Business Behind-the-Scenes: Growing Your Creative Passion | Caitlin Mociun | Skillshare

Business Behind-the-Scenes: Growing Your Creative Passion

Caitlin Mociun, Jewelry Designer, Founder

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7 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:04
    • 2. Using Your Strengths

      2:11
    • 3. Growing Your Business Organically

      3:44
    • 4. Building Relationships

      4:06
    • 5. Finding Creative Outlets as your Business Grows

      3:32
    • 6. Building Your Personal Brand

      3:30
    • 7. Growing Your Brand

      2:04
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About This Class

Looking to transform a creative project into a business? This 20-minute class with jewelry designer Caitlin Mociun shares the real stories behind how she grew her side passion into a thriving Brooklyn business — all to give you the inspiration to launch a creative business of your own.

Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur or already selling your work, you'll finish these lessons renewed to stay real, authentic, and true to the creative passion at your core.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Caitlin Mociun. I am a Jewelry Designer, and I own and run the company, Mociun. When I created this company about 10 years ago, I started out as a textile and apparel company. I had my clothing line for about six years and, I think, probably four to five years and I started adding jewelry. The jewelry was kind of where I feel like I found my voice. Didn't start with any money, did not have a business plan, just like make any things and I didn't have any plan on it. Turning into this or having a career with it, it was like got fired and make things. In this class, I want to teach and talk about using what inspires you, your gut instincts, and like your creative brain, I would say, to use that as a base of your business and help direct you in creating a business or further developing a business or creative idea that you have. 2. Using Your Strengths: When I got fired from my job, I was not in a position where I could just not work. So, I, from the short amount of time that I was employed, I don't know if I consciously did it but I certainly recognize what I was maybe not so good at and then some skill sets that I did have. I was like, "Okay, I know how to make clothes. I've been doing this to make like spending money in college." So, I made a bunch of clothes and was doing that and didn't have money. I was like, "Okay, I'll try and sell this stuff." So I was like, Renegade, can't say that word, Renegade, Renegade Craft Fair. I just started and it was a first year and someone who was supposed to do it couldn't do it. She's like, "Do you want my half of this booth?" So I made a bunch of clothes. Then I met some other local textile people. I think getting fired at any age is probably pretty ego-shattering. It's not something I was proud of at all. Now, I'm like, "Who cares?" I think it's character-building to be fired. Now, probably, it's what I tell myself. But that it kind of pushed me into an uncomfortable situation wherein it was like, "Okay, I have to use my resources that I have." That's where, I think someone who has like an entrepreneurial spirits, it's not just how we are going to be like, "Okay." I guess I was just like, "Look on Craigslist or look here," and I'll just take whatever comes up." It's like, "Well, what can I make money up from sitting in my house possibly?" I've always liked selling things. I always liked making things when I was little. So I was on that skill set to then kind of start this whole thing. I think is that it's like trying to change yourself to fit into an industry you may want to be in. Find something that you like doing and you're good at and use that. I think you'll be happier because for me, at least, I feel better about myself what I'm doing and what I'm good at. I mean, I know the other side of that is be brave and try something new. But, yeah, it's just I want to like my job and not come be uncomfortable every day. 3. Growing Your Business Organically: If you have a nest egg of money that's awesome, if you have an investor that's awesome. I was in a position where I have a very supportive family, but it's not like they didn't have any money to give me to start my business and when I lost my job I was making enough money to live in New York comfortably. I had a really small apartment that I shared with my boyfriend at the time, so my rent wasn't crazy and I had a little teeny room, it was probably twice the size of these tables I'm sitting at right now, and I had my sewing machine in there, and I had a desk and we had a linoleum, it was like fake wood floor. So I'd silkscreen on our floor and just clean it up afterwards. I produced everything from my fabric, to the finished product, to getting it to the stores. I started with stores that were all based in New York. So, I got on the train, brought them their orders. When I went to the garment district to buy my fabric, I bought my fabric and carried it back on the train. My overhead was in my apartment. I did that for about two years, we moved into a bigger a loft, so I had a bigger studio and one of my best friends helped me build a silk screen table. So it was just baby steps, it was outgrowing things. So it was like outgrowing a space and then it was outgrowing my own production. So, then found this really small factory and then through doing that found better factories for me. Then had started getting interns and I still run my business in a somewhat similar way that I usually only add another person, add another position. I don't add that stuff still until we need it. So it's usually always looking and re-evaluating and that for me that goes back to not being like, "Okay, in this year we're going to do this, and then this is going to happen, and then this is going to happen, and this is going to happen," it's like it never happens like that. I never wanted to start a jewelry company. I never planned on opening a store. All the stuff I never planned for but I was like, "Oh, I like this," or "I like this. I like this. This is going well. This makes me happy." Then there are certain things in business you're like, "I have to do that, it makes sense." Like some of the programs you have to buy, and some of the infrastructure you have to have. You are like, "Okay, this is going to make everyone's life easier." It's expensive and whatever, but there are things that are necessary, but for the most part of what this business grow by being like this feels good, this doesn't [inaudible] I opened a bridal salon about a year ago, which was what was in this space that I'm in. In the bridal salon was a huge financial investment, but the materials, the dresses that we bought, and then I designed some dresses, that was expensive but because of this space had to be somewhat public space. It caused me to look for a certain type of space and even though we aren't having the bridal salon and the space isn't super public right now, we now need a space to have like a jewelry atelier, and this neighborhood has gotten so expensive that now we have a space that we're locked into for 10 years. So to me I was like, "Okay there's a pretty roundabout way to have gotten here, but now I have this really perfect space for what I need now." So recognizing that and not seeing it as a failure, just seeing it as another step and what you're doing and it's okay. It doesn't matter what other people from outside see it. They might be like, "Wow, that girl really screwed up and wasted a bunch of money," and whatever, but most people are more concerned with their own, themselves to ever think that. They're just worrying about what they're doing and I think people are actually less judgmental than we all think. 4. Building Relationships: So, as far as creating my brand and this becoming a business, I certainly started out when I first met those boutique owners. It was a friendly conversation. The woman who still owns and operates Bird, her and her sister both went to Brown, and I went to RISD, and we all lived in Rhode Island, which is tiny. So we just started the conversation that way, and I was like "Oh, actually I make clothes. You have such a cute store and I like all the stuff you have." So I was excited about their store and then Jen, it wasn't send pictures, it was I think I brought some photographs and it was right around the corner from my house. So it just kind of started that more as a conversation with another person and the first few stores that I got in, it really was kind of that way. I think that's the best way, probably still a teamwork approach. A boutique owner, maybe not like a larger corporate company, but at least someone approaching me. I'm going to respond to someone that's coming to talk to me, just as like a casual conversation rather than "Hey, here's my lookbook." I learned that from going into boutiques in San Francisco one summer and I had a bag of clothes with me, and this very nice woman said to me, "I'll talk to you and I will look at your stuff, but this is not okay to do to boutique owners. By the way, don't come in. It's really a lot of pressure. It's bad news to do that," and I said, "Okay. Thank you." Now I know, bring a lookbook in, but don't drag a suitcase into someone's store. Don't bring a bag with your products into someone's store. It's just too much pressure to put on somebody. I very much agreed with her at this point, but I didn't know that. I think I was probably about 21 years old when I did that. So yeah, just approaching someone in conversation, they're going to be much more open to you. So to me, a lot of what I learned in business was just kind of the human relations part of running a business and I still think that's really important, and everyone that runs a business and works for a company is probably going to want to be approached in a different way. But as far as me being approached for my store and how I like to approach people, I prefer more personal, like I'm just interested in who you are as a person as opposed to feeling sold to. I've never really liked that. I think for myself, I'm more open to someone and what they're doing. If they are just talking to me as another creative human being, build those relationships and learn from people that are doing what you want to do or the people that you want to work with as opposed to reading about it. It's fine to read about this stuff. I was getting Entomology degree for a while and most of the people that I work with were like, "I don't have my Entomology degree." So, I learned from them. It's actually better to just be exposed to stuff and go out to dinner with your diamond dealer and spend time with them and sit in their office and chit chat with them. I don't do it as much anymore. I have a staff who does that, but it's a very important part of who I hire now to work with our jewelers and our dealers, because we have had people that are socially awkward and the people we work with in the city don't like working with them. So, we can't have that kind of employee. It has to be someone who is organized and socially outgoing and also is good with our jewelers and knows when they get cranky and it's like okay, what do I bring, blah, blah, blah, because they are in a bad mood today I'm going to get some orange juice. That's where the production manager is so incredible. Others to a job, it's that she thinks about those things and so in any industry, you're going to have to massage your relationships and the people you want to work with and do things for you. I think business is like a marriage. It's another social cosmos that you have to exist in and those relationships are incredibly important when you're trying to get things made. 5. Finding Creative Outlets as your Business Grows: As a company, and as a brand I've had to make a lot of compromises, and as we become a little bigger and successful, I'm finding I have to make even more compromises. As a business owner, I don't find that so difficult to deal with, but my creative side, it's really difficult to deal with, and it's something I'm dealing with right now. There's a part of me that's like okay let's just get this company to a point and I'll sell it, and I'm not going to deal with this. I am going to start another company that's little and whatever, but then there's this other part of me, the part that's winning right now, that I am kind of like okay, how can we do both, how can we compromise, and then also make sure I feel creatively satisfied, because we do engagement jewellery. We're certainly right now trying to figure out strategies to attract people to doing things in a little bit of a different way. Like I had one guy that brought me a photograph that the woman he wanted to marry had taken, and that's what the ring was based on, and it was really fun. I was like, oh this is cool, we've found a stone that looked like the picture, he bought a bigger piece and cut it down, and it was really interesting project to work on, and I love how it turned out and it was really special to them, and it was even like Instagram, that's our main like social outlet. Everyone was super psyched about it, and I put the story with the ring. Everybody go see the photo and see the photos, I posted the photo. They were happy about it, I had fun doing it and then the way our customer base reacted to it, I was like this is great, so it's like we're trying to figure out how do we get more people to approach working with me in that way, cause, you know, a lot of people do see, you know, the custom stuff that's really interesting and then when they do come to me for a custom piece, like I have to kind of pair things down a lot and simplify things, and there's plenty of people that come to me and get a solitaire which I'm happy to do for someone but it's not creatively fulfilling at all, unfortunately. So it's like trying to figure out ways to really need to do this, this makes our company a lot of money actually and it doesn't take very much of my time up, so it's not something that I just want to be like I don't do that anymore. You're going to have to make compromises the bigger something gets. The fortunate side of it is that it makes you think creatively and makes it like it's pushing me outside of my box is like how I have done things and it's like I hired a PR person recently, and I when I was looking for that person I was like I want to do PR in a different way. I want someone who's going to come in and maybe we do art shows, maybe we do happenings, I don't know what it's going to be but I want this to possibly be my creative outlet because instead of paying to advertise maybe we can get press about this thing we're doing, even if our jewellery isn't there, but the event will get written about and our company will get noticed. I wonder, I mean I don't know if it's going to be successful but I'm just interested in like taking another arena and maybe you think okay maybe this can be my creative arena or okay I'm going to have a creative week, so I'm going to make some weird jewellery and I can put it in the store like some of the things that I make, and my company makes. They're, you know, maybe aren't the most exciting thing to me. They make a lot of money and so those things can fund me getting to play around with things more. That's why I'm not like just get rid of this, let's, you know, even though it makes money, it's not fun for me anymore, it's like well, look at the bigger picture and being like does that thing that's maybe not so fun. Fun to the thing that is fun, you know, and thinking about it a little bit differently than just being like I don't get to do all the creative things I want. Because it's just the cost of having a commercial enterprise I think. 6. Building Your Personal Brand: I think brand image is something that's actually really interesting to think about now, and it's something that I'm probably within the last year have been thinking about more. My brand was always me. I actually worked with a branding person where he helped me design our website. When I started working with him, one of the options in working with him, like these different packages, you can pay for something like branding exercises. I was like, "Actually, I've never even thought about that. Let's try it. Whatever, maybe it will be fun." For me, it helped teach me at this point with my company, this brand is not you and it needs to be its own thing, and I need to separate it from myself. It's a luxury brand and maybe my sense of humor doesn't need to be attracted in there, maybe that's not good for it, or who is this woman? I was like, "Oh, you should make-up the person." That's kind of more fun, actually, than just resting on like who I am. Not there's anything wrong with me, but I'm like a fictional character, you can make a little that, a little that, a little that. Your brand is supposed to be like a perfect person and nobody is. So, I think it's changing a bit like with Instagram, and maybe probably with reality TV, or people want to see everything. But even reality TV is something fictional like they make a character for you, they tell you to say things, it's scripted as well. I think brands are like that too. There are brands out there that are more honest on say they're social media, but I'm not. I put out there what I want to show and I'm kind of a private person, so I don't put my personal life on my Instagram, but I know other brands that do and that's part of their brand image. I think that's always just a choice. Like I would be incredibly uncomfortable if I had a child putting them on my social media feed, but I have other friends that do that and that's part of their lifestyle brands that they promote and run. That's another thing that I'm like there's not a right or wrong way to do this, it's just how you're marketing yourself. So, for me, the idea of having a little bit more of distance from my personal life, to my social media, to our brand is more comfortable for me. Who knows if it will change to a point where as a business owner, maybe in a few years it won't be possible to have a personal life. I think even designers it's very different. I don't think they used to photograph designers and put them on the cover of magazines and now they do. So, who knows how that's going to keep changing. But, again, I would say, you probably can do it the way that you're comfortable. You'll find a niche for yourself. I mean, that was always been my problem working with showrooms in the past with PR people like, "You have to do it this way." I'm like, "Why?" 7. Growing Your Brand: My brand has changed a ton. Yeah. I started it pretty much right out of college. I was 23 years old. I'm 34 now. My style has changed. What I can afford has changed. Where I live has changed. I think it's important to let your brand grow with you. It's a little scary, I think. I'm going to change something a lot. I'm going to change my sound. I really totally, when I got rid of a whole, I got rid of a clothing line, I got rid of my business. So, the business as it started and I just was like, I don't like that anymore. You're going to disappoint some people if you like to get rid of their product, or change your business, or close your business because you're like, "I wanna go open a bar in the Caribbean." I think a lot of large companies even my favorite brands. One of the accounts I work with is Nordstrom and actually I really like and respect their business because I think they're seeing how department stores are changing. They've opened up a store, it's a store within a store and they opened four retail brick-and-mortar retail locations and then on online. It's doing really well. They're opening in formal occasions and that's where my stuff is. They're letting me, they let me do things. They're not creatively controlling at all. I think it's really interesting working with them because they're a big old company, and I think if you're going to be a big company you better. I think anyone of our generation remembers Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, they're gone because they didn't, like Netflix came along and they weren't like, "Oh, we better get on board with this." This is, things are changing. Any of those companies could've been like, "Oh, we better get on this this mailing DVD thing." Or in a Blockbuster type, but it was like they were dead already, in the water already. So, I think it's important to see what the climate of things is with the climate of how everything is going is. So, sometimes it's like throwing the towel, I don't want to do this anymore, but sometimes it's like how can we shift our business and change with the times.