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erin gray jewelry hits the press!

erin gray jewelry hits the press!


Turning a Passion into a Profitable Business


Working conditions have greatly improved for Erin Gray Morton since she launched her e-commerce store four years ago. At first, she was doing it all by herself with the help of a few good friends. “I had many late nights until 4 o’clock in the morning,” she said. Now, she has a team working with her full time.

And Ms. Morton has learned a great deal about the market: This year, she plans to start building her inventory in August for the year-end shopping spree, which she now knows actually starts in October. “Because I am still so young at this, I’m constantly learning and getting better and making better choices and decisions and being more efficient,” she said.

Since 2014, Ms. Morton has developed a line of sterling silver, gold filled and vermeil jewelry that she sells at her

People’s decision to venture into e-commerce, she said, “is usually driven by some passion or some event that gives you a jumpstart.”

This was also her case. Getting into this field with her own line of products had been an old dream of hers; she had even studied fashion merchandising at university. “I had always wanted to do it,” Ms. Morton said. “But, you know, life takes you in different directions. I went into sales and marketing [...] this had brought me to a good place with everything that I had learned. But I had always wanted to be a designer.”

What prompted her to do it was her mother and step mother-in-law being diagnosed with cancer virtually at the same time. As she got sick, her mother told her to do something with her creative side because “you have so much of it and life is short.”

”I had already been toying with making jewelry,” Ms. Morton said. “When...these two things happened in such a short period of time, I just decided to take a risk and start a company.

”Initially I thought I would design bracelets and give to cancer research,” she said. “It truly started with just small ideas and I was enjoying it so much and...I was getting such positive feedback that I decided to start making and designing other pieces. And it organically grew.”

The turning point businesswise was Ms. Morton’s decision in 2015 to take part in wholesale shows. Held each year in several cities in United States, they bring together designers and buyers. Since she lives in Atlanta—her two children are not yet in their teens—Ms. Morton decided to attend three apparel marts in that city that year and was able to sign with more than 60 stores.

Then earlier this year, she went to the Atlanta Gift Show and the Dallas Apparel Show where she secured 22 additional stores. “I am still learning and trying to make decisions as to the best places to be and when because they have so many such markets,” she said. “They’re very expensive, you know [...]. They can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. It’s quite a risk.”

Ms. Morton also takes part in school and church fairs as a way to give back to the community—through table fees or sales percentage—and also to get people’s comments. “The nice thing about going to markets and to the marts and to the schools and churches: You get a lot of feedback from consumers.” This is how she learned that customers like to know that she donates a portion of her sales to cancer research; she now discretely mentions it on her packaging.

When getting feedback, one must be willing to let go of products or features when they prove not to work, Ms. Morton stressed. For instance, she had to give up using some magnetic clasps for necklaces. Although they were convenient, they made it difficult to size necklaces to fit the various customers. “It’s something small but it makes a big difference because it meant people having to send things back to get different sizes. I realized that having an adjustable clasp was very important.

“ And then, if I have something, let’s say a ring or a piece that is not holding up, is breaking easily or is coming apart easily, I will stop using it,” Ms. Morton said. “Those are things that you just learn.”

Establishing a store online came with its own hurdles. “I will say building a website was a challenge,” Ms. Morton said. “And I’m constantly learning about social media and, you know, the internet and ways to build more traffic: It’s ever changing.”

Erin Gray Morton’s bracelets may include elements ranging from gold and black hematite beads to leather and mixed metal-brushed gold coins.

As for an e-commerce platform and retail point-of-sale system, she said, “I use Shopify and they make it pretty user friendly.”

What advice would Ms. Morton have for those considering launching an e-commerce business? “I would say do your research into the market, into the product, into your competitors, into people who have been successful in the industry, who have been doing it for 20 plus years and are still successful: how they started and how they grew.

“Work hard,” she said. “Be consistent. And I think the biggest thing is be willing to change and adapt as you learn and as the market changes.”

As for the technology involved in managing a successful e-commerce store, she added, “Technology can be so powerful. Because there’s so much research available, so much information available, if you put your heart and your mind into it, there are plenty of opportunities.”

Desirae Odjick, content creator at Shopify, was recently mentioning in a blog (*) that trade shows are an excellent way of introducing one’s products to stores. To get the most out of them, an e-commerce store person must arrive prepared to make the case for his/her products: What differentiate them from others, what buyers love about them, etc. He/she also must be ready to tell the story behind the products, what prompted them to venture into this particular eld. As Ms. Morton was mentioning, taking part in those shows can be costly. So selecting the ones that may work best for one’s product is crucial, Ms. Odjick said. “If you can swing it, attending trade shows as an individual and scoping them out ahead of time can be a great way to decide which ones are a good fit,” she said. “If not, asking around in your industry for people’s opinions on shows can also be a valuable source of information.... At the end of the day, identifying those ‘right shows’ for your business depends a lot on knowing your industry.”