I was at DTLA Art Walk the other night catching up with Karyn Cantor, the Founder of Classic Hardware, a jewelry and accessory company with a very defined, curated, art-centric style. Her story mirrors many others: she got started with a few hundred dollars in savings, eventually applied to an entrepreneurial program and was granted a small loan, and the business grew from there.
She doesn't follow the mass market trends because she manufactures hand-made, made in America, heavy duty "hardware", and the quality shows. As an entrepreneur in the retail industry, she's experienced the ups and downs, consumer cycles and industrial-tech cycles. It's difficult, and has been for the past 4-5 years, for smaller manufacturers to keep selling through to retail. There's no "middle" anymore - it's either licensed characters and "easy art" for mass manufactured goods and stores, or it's hand crafted and available at thousands of sites or vendors online.
Etsy has created an enormous marketplace for handmade goods and, consequently, competition has grown. The retailers (and I'm talking about small and mid sized boutiques and online businesses) are appreciative of diversity but they don't always buy it, hence, they don't sell it to their customers. It's sad to me that retailers, shops and online storefronts that pride themselves on carrying unique goods to suit myriad personalities don't choose to actually go with exactly what they claim to sell.
Karyn is a fine example of a woman who learned her craft, her industry, and how to run a business and stay true to herself and her brand. She won't compromise on design to sell to bigger accounts. She continues to meticulously curate her collections, diversify the product line, and look for new ways to reach women (and men) who will appreciate her beautiful "hardware" products. A final note on her story, which struck a very personal chord with me is that we both have Witches' Thumbs! Though I've also heard that this thumb signifies a boss, owner or leader. And that makes a lot of sense.