Stephanie Gottlieb is a recognized expert and pioneer in the field of fine jewelry. After managing a jewelry collection for an esteemed wholesale diamond company in New York City and pursuing her diamond certification from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), she founded her Fine Jewelry Collection and Bridal Concierge service in 2013.
Here is what Stephanie had to say when we asked her about entrepreneurship:
What motivated you to start your own business?
I loved the industry I was in, but I felt there was a ceiling to my potential by working for someone else. I was stifled creatively at the company I was working for and wanted to have the freedom to operate on my own terms.
Once you founded your company, how did you build your team?
I didn’t hire anyone for two years. I LOVED doing everything myself—designing, shipping, customer service, photography. However, I recognized that I had my weaknesses (accounting), and a limited amount of time in my day to get everything done. Once the business grew to the point where I could no longer do everything by myself, I hired my sister. That was an easy first hire because I didn’t need to manage her. We each took on our own roles and responsibilities, and it worked really well. Slowly we then hired others; this was a challenge for me. I don’t like being a “manager,” and I’m a control freak! Letting go of control was hard, but so rewarding once I saw my employees succeeding.
In the early stages of your company, what was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
I’ve always struggled with saying no. When I started my business, I said “yes” to every opportunity without fully thinking through what was being asked of me. I just wanted to get my name out there and try everything! Once I really found my niche in my customer base and design aesthetic, it became easier for me to hone in on my craft and only cater to requests I knew I could feel really good about.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s important to recognize your own personal strengths and weaknesses. Starting a business is hard and requires a lot of time and patience. If you can focus on what you are good at and find help in the areas you’re not, you will save yourself a lot of time and aggravation.
How can individuals break into the jewelry or design industry?
I always suggest taking a job in retail because this gives you a good 360 view of the industry, and there are a lot more job opportunities than in wholesale. If you’re able to take courses at the GIA (even remotely), I found this really helpful to do while I was working to really compliment my day to day experience with coursework.
The diamond space is male-dominated, so what have you found to be effective strategies or mindsets in navigating this space?
It’s baffling to me that an industry that is so catered to female consumers has been historically male-run and dominated. I think it’s refreshing for the younger generation of jewelry buyers to work with someone who really understands what they’re looking for because we are jewelry wearers! We have an all-female team, and I think women appreciate that they are getting the insights and opinions of other women when buying their jewelry. Styling has been a huge focus of my sales strategy because that is what sets me apart from the old-school, male-owned diamond businesses, as well as other up and comers who have different aesthetics than I do.
How can individuals find mentors when they pursue less traditional career paths?
This is difficult, and I think sometimes a mentor just falls in your lap, but certainly being proactive is key! Reach out to someone you admire through social media; become a shopper (if you can), so that they know you are invested in their business; and, I think the most useful tip I can provide is, work your relationships. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram can all be powerful tools to reach people you may not have been able to reach in the “real world.”
What is the best book to read if an individual wants to start her own business?
I personally love listening to podcasts. “How I Built This” is one of my favorites!
Stephanie Gottlieb established her Fine Jewelry Collection and Bridal Concierge service in 2013 after having managed the finished jewelry collection for an esteemed Wholesale Diamond company in NYC and pursuing her Diamond Certification from the GIA. Stephanie is extremely hands-on with regards to her concierge service; she selects each and every stone option for her clients, and then brainstorms beautiful and modern designs that elevate her Bridal Collection beyond the traditional engagement ring. Stephanie’s fashion collection was inspired by Stephanie’s own personal jewelry wants and needs; each piece is intended to be delicate and sophisticated, with its own punch of personality. Her modern twists on classic designs translate into beautiful and wearable everyday fashion jewelry that can be stacked and layered by the wearer to create unique combinations. Stephanie lives in New York City with her husband, two children, and three Havanese pups.
Contributor: Celine Farhadi