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Oct. 4, 2022

All Up In: Living the Hyphen, Jewelry Making, & Leadership with Viviana Langhoff

All Up In: Living the Hyphen, Jewelry Making, & Leadership with Viviana Langhoff

In today’s episode, I’m joined by Viviana Langhoff, accomplished fine jeweler and owner of award-winning jewelry store Adornment + Theory. We go on a journey through Viviana’s experience as a Puerto Rican-American with a passion for creativity and the arts, including the art of business.

We also discuss:

  • Living the hyphen as a Puerto Rican-American
  • Creating purpose and opportunities for employees
  • The critical role community plays in our lives and our endeavors
  • The myth of the self-made person
  • Viviana’s everyday business principles
  • The truth about lab-grown diamonds

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Music. Welcome to all up in my lady business I am your host Mary nisi on this podcast all explore the fine line between having it together I'm losing your shit. Here I share my journey as an entrepreneur a mom a wife a DJ and randomly a beekeeper. I have no shame and no filter except the ones I use on Instagram. My stories of resilience a little structure and a lot of resource Wellness can show you how to take those same things and live your life with your whole ass. Thanks for listening. Welcome today to this episode I have the fantabulous is that is that a word I'll take it Viviana lying off she has a. She is an accomplished fine Jeweler and proud owner of the adornment and Theory Vivillon is known for her designs of intricate metalwork modern Bridal Styles and one-of-a-kind pieces featuring unexpected Hughes antique stones and historical reference borrowing from the worlds of Fine Art and cultural adornment and design her custom work appeals to the expressive and open-minded individual those who value individuality creative collaboration and are unafraid to stand out she has been designing these pieces for over 14 years and is now starting her fifth year and her award-winning brick-and-mortar jewelry store adornment and theory that is quite the Bayou so Viviana hi. What makes you tick who are you oh Lord let the let the good people out in pod world my dozens of listeners. Here your freaky flag flying okay all right so so so we where were you born alright so I was born in Puerto Rico. And I was raised in Florida so I stay in Florida because we moved around a lot so before coming to Chicago Miami was home. That's what high school and everything else and so you remember Puerto Rico like were you, I mean I was we moved to Mainland when I was two or three but like most immigrant families you go back every summer as soon as school's over we're back over there and you spend like 3 months there. How so I mean I know it like the back of my hand my family's there so it's home it's home in it in a different way right it has a different texture I think a lot of people. Feel that way like if you spent like a full summer with your grandparents right and like Montana you like no Montana pretty well right so yeah it's very similar to that no it is like yeah so do you feel like. What you get in the US you can also get there like is it do you feel the same like us presence in Puerto Rico that you, I sort of feel like well absolutely I mean it is I mean it's u.s. territory right so we have the same currency our education system is both in English and Spanish but it's english-based I mean we you know the US. Made a deal with us like you know there are military bases there and everything else so like in a lot of ways it is American but there's a phrase and a lot of people kind of, resonate with it which is called like living in the hyphen meaning like if you share dual cultures so indian-american, Puerto Rican American this and that and it's just like you never quite feel fully American and you never fully quite feel sometimes your culture is so Puerto Rico has a really unique history and identity in that way because we do consider ourselves a country right but we are also very proud of being an American and and having. You know that dual citizenship and that way but there are things that you know. U.s. history and US policy like you know it was illegal for us to fly our flag up until you know the 40s or 50s and really yeah because it was it was viewed as resistance and then obviously like now you see the flags everywhere right and there's a lot of pride in that. But I digress I mean I could really like kind of go on a tailspin because right now you know to crystallize this podcast and Amber. You know we just had hurricane Fiona hit almost exactly five years since hurricane Maria hit. And infrastructure again funds that were allocated to government entities and to us companies to fix our infrastructure where again. Um embezzled or miss or yeah Miss manage I mean you mean that when Donald Trump just threw everybody some paper towels that wasn't enough to like hold the country back together right yeah well I actually heard that the other day on the news they're like saying like even though Fiona's hitting and it's ruining everything there's still people waiting for stuff from from Maria and I'm not surprised because it's not like. It's like the pandemic was in there and there's just general mismanagement was the name of the Trump game when what true but also the island I mean the thing is you know I'm a big believer that when there's a dance everyone needs to take responsibility for some things right so there are things within the Puerto Rican government that were corrupted mismanaged as well you know and if you put people like I'm. Very big on good leadership leadership is something that I study that is something that. I think really great leadership heels communities it's true you know and the thing is just like. You see one terrible Administration that's all it takes right you know like us we only had a taste of looking at the interaction and everything like in 4 years how much. Argument might just a cent in our country right from poor leadership and from people being greedy or. I mean Liz rewriting the laws and not theirs I mean it's as a consummate rule-follower it like is very frustrating to watch how that. Not following rules in like living with different kind of facts and now is your family affected by Maria did you have, so my immediate family is in the mainland so no but my extended family isn't yes I mean but everybody has generators and everything else I mean, at this point people are prepared like the Puerto Rican people have a deep distrust of government you know which I. So do we write you know but the thing is at the end of the day we don't believe that there's going to be someone that's going to come, so it's really community-based right so it's like the cleanup efforts it's every neighbor its if somebody has power on people go to their house to charge their phones you know every bit is very Grassroots Community Based On A lot of things have been shifting and moving in the island politically and you see that even with you know Bad Bunny is one of the most famous you know artist in the world right now and all of his music for the most part is about Puerto Rico and its really like telling the history of like the last five six years politically and I love that he's using his platform his creativity is artistry to just shed some light on that and I love that he's Unapologetic about where he's from or who he like he's not he's not trying to make. Anglicized music for y Pino he sings in Spanish yeah he's like I don't give a fuck and I will tell you like that as like a because I'm on the front line of the dancing community and and it's you know it's he's huge right now like he's made it to the point now where everyone's requesting him like everyone is I think he's like the number one artist and in the world and what's funny is like I do they say explicit on them and I don't speak Spanish so I don't know and so I'm like is it okay if I play explicit music is in a foreign language I'm like wow that's some. That's some bullshit Mary you shall we should not play. Songs that are explicit because someone there can hear it and I might be kids there that speak Spanish and so I have to bed but he does have a whole lot of songs that don't have swearing and then miss her but that said how. And I'm sure this isn't the first time that you've had like a storms and things like that that have kind of you know galvanized and having to show the leadership and understanding how government can or can't help you how did that inform your life. Because I would say that of. I mean I know you as a business owner and I as your yet another 10K SB graduate who's been on this show had so many yes and the leadership is something that you really. Talked a lot about and really feel in your heart and you real that's really huge part of who you are is like leadership and I would love to talk about how you brought that kind because you I feel like leaders are most are born like you can take some classes and things like that but how do you feel like your leadership has. Impacted who you were like even as like a young person and then when you made your decision to come here to go to to go to school leadership is really big for me but I would say just, to kind of give some context to the origin of like why that is for me that really comes from a biblical orientation my faith is very foundational to who I am I wouldn't call myself. In any stretch of the imagination a Evangelical or typical Christian whatsoever I think I think on papers maybe some Christians wouldn't call me a Christian. I'm okay with that I'll wear it as a badge of honor But ultimately there is a sentiment whether you are. Jewish Christian or even Muslim and its servant leadership. And that real leadership is serving your community right the heart of it is that your ego would die because the thing is that the God has given you. These giftings not for you but to love and bless others right like he made you a leader because he knows that you can. Help other people yes but I also I also take the stance of leadership that everybody's leader, I don't think it's a born thing I think it's an acceptance thing and actually kind of want to read it's one of my favorite quotes from Parker Palmer Parker Palmer is an absolutely phenomenal author and who are they. Parker Palmer he wouldn't be a theologian I would put him. More in a wisdom tradition his background he pulls from a lot of different faiths but he just writes like essays or like little synopses there beautiful but this is a grouping of letters that he wrote about leadership the quote is this everyone who draws breath takes the lead many times a day. We lead with our actions arranged from a smile to a frown with words that range from blessing to a curse. With decisions that range from faithful to fearful when I resist thinking of myself as a leader it is neither because of modesty nor clear-eyed look at the reality of my life. I am responsible for my impact on the world whether I acknowledge it or not so what does it take to qualify as a leader. Being Human and being here and as long as I am here doing whatever I'm doing I'm leading for better or worse and if I may say so so are you. So that that is a quote that I love and. I would say like even the women who I have the privilege to coach and and. Go toe-to-toe with in my business something I say a lot is that we are all. Cultural Architects every single citizen is building the future of the country of our community of our families that we want to see and it is when someone starts relinquishing the fact that they're like oh I don't have any say in this or I have no agency you know apathy is also a choice every choices is conscious in some way so it's like if you're like oh I'm not going to participate in this you're making it cool right if you're being apathetic you're making a call your silence is just as impactful as your voice right you know you. We've seen that messaging throughout Wars throughout the Civil Rights Movement silence is just as impactful and plays just as deep of role and the way the course of history. You know rolls up yeah so I that's where I'm like when some people are like some people are leaders and some people are followers of this and that I don't I don't like that, Dynamic so much I mean I think that there are times like people take the lead in different times it is an interesting concept it may be switch the word leader and just talk about ownership right oh well yeah there's having like an ownership mentality so that whatever task is put before you whether it's washing dishes, caring for your child leading a summit meeting that you're doing it fully and you're fully present knowing that, what you're doing is important because you are important and also everything you do affects everybody else around you you don't you don't you don't live in a vacuum and we're not an island to ourselves we're part of an archipelago we are completely connected underneath the water. Everything affects everything and like I actually was talking with another of another female business owner earlier on today who is, this kick at she she actually owns up she's a band she was talking about how she wants to get a paddle that says or on it ownership accountability and responsibility and if you are not doing any of those three you get hit with it sounds like a girl but that is the Crux of leadership as ownership accountability and responsibility and then getting everybody else to also buy in, to those three concepts because when you've got people working for you you need them to take ownership of what they're doing be accountable and take responsibility for things or else the oars won't be all rowing in the same direction in the boat we'll just go in a circle I agree but I think as a leader for myself all those things are important right like with, the women in my life accountability ownership all those things are important but I need them to know their purpose and Worth right at the end of the day they need to know that that work is purposeful and it's building towards something that's not just for my benefit but for theirs as well right you know I even tell people sometimes you know when they work for me it's like I know that brass tacks like I own a jewelry store we make fine luxury jewelry right you're not curing cancer. No neither am I I love what I do and I believe that I have a gifting and creativity and art and it brings richness into the world and culture but if I lose sight of humanity that were polishing brass on the Titanic all of this is going down anyway and ultimately at the end of the day, I believe that I will be held accountable for how I've treated people and how have Steward of their hearts right so when I have an employee or somebody who's interested in working for me. I actually almost start from the end I'm just like every job has a shelf life. You would hope somebody stays longer with that's great if I'm a good Mentor you're going to outgrow me at some point so what skills can I build into you so when you walk away from this experience. You walk away a better person and I actually say that to them. You know it's like what do you actually want do you want to learn how to read pnls do you want to learn how to sell better do you want to grow more in confidence do you want to know gem knowledge do you want to figure out how to maybe build your own business in the future or. Do you just need some peace have you just had six years of a fucking chaotic job experience. And you just want peace you want to be like sell pretty things and make people happy right but everybody has a different need and my thing is. I seek to be attuned with the people that you know I'm shoulder-to-shoulder with so. I like I have to Define what I need right like as business owners were always like okay so here our objectives who are Clarity but it's like what do we need like really really distilling that down right and it's like. I need people who are trustworthy you know I need people who you know are there word I tell them like something I'm allergic to I'm allergic to All Around blame mmm-hmm blame is lying I hear a mile away. When someone. Blame somebody else their equipment their team yeah like that for me is like a red flag was not taking responsibility yeah I mean it's like if something goes wrong I don't care why it went wrong just fix it yes like it's I mean it's like I'll also I mean I've said this before I hate when people say that's not my job like it's like like I. You know what you do it and we'll figure out a compensation for it later or you know there's its. Anyway where do you think you learned that. What is it mean it is the servant leadership where do you think you learned like empowering your employees and like starting at the end because that's a beaut I've never I've never thought about that and that's such an interesting way to come at it and probably. A way to really because then they realize how invested you are under their entire person and like and you're able to actually. Have them do the things they want to do versus like you know like my son hates. Brushing his teeth and like getting to brush his teeth it's like the worst fucking thing you would you would think I was at he is autistic he's got a lot of sensory stuff so it might actually be the brushing his teeth does feel like he's grinding you know diamond or shards of glass in his mouth and he can't verbalize what it feels like but how do you get them to do it how you get them to do things they don't want to do or, my husband can't he does nothing about music you know be like me trying to force him like figure out this Coldplay fans taste in music and make stuff you know like he couldn't do it so. These are bad examples but it probably helps you figure out exactly what we're good at and not trying to force them to do the things they don't want to do yeah so, that was all very beautiful that was actually really solid business advice you graduate from high school you come to Chicago for college and you go to the Art Institute yes. So I did you come in with jewelry and mind I didn't actually came in for fashion specifically like it was like a dream I really wanted to do costume design for film so I wanted to do like. The more avant-garde like I really loved a lot of sci-fi movies like you know like Blade Runner helmet oh my gosh Blade Runner has like the best costumes like that's like the best costumes yeah and I wanted to do things kind of like of. That genre and when it comes to high fashion which I loved I was like Galiano and like afford all that well anyway. And up at Art School first off this is, saic one top art schools in the country and in the world people fly in all the time to go you know they're Central Saint Martins London or whatever and it's just all Theory it's very very heavily theory-based and lacks and a lot of. Practical skill and craft and I think a lot of people who go to Art School can kind of like. Resonate with that so I started fashion and I sucked at it I just not not the design but the construction at the actual sewing of things yeah I mean everybody finds their medium and, I just didn't have the patience I can do it I can sell a garment now but it's just I just don't have the patience deep rage every time I mess something up and then so I also needed to take like millinery classes which is hat making shoes this and that and then I had to take a small Metals class and it was I was like a fish to water I love it you found it like yes is me like this is me it is. It's painstakingly about patients you mess up all the time people melt things setting Stones you break but there's just there was something about it that it's just like my hands my body my mind like everything flowed really well so they're just there are several mediums that I currently play in, just flow really well like I love doing murals sketches design I design a lot of different objects whether you know like. T-shirts are did a collaboration with Hopewell and you know designing like a beer can for them so I do love design as a baseline or marketing that's a very natural like storytelling is very not like you never want to hire this bitch to like. Do Ceramics like I'll make you like a 10-pound bug it's gonna like chip your lip like I suck but yes so that's how I ended up. Doing metals and then I did large-scale I did welding. And found myself back to two small metals and jewelry so you graduate and did you do you work in a store how did you how did you find yourself in. Like actually making stuff professionally yeah I mean I was I was working back of house for jewelry stores, on Wabash Avenue so really like on Duncan diamond or Julia's Road Jeweler's if you were like the wind like fixing things and yeah so all the other like Latinos this is like is it mostly Latinos back there. So I mean the jewelry industry is really interesting they like to pad their numbers internationally and say it's diverse. But just like most things in the United States it's predominantly white facing the industry is mainly made up of Indian Jewish. And then white Indian like on the on the front of house side or on the just a net over on the print on the gun like a top down. Overall so for instance you know he have a lot of stuff I mean almost every Stone comes from India that country has such a rich and amazing history with jewelry but it's almost everything comes out of there like the like the the stones they signed the stones in India gemstones okay I mean they're all over the world I mean Sri Lanka India Thailand Montana Montana has happened you know the US has a reserve of gorgeous turquoise you know like we take it for granted or we think it's so common Black Hills Gold yeah yeah there's like a lot of you know Brazil is also a huge you know producer of a lot of gemstones yeah and then Jews have a really rich history as well within the diamond industry if you go to New York and you go the Diamond District you know a lot of Orthodox Jews work within yeah that industry as well and then but when it comes to the US store owners designers. Lot of white white women run that and then Latinos are typically. Back of house and yeah I mean like most most most businesses and do you and as I mean so your doodoo find there's a lot of white women or just women in general that are, that are in the that are in the design and of things yes that's interesting I would not have thought that really well I mean just I feel like women are never predominantly in anything other than like pink collar jobs like I feels like when when we colored jobs I haven't heard that really no I'm done yeah like nurses and nail salons you know things like that are just generally women gendered yeah so you're working back at house you're fixing jewelry you're learning. Probably gleaning some business how to do and how not to do a lot of things because I would have to imagine there's a lot of cutthroat honest. In the world of jewelry there's a lot of just terrible practices in general it's a very old-school industry there's a lot of misogyny there is a lot of racism it's tribalism you know. People like to do business with in their own cultures they do you know cross-cultural business I think it's just like it takes time to kind of build rapport which is normal for anyone but women designers are women who do, business within the jewelry industry that's really been only as of the last like 30 years typically within the jewelry industry and I'm talking Fine Jewelry. People are coming in as families so for myself I am. Minority of minorities as an independent jewelry store owner that is a woman of color. Like self-made 100% like you didn't have like De Beers money behind you so you could create like a vanity label for your people like something that I cannot stand is when people like to say phrases like that they were self-made they started from nothing this and that and like reveal your sources it is discouraging it is a lie and it is disservice to people because you want to serve up a really. Sparkly palatable inspiring bootstrapping all fucking American story like Kendra Scott like she like I started with nothing her boyfriend, was wealthy and funded her oh really it's there's nothing wrong here, I do not villainize well yeah I don't tell the story but don't tell the story of being self made a few you know the thing is I'm not self-made I'm Community made I did not Sir with money but let me tell you I have. Friends that helped pitch in and work my store when I was exhausted I had like you and other friends and community members that's like when they knew I was open for their first year came and purchased you know like I am Community made and I poured into relationships and those relationships have poured back into me and to like I just I it is such a disservice it's so fucking I mean was it gross something it's an American thing an American thing and it's just like I came from nothing I started with ten thousand dollars ten thousand dollars is a lot of money it is a lot of money where did the ten thousand dollars come from say it. I had an inheritance my parents gave me alone those are all great now how you've stewarded that in Grown it that's the real story, you know but I yes I have a real allergen too. Well I mean I mean even just the idea of self-made millionaire like what they've or when they've got like when it when it's like they've got a factory and I did this all myself and it's like well I don't know the public schools that educated the kids that now work for you and the roads you wrote on in the planes you took to get places that were run by the I mean it's like you aren't you're never self-made like even if you did come from nothing you still benefited from write the collective but what's inspiring to people and what is actually. Transferable skill is really saying okay so how did you Stewart $20 how did you Stewart a million dollars right like you look at celebrities or people who've come from means you know Hilton family or whatever they have a track record of failed businesses as well so money is not your guarantee right but there is a shrewdness a steward you know like it's strategy like people some people have a business on mine why did Jessica Alba's. You know Honest Company grow she really had a vision she honed it in and she's leading a full team of people right she probably start out with the same amount of money as gosh you're a whatever right you know you can name. A zillion failed experiments from other people who've come from me and so the thing is just like instead of focusing on the grittiness the mentality like the strategy that they took like. I don't like it when people start with like I came from nothing, then here I am I'm like okay okay man well I am but also like I mean that's not even taking into consideration just like the unearned privilege you just have by being white or a man or pretty or you know it is the things that can get you further. Long I actually saw something recently on Twitter where it was like when people talk about their privilege they need to start qualifying it with unearned or to kind of show like it's like yeah I've got privilege by dint of being my but it's all unearned like I didn't I didn't earn. It's amazing how much people don't like hearing the word privilege anyway I mean I think at the end of the day it's like we're all dealt different cards right you know like and I personally take the stance that I believe God made no mistake. And how he made me I am a woman I'm Puerto Rican descent I live in the United States of America in the year 2022 what am I going to do with that. I think it's an honor I love who I am and I want to Walk Through This World With Dignity and compassion and. Fucking kick an ass you know like I don't want to apologize for that but I am conscious of the body that I'm walking into in different situations they don't need to write my history I need to know for myself who I am, right so it's like when I'm walking into a business deal with you know an Orthodox Jewish Family I'm not offended if they don't look at me in the eye but you know what they're going to give me a good deal. Well not walking I'm not walking away from this table, you know because you know yeah because you know what you're worth you're not going to walk away from a deal feeling taken advantage of because but because of their history the thing is I've educated myself on their culture now they choose live in ignorance and they choose to not educate themselves on my culture and like I know your perception of women I know what it's like you know like how you. Want to make a deal with me it's like well brother I do I did the research so I'm. Getting my snacks out and we're going to sit down we're going to Hash this out and I'm going to walk away with a deal like a full grown white man and I have no apologies for it do you ever walk away from the deal and be like this is bullshit. All the time but I think that's all deals yeah you know you always have to be able to walk away there's nothing I want that badly you know I'm not desperate. I'm not and the fact that I really do believe that like there is more than enough. Like one person doesn't hold the key or cards to anything there's a scripture verse that says God owns the cattle on a thousand hills meaning like. God is the supplier of all things right and it's like. You're desperate at a restaurant for this one meal from this one chef and you don't look around and walk out of the restaurant realize. There's food everywhere you go to someone else's home you can go to another restaurant you can make your own right and it's kind of the same deal like. One vendor does not hold a diamond that I need you no one curator at a museum doesn't hold the future of my career. So I kind of approach I mean that's where that is I mean you're wearing a shirt that says abundance and is it visit actually No Lack, it does just from Trap House Chicago so that's my shout out to them that is something that's also been on my mind a lot lately is just the idea of abundance thinking and not coming from a place of fear and like and if place a flag. And so it feels like you really embody that like in a real in a real way like. You are one of the more giving people that I've ever met in my life so you so here you okay so you how did you get from working the back of the house too owning one of the the number one jewelry storage Chicago according to the Chicago Reader thank you Chicago Reader I mean this was you know a longer road so we're talking about the time spans of around 10 years so worked back of house fine jewelry store I found it really boring for the fact that I don't really actually care that much about diamonds or fine jewelry and I found everything looked exactly the same. And I'm an artist first and foremost I even see businesses are. I don't see this as a business like it is a form of Art and creativity and expression I've actually got a management position I managed a jewelry store in the West Loop and that was a cat-tastrophe the. You know sometimes your learning is. Witnessing a train wreck what not to do what not to do right you know so you kind of back up into like alright well these are all the things I'm not going to do so I worked for, a person who what I witnessed and what as a 23 24 year-old never dealt with their emotional health. Never dealt with their internal selves and it just spilled out everywhere the chaos and the business was reflection of the chaos of what was going on internally for that person and I left there and. Did jewelry on my own I did a lot of custom a lot of my customers through people at church and you know it's very inexpensive this and that but I mean I laugh sometimes of how people trusted me like let's meet at Starbucks and I'll show you some diamonds like it still boggles my mind I'm like and thank you so much for people who like took a leap of faith. On someone really young and you know I was producing engagement rings for them on the side and then. I went on and managed another jewelry store for several years in art jewelry store so it was a little bit more conceptual work alternative materials like. Just think of what like zany Museum yeah or women you know like with horn-rimmed glasses and like fuzzy sky like Iris apfel oh she's cooler than some of these women yeah I love Iris apfel but yeah you know just like really like eccentric like art you know art women. And on the side just kind of saving coin and my husband and I so at 29 we purchase our first home and when we purchase our first home. We used our retirement which we didn't have much you know we put and then. One of my parents was able to give us a little bit to secure the house we got the least expensive house in. Chicago at the time and it needed a ton of repair work and we were just young and super joyful and grateful so we lived in this house it was an income property. That's your attendance when you were 29 yeah wow yeah so that is really because what really handicapped us is the fact that we had a ton of student loan debt yeah and that's another component right you know it's like. If you're bogged down with over a hundred thousand dollars worth of, student loan debt and combined income you're making less than 50,000 dollars is a couple like you know it's and you're trying to be faithful like I want to be compliant I'm not one of these yeah it's like let me just ignore my debts yes no I'm like, let's put everything out on the table Eyes Wide Open how the fuck we're going to get out of this it's a hundred thousand dollars combined or you individuals over girl combined was over a hundred and thirty thousand dollars a student loan debt. Yeah for art school bananas our system is broken just as deeply deeply broken preach so all that to say use the funds from the home and I love Michael I love that he. Has always taken a chance on me he's like you're incredible. And he you know he's I could tell he's a little nervous but it's all calculated risk is like yeah go for it you know so you haven't you haven't failed yet so I mean my my business plan was sparkly an amazing and it was like oh I'm going to start I need a hundred and twenty thousand dollars to start you know we started with less than 28,000. For to start the dermis with your yeah. We start at so and I share numbers openly because I think it's again I think it's important for people to know where people are coming from and how things are built so, 28 is a lot of money that is a lot of money but just to give you context of like what. What oh every you know we would have you had 28 thousand in cash when you when you went to find the space to put this the store in so for build out and everything 20,000. Inventory you know office supplies everything and is jewelry a thing that you can like design on spec where you're like basically it's like okay I'm just gonna throw out numbers is it a thing where like you're designing a ring that you know can retail for fifteen thousand dollars okay and you know that the stone alone is 3,000 and the metals going to be. Thousand so the raw material is 5000 did I need those numbers right sure okay whatever so it's five thousand dollars in raw material you know your spent three thousand dollars in this thing you don't have to thousand dollars is it a thing where you can be like, I need the deposit to cover the cost of the diamonds that you can buy the diamond actually so you're drawing it saying this thing's going to be 15,000 dollars and then the deposits help pay for the raw materials so you're not having to like totally new the deposit to pay for costs something that my father said to me you know from the beginning and I absolutely agree with that so in in Spanish the word for business is negocios. Negocios like I'm not gonna go she ate initiations that's our actual that's what we're doing every single day you are negotiating that is an actual job so. When I opened the business and there are several times and I'm like I don't know how to do this vendors or this or that my my dad didn't have the funds but he's just like, this is your job now your job is to negotiate. Negotiate your ass out of this so it's like okay or there are certain artists I'm like I really want you in the store I know that your minimum to purchase your work is ten thousand dollars it's like I have 1500 and I I said to almost all my artist I'm like, bet on me like bet on me like it's not me your money if you give you give me your pieces. In the next three months is the holidays I'm going to put cash in your bra like. That on me and I did for every single person at the end of our first holiday season which was what year. 2017 okay every time I got to write a check. To an artist for their work I was literally praising the Lord it felt amazing it felt amazing, because that's the thing it's we're in an ecosystem right it's not just for like me to be able to survive but I'm also supplying work to artists and the thing is they took a chance on me and I honored that and I'm like take me out my fucking word, because I'm not going to let you down and. Because of that I've been able to grow with them right so it's an again it's a negotiation you know it's like well in like one year was 10,000 that you were selling in the next year you will do 15 and the next two are they doing 20 and it. And so much of it is mental and you can speak to a to you know like. Logistics and strategy might be a struggle to some people but really to be a business owner is to be very mentally tenacious and very gritty, you know because every this is this is the hardest thing right she pointed to her has yeah yes you know it's battling discouragement or if you have a bad deal it's like okay so like. You don't want to distrust people and you have to like go back to the drawing board like for me I'm like I've had so many good rich people in my life that are really loving I'm not going to let this one person cancel out, all that I've experienced in humanity so fuck you person lesson learn now I know. But I'm not going to let my heart get hard I'm not going to make business decisions based on fear because you suck yeah I mean it's like so it's sort of like when like in the early days when I was DJing and I would like cut deals you know I found this DJ you know you're charging $700 and I found this other dude it for $600 and it's like who financed so I go into that knowing that I'm going to be making less money when I like bad bad deals were like when people talk you down it's like all of a sudden I feel like I owe them less but they feel like they because I've already given them something they can get more out of me and that sucks it's a bad feeling you know next time someone does that know your value know your worth because. Somebody's willing to pay it if you think you can get it you can get it yes a million years ago I had a client that I met with under what he was somewhere in Detroit. And so it was going to be a trip and I quoted them my DJ service plus traveling fans are like we can't afford that we like but we pay you was like $300 to like make mix CDs that they would and so I like but I spent H this is like before I had any like literally live DJing and was it was ridiculous and I made him like seven discs I paid to FedEx them overnight to him and he got him any never paid me for them he disappeared how old are you 28. 29 I keep the folder of all the reminders of that to be like never let that happen again like never let somebody take advantage of it does that produce in you. Anger or anxiety or it's more like you did something stupid get a contract oh you know get a deposit it's a reminder of having standard operating procedures and then also just don't get don't get taken by the funny guy don't get don't get taken by the nice guy don't trust handshakes like because I mean that was an easy way to do things in the beginning and I'll always going to list a lot of rookie mistakes yeah that's the thing it's like you have to have Grace on yourself as well you're willing to negotiate because you don't feel like you have any leverage and you know for sure and the beginning like. You know you're still trying to figure out maybe like your product or like tweaking it but then once you start honing in on like I mean one of the best advice you know that we receive it's just like oh that's just not your client and when you start figure out who your client is okay so now I found my client. People who have really low budgets are always the most stressful like people who can afford you are like okay that's great you know it's. It's so funny that way it's like well it makes sense I mean yeah they have money for our luxury items so they're much more comfortable to deal with like I mean it's it is but you know sometimes like a statement I always said to myself it's like I am not my customer yet. When I was making work that I see what you're saying five thousand dollars or ten thousand dollar rings I could not personally walk into a jewelry I would go to go to the candy machine and put a quarter in and make that ring come out so I could I can't even now like I cannot go into a store and purchase a fifteen thousand dollar piece yeah but that does not mean that it's not worth it, that does not mean that that is not the correct value of that piece so for me I'm like the problem a lot of artists make I'm going to say artist specifically because that's who I meant or is they price Things based on the people they know. And how they purchase their like well I can't afford earrings for $75 so I think I'm going to put it for this price it's like no no no. You are not your client yet one day I'm going to be able to walk into a store and I'm going to purchase $15 thousand dollar piece without a problem you know but I love that yeah because I mean I feel like a lot of like my DJ's like when we'll talk we'll talk about raising prices and they'll be like you know oh God how am I going to talk about that and like no one's going to want to do that and it's like well I mean what they are like if I mean just because you probably wouldn't spend that much money on that at this point in your life or ever maybe that's not what your value system lies there's somebody that's going up and you are worth it like I wouldn't I wouldn't be putting you at up there and saying like we're going to start charging this for you if you weren't worth it. You know and the thing is like that's the only way that like you can make more money is if we charge more and like we you know like there's that is just built into the, unfortunate capitalist nightmare that we live in is that you know there is a transactional and I feel like with us a person has to make the things that you're making I mean I I mean I suppose there's probably a robot somewhere they can, not well but yeah but but we have like we're in person people like somebody has to make it and that is the good thing like we're it's not it can't be a big boxed out we're employing artists we are giving an artistic thing into the world that most people can't do on their own yes and. There's a factor that when like during recessions and during the Depression makeup companies make a lot of money because people are looking for like the place where they can find they can buy something to make them feel better the recession you know alcohol sales still want a Rolex cigars people will still some people called like keeping their vices but it's like there are just little things that make people feel. Luxurious and human and grounded right you know and everybody maybe spent something a little different during the pandemic but it's the same thing it's yeah it's a value so what you're talking about so I guess if 2017 was your first year or so you wouldn't the recession that was your third year in business actually how did the pandemic effect, your life oh gosh let me rephrase it how did they have they have the pandemic affected ornament in theory, okay because you've moved into a bigger space in that time so no it was we were still half the space so when I open the store with 750 square feet of that 750. Storefront occupation was 550 square feet and we had three employees I was about a year and a half into the business. Preparing for 2020. And yeah and everything obviously shut down and you know we all experience the same thing which is just still wild do you have much of an online presence like would you do have a online store thank goodness yeah so the fall before I rebuilt our website and I had the in-house strategy that I was discussing with everybody was how to train our customers to buy from Us online so I was already putting into the work before. It happened now. We're still small business where again we're only having have a year-and-a-half of exposure under our belt so we really needed to tap into our community and those customers that we already had that would keep, sales warm and I told everybody so when everything shut down I say this lovingly like. What is the phrase it's like some people fight flight or freeze but I've had for you those are the Nets your yeah I fight. I never found my freezer I never freeze I like fucking going like I'm the bitch you want to go into battle with like when things go down, within the first two weeks I told the staff and like listen we can only depend on. One or two weeks of sympathy purchases people trying to like you know buy from us to keep us off yeah I call him I called it sympathy purchases I'm ago and after that point. Everybody needs to shore up their funds everyone needs to protect their family everyone needs to make sure that they have enough so I am not I purposely made our marketing so it wasn't guilt-based I didn't want it to be like help us out we going to make it out of this so I said no one wants to throw money after a sinking ship. No but I it's not their job it's not everyone's job right like everybody's number one priority when the world shutdown is. Will you still be employed do you have food and do you have shelter and is everybody safe that is the number one priority it is not Commerce in my opinion this is my perspective so I said for our marketing we are marketing is joy that is what we are producing I'm producing we already have funny content but you know things are funny light-hearted be your social media as the kids say was lit during my time oh my gosh within two weeks I had called a bunch of our artists I'm like can I interview you and we were one of the first businesses doing interviews because I wanted people to see the human on the other side of these pieces and every time we did an interview with a designer. We saw an uptick in sales for that designer and that wasn't the main objective I just wanted people to see that there are humans on the other side of this we created a coloring book and sent it out so that people can you know give it to their kids you know they were bored at home. We hosted a dance party so my thing is when people come out of this they don't associate our business with. Feeling sorry for us or trying to save us but they associate us with joy that they have good feelings so that whenever they have discretionary income again, they have a positive connotation with us and it's not about guilt or taking an advantage it's not because we're minorities or any of those things but it's just like. This place is fucking cool and they just like well you wrote in you did and you do wear your lab next own business proudly proudly proudly and you had giant signs in your window to they say they were like what is it it shop locally or, go back to the suburbs and what do you use it for me no no no not that one the one where you were like this is a like this is a woman Latin own and women-owned business and like that would almost be a reason not sympathy purchase of more like I want to support right the latino-owned woman-owned business and that's you know probably I would hope that people would want to support that. For sure I mean 2020 everything shifted right so internally from the beginning of my business I wanted to represent. Black brown indigenous artists now now its more common in the Lexicon right you know everything blew up. This is the air that I breathe me and my friends have been talking about this for you none of this was a surprise none of this was a shock I did not clutch my pearls when a mod Aubrey was murdered hmm my heart was broken. Broken and obviously you know everybody's was but like it took you know George Floyd. For the world to really wake up and have to see again another countless senseless murder and. You know it brought about a really important discussion and it's really sad that it took that. Because people of color have been trying to push this conversation for years and when they didn't believe it until they could actually it's you know it's something that internally is always been a priority and then after 2020 Summer we brought. That aspect of our business more forward more forward facing one of the things I really loved about your store so in the back room at your store I love how you've got your any culture company culture written on the wall and it really big and beautifully so that all your employees can see it and you know I'm off the top of your head yes I do I've actually I'm so visual like I see them so one is ownership mentality, I don't remember like yeah the sentence is underneath hospitality and service that we greet everybody as if we're getting our best friend, thing for me is that nobody is better or worse than another and the Maya Angelou quote it's people don't remember what you say but they always remember how you made them feel. And that's what's most important to me. So another one is humor that we keep things in proper perspective you know that love and humanity is Paramount everything else is secondary. Creative excellence. We reject mediocrity and we approach all things with our personal best growing in our strengths and strengthening our weaknesses so something I talked about with the. Women is that we all have weaknesses and it is better to play to your strengths right if you know somebody's really strong at doing copy you know somebody's really strong people you put your best players forward but what I never want for myself or someone else is to resign like to their weaknesses and be like well I suck at math so I'm just not going to do it, it's like no that isn't my strength. But we can work on it well you still used to be just Outsource it like you still need to figure out yeah like use it or lose it but the thing is like, you never want to get to a place where you're like completely neglecting an aspect of yourself and you're like well I just can't do I'm just bad at learning languages so I'll just like I'll never learn like three sentences. To make someone feel loved no are like going to a foreign country and it's like us yeah I mean I've just moved into your cranium Village and I'm. Just trying to memorize like three phrases in Ukrainian because those are my neighbors and I want to be able to say hello good morning, and thank you yeah thank you and just those like basic phrases that make people feel seen are expressions of love and the bar is very low I'm just going to suck at this you know it's like make an effort and I like to think that as a leader I do set the tone for that they see areas where I'm like I'm you know what is the term like begrudgingly not wanting to do something like okay I'm going to sit down I'm a competent person, someone dumber than me has done this before I go back to that phrase a lot right when someone's just like how, how can I open a business and like someone stupider than you has done this you know how will I ever figure out an estimate for a house Mike someone dumber than you I like that. But yeah so the time aspect this has been an incredible we've been all over the was we're almost done has been good I mean no I feel like it's just been gold gold gold gold does the Viviana gold bombs I mean is there like I don't know what the other women talk about on here I'm like strategy that's not like no philosophy is like the Bedrock of life that's all of it that makes it also makes my Bedrock it is it well I mean it's your lady business I want to get all of your lady business the things that make you tick the things that you know the things you do with your whole ass there we go so I guess we have to do this again oh yeah I'd love to where can people find you and what you got going on in the any cool things happening I guess I guess the holidays are around the corner holidays around the corner so we are getting in so much beautiful work right now so just that a buying trip I also designed a lot of new work that's going to be coming into the store soon a lot of one-of-a-kinds I have been a part of collaboration of the last two years called the radiance which is a group of 13 by POC designers and we've collaborated with De Beers and their sustainable diamonds so we, featured these capsule collections in Vegas this past summer and they will be touring across the country but it will be at our store November. So we're going to have a huge event with two beers and everybody's going to fly in from all over the country wow is so how what makes it how does how is Desert debeers doing sustainable diamond earring I mean they've been they've done a lot of effort I mean I think the thing is like people just think of the blood diamond movie and then that's kind of like. The end of their knowledge De Beers has set the tone for a lot of cleanup when it comes to. Ethical sourcing sustainability so these diamonds that were working with specifically are called code of origin and they are blockchain encrypted this has been going on in the industry for some time so every Diamond has a laser inscription in the rough so that you can track the diamond from rough to Consumer wow so that is a really big thing I'm very big on ethical sourcing and the politics and everything behind that I think you don't feel confident buying a stone in your store that. If you have the least amount of blood possible on it yeah do I what are your feelings on lab-grown I feel like I'm going to a different direction but I think it's good to educate people I mean it's. It's so funny because the diamond industry every industry tries to protect its assets right so, talked a lot of shit like oh this is just a fad these are fabricated these are not you know real nobody's going to want them but the thing is they completely ignore the fact that Millennials and gen Z, have been handicapped. By terrible policies and everybody's varied and does so people are only starting to buy have purchase power now millennials. Approaching their 40s are now starting to buy their first homes right Millennials do not care if a diamond has yeah natural like it's. Americans in general are a little less status E when it comes to find jewelry for instance like Europeans do not want anything under 18. Americans are very happy with 14 karat it's strong it's beautiful it looks the same. Americans like look they want the design like they want the look of something gorgeous right so when it comes to lab-grown it's pitched as a more environmentally friendly but. Produces a different type of pollutant now you don't have any you can have a clear conscience in regards to like the labor you know chain with it but then it also produces a lot of toxins so. I-i'm a personal belief that there is no clean system in the world we This Side of Heaven something's always broken but our goal right that doesn't mean that we resign to like nihilism it's like okay so our goal is to like continually to, push the pendulum of a cleaner system write a more ethical system because if we just resigned to it will still have kids in factories yay. You know the Industrial Revolution so when I talk about lab-grown diamonds when I saw I saw a bunch of them. I lay all the information on the table it's like where do you want to make an impact there are a lot of fair mind lime gemstones that full community Zone. You know or like our women own minds right so when you if those mines dry up meaning the consumer dries up that Community is kind of like you know love me it's like the it's like the coals like the coal industry right but smaller miners are less impactful in the world like they're not destroying the land and they own their industry right. So it's everything has a cause and effect and I think it's just like kind of presenting like. Do you want to purchase this from a woman own mind do you want an ethically sourced own but it's owned it's coming through the De Beers name right or do you want you know so it's, I try to present all options but I'm never going to sit before anyone to be like this is 100% clean like when places like. Brilliant Earth or people online like to Market it's like organic right like this like sticker people put on bullshit and it's just like this is all-natural flavors I am really educated about it and very passionate about. Equity in any and sustainability within my industry and I don't know like I sometimes think of like what would my second act to be. And possibly I am looking at. Maybe in my 50s maybe being an attorney and litigating blockchain infringement within my industry. Can you tell the difference between a lab-grown diamond and a ground made yeah a natural diamond yeah it is. Extremely hard really it is extremely extremely difficult I mean it gets past someone like the best Labs but. Lacquer on diamonds are encrypted they should have an inscription in them all of them do. So if you take a loop to it which is that magnifying and see I mean it's almost microscopic it really really is but in terms of the actual makeup of what it is it's the same. The say is carbon it's under pressure is compressed carbon, yeah so cool yeah all right heavy on that we got to stop this is amazing but thank you so much for coming I learned so much today I love you and it's so great to have you here thank you very much I mean it's been an honor. Thanks for listening to all up in my lady business it is written by me Mary nisi. It is produced by Christina sorum Williams and Amelia Ruby with softer. It is recorded at the toast and jam offices in Logan Square in Chicago, you can find resources and links from this episode in the show notes at all up in my lady if you enjoyed this episode and you did Smash that subscribe button and if you're the kind of person that reviews things on the internet please rate and review us wherever you listen to us it really does help people find us follow us on all of your socials and don't forget whatever you do this week do it with your whole ass thanks for listening. Music.