Exclusive Craft brand story
Posted on October 18 2022
Exclusive Craft - wearable art jewelry for your pleasure!
About Exclusive Craft
My name is Iryna Shlapakova. I am a full time operating room nurse and the owner of Exclusive Craft. Exclusive Craft offers wearable art jewelry with intricate designs that bring out feelings of pleasure, excitement and joy with an attention to detail. I like to incorporate different materials in my designs including crystals, wire, stones, beads, thread, and sequins. It is an honor for me to create very unique and special jewelry. Making people happy with my elegant jewelry is my main priority! I also teach Zoom beading classes and create beading tutorials and kits.
My story and what motivated me to start my business:
I was born in Belarus and moved to the United States more than 20 years ago. My parents are both medical doctors. I never thought that I would be pursuing a career not in the medical field. However, I can now say my passions have shifted towards designing and crafting. I always felt that I possessed unique handcrafting skills, for example, during my childhood, I was constantly learning different types of crafts such as crocheting, cross-stitching, knitting, sewing, cooking, and baking. In my young adult life, I concentrated on cross-stitching and knitting, as it provided me great relaxation and pleasure. In 2013, I was very intrigued with a beautiful bead embroidered cuff bracelet I saw online and wanted to try designing my own. I didn’t know where to start or which materials were necessary. I went to New York City and bought different seed beads, shell beads, thread and metal cuff blanks. I slowly learned the process and created my first bead embroidered cuff bracelet. The whole beading experience became very relaxing, it was like meditation for me.
Picture by Luba Fayngersh
That is how I found and taught myself the current passion of my life: designing and creating bead embroidered jewelry. This entire journey has changed my life tremendously. Even now, while writing this, I have tears in my eyes because it is so enjoyable. Creating jewelry gives me a sense of calmness, joy, and the ability to transfer my emotions and love to every piece I make. I like to see the excitement on my customers’ faces when they hold my beaded jewelry in their hands. “I feel such joy every time I look at your jewelry”, said one of my customers. I still love to learn and explore new techniques that I can incorporate into my designs. I want my customers to have the most beautiful and fascinating jewelry pieces I can create! All of my handmade accessories are embroidered using high-quality beads, crystals, sequins and natural stones. Most of the jewelry is one of a kind. I rarely repeat myself, because the stones are unique and it is difficult to find two identical ones. My inspiration mostly comes from Mother Nature. Working with different stones is fun and most of the time, the design is complementary to the colors, shapes, and texture of the stones. Usually the entire designing and beading process takes anywhere from 5 to 100 hours, depending on the size of the piece, the level of intricate design, and complexity of the components.
I first decided to start my business after realizing how many of my friends adored the handmade beaded jewelry I was wearing. They started asking me for personal orders and strongly suggested opening up my own online jewelry store. I decided to take the leap and showcase my work to a broader audience. I started by opening an Etsy store in 2014 and then moving forward by creating my own website in 2016. I enjoy making my unique beaded jewelry, while also sharing it with others. I am a winner of multiple beading contests: Bead Dreams, Fire Mountain Swarovski contest, etc. My work was published in magazines such as GMARO, Bead and Button, Beadwork, and Beads & Beyond.
Picture by Veronica L. Yankowski
In 2017, I took another big step for my business. I started making beading tutorials after many people were curious about the process. Did you know that making beaded jewelry is beneficial for your health? It eliminates stress and as a result reduces the risk of heart attack and other health problems related to stress. Young and old people can benefit from it too, as making jewelry keeps the brain active. Working with beads improves fine motor skills in children, such as hand-eye coordination, memory skills, and visual perception. Jewelry making in group settings also helps to socialize and interact with others. Overall, the main benefits of jewelry designing is reduced stress, increased brain activity, and improved social networking. It is a nice hobby that all age groups can enjoy. Do you want an easy way to learn how to make jewelry? Because I learned how to make bead embroidered jewelry by myself, with no prior instruction or experience, I am very well aware of the struggles of new beaders. The most frequently asked questions that I’ve encountered are: where and how to start, where to buy the necessary materials, how to color coordinate, which stitching techniques to use, and much more. My beading tutorials are super easy to follow. I take many high quality pictures with close ups of each step and write out clear instructions to follow. Also, I began teaching beading via Zoom classes during the pandemic. With Zoom, people can now bead in the comfort of their own homes while interacting with other beaders, both novel and experienced, and learn to incorporate various techniques. Zoom classes allow beaders from all around the world to connect and interact with whichever designers they wish to learn from.
At first, I opened my own store on Etsy and learned how to navigate and list my jewelry there. However, it was quite challenging for me to compete with other already established jewelry makers. To sell your own personal products, you can either use a marketplace like Etsy or create your own website. It can be intimidating and stressful to design your own website, especially without any prior experience. It is much more realistic to simply hire a website professional and concentrate on your other business needs. Keep in mind that there are currently more than 500,000 jewelry makers listed on Etsy and that the jewelry business has been around for a long long time. The market is over-saturated with cheap jewelry made in China. People want to buy at low costs and can’t seem to understand why handmade jewelry is so expensive. That is why I decided to create my own website and have the ability to market it and handle it as I please.
Another major challenge is how do people find your products? If you believe that by creating a website, listing your jewelry on it, and sitting around waiting for sales to pile up is all it takes, you are in for a rude awakening. Imagine opening your physical store in the middle of the woods and complaining that nobody knows your store exists. How are you going to let people know where you are located? Constantly promoting and advertising your jewelry on multiple platforms are the keys to success. You must keep in mind that you will always be competing against large companies such as EBay, Amazon and Etsy. These companies have basically unlimited budgets and resources to advertise their products. They made it a priority to be the first ones to pop up on a Google search for jewelry. You must always be on the lookout for new opportunities to market your creations so that people know they exist!
Building a brand can be quite a daunting task. With handmade jewelry it is a little bit easier as each piece is uniquely created by a designer and is not able to be mass produced. You can participate in craft shows, post on forums, and create business pages on Facebook and Instagram. People buy from people that they know and trust. When they see that the business owner is advertising on different social media platforms they personally use, they feel more secure and confident in their purchases.
I want people to wear unique and exquisite handmade jewelry not only for special occasions and celebration parties, but also in their everyday lives. I often go to grocery stores wearing my necklaces or earrings, and constantly get compliments from the people around me. It takes minimal effort to put on a beautiful brooch on your t-shirt to enhance your image. Brooches are very versatile accessories which are not as popular in the US as they are in European countries. They help to make your outfit memorable and unique because they instantly grab one’s attention. They add color and contrast to otherwise mundane clothing. You can choose from various different designs and styles to fit your needs. I see the opportunity to educate people in supporting handmade jewelry makers by buying and appreciating their art.
I want to teach more and more people how to create their own bead embroidered jewelry. Nowadays when people retire, they are searching for new hobbies to occupy their enormous spare time. Young people are all about working as much as they can and making as much money as possible. However, we should also understand that we only have one life and we need to appreciate the simple joys in our daily lives. It is not enough to just enjoy dinner with friends or family every once in a while, or take a vacation once or twice a year. Creating jewelry with your hands gives you daily satisfaction and joy. You can gift your creations to your friends and family, and witness the excitement and amazement on their faces from the fact that you designed it all yourself. Especially for holiday seasons, you can make memorable ornaments that will last a lifetime.
Words of advice
- It is not an easy task to balance a full time job in addition to running your own business. You don’t have to quit your main job right away. You can start small and as you progress with your business you can make a smooth transition to your dream job – working for yourself! With each year in business you learn more and more.
- You have to keep your mind open to new information, opportunities and connections.
- It is important to have a support system from your family and friends. This will boost your confidence and give you extra reassurance.
- Promotion is key. Do it either through social media or paid advertisements.
- When starting a business, it is essential to learn about your target audience so that you can customize your products to meet the current market demands. If nobody is interested or aware that your products even exist, you probably will not sell much.
- Another way to promote your products, especially jewelry, is to approach boutiques and offer them to sell your jewelry with a consignment agreement. This means that the owner will sell your jewelry in their stores and take a percentage of the sales. Usually this comes out to about 30 percent.
- When you start as a new business owner, you are "Wearing All of the Hats". You design the jewelry, buy the supplies, take the pictures and post them on your website, write down descriptions, promote the jewelry, ship the orders, manage the finances and much more!!! But don’t be scared, it might seem overwhelming, but worry not as you will learn how to manage all of this as you progress with your business. Remember, as your business grows and expands you are allowed to hire help.
- Good customer service is priceless. Making your customers happy should be a top priority. I try to ship my orders on the same day or the next day if possible. My customers are pleasantly surprised when their shipment arrives quickly. I add free gifts with each order and take great care in packaging the jewelry nicely. You also have to make sure that you promptly answer all questions your customers may have and properly and quickly handle any outstanding issues (mistakes do happen).