele showcases her work each Monday, or her website http://adeleredingphotography.com.