Have you ever daydreamed about starting your own business or blog, but haven’t found the time to get it started? If it’s in your 2014 future, until then, I’ll be sharing the stories of CEO’s who I find inspiring and have great advice. Today’s ‘Savvy Exclusive’ interview is with Jillian Bremer who founded Sweet & Spark Curated Vintage jewelry. In fact, this week is Sweet & Spark’s 1st birthday and it’s been featured on Glitter Guide and Rachel Zoe’s Zoe Report earlier this year.
I was instantly fascinated with Sweet & Spark because Jillian works with her dad to buy vintage jewelry from around the country at yard sales, then restores them and adds modern details. When I read her ‘About‘ section, I had childhood flashbacks of early Saturday morning yard sale adventures with my mom and great aunt before stopping by the donut shop on the way home. Except, my yard sale ‘treasures’ ended up in the junk drawer. Here’s how Jillian has found success and started a one-of-a-kind online boutique…
1. What sparked the idea for Sweet & Spark?
Jillian ~ ‘It started as a lifestyle blog in April 2011 as a creative outlet from living life on the road as a former buyer, most recently helping launch a new brand for American Eagle Outfitters.
After the brand I was working on closed, I decided to leave and pursue my dream of building a brand by combining my dad’s antiquing hobby with my merchandising background.
I’d grown up going to yard sales and flea markets with him and was always amazed at how much cool stuff is out there! I re-launched in November 2012 as a curated, vintage jewelry brand. Sweet & Spark is so special to me because part of owning something vintage is embracing its individual characteristics and adding your unique story to its journey.’
2. Your site is adorable, but there are so many online jewelry stores. How did you plan to set yourself and Sweet & Spark apart from others?
Jillian ~ ‘We’re bringing credibility to the overwhelming world of vintage, you don’t have to know anything about vintage to shop with us. We indicate decade and designer for every item and clearly label the condition. Aside from our collection being one of a kind, authentic vintage, there aren’t a lot of jewelry retailers out there that sell quality classic and statement pieces these days.
Back in the day they used to triple plate each piece so costume jewelry tends to age well over the years. Also, the weight of each piece is really substantial. We try to list about 100 new arrivals every other week. As everything is one of a kind, make sure to sign up for emails to be the first to hear.’
3. You work with your dad who is located on the East coast. Do you have any tips for working with family?
Jillian ~ ‘My family is my rock and it’s been so fun to share this journey with my dad. He’s been antiquing as a hobby for 30+ years and I want to show him that if you love what you do, any dream is possible! For me, it’s not about the money, success means building something bigger than myself.
On the day to day we text (don’t be fooled, he just got an ipad) and talk on the phone constantly. He runs the buying show and I run the rest and since we have very different skill sets and are on different coasts, we tend to stay out of each others hair. I have to hand it to him, he’s quite an impressive buyer! Every few months, my dad and I get together for what we call a sparkhuntin’ trip up and down the east coast.’
4. What is your best advice for anyone looking to start an online boutique?
Jillian ~ ‘Do it. You only live one time. One single time. You just have to start; utilize the network you’ve built over the years and you’ll figure the rest out as you go. Nobody has all of the answers at the beginning! Only 5% of the battle is the idea, the other 95% lies in the execution.
Leaving corporate America was definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done but I knew there was never going to be a better time. The hardest part is making the decision and starting, the rest evolves from there. Anything we want to know if now at our fingertips. I can’t tell you how many youtube videos I watched at the beginning trying to figure out photoshop and the basics of coding! I still find myself asking for help via twitter, emailing old colleagues or “googling it”.’
Special thanks to Jillian for this interview and there will be more ‘Savvy Exclusives’ to come from a what it’s like to be a celebrity stylist to the realities of a team of 3 sisters running a event planning business. If you have any questions for new business owners, let me know. Coming tomorrow…A Day with Pistachio in Switzerland.