Monday, June 25, 2018

Why the Name? Dunitz & Company

My pet peeve. A little one. The name of our business is Dunitz & Company. Many people when refering to our business abbreviate our name, offering us up as Dunitz & Co. We see it printed like this all the time. And, that's just not us.  Although a google search will find us. Thankfully.

What was I thinking when I called my newly minted operation, Dunitz & Company?  At the time I had no idea how big my business would grow. Or what my collections would ultimately grow to include. Logic inspired me to use my name. In the late 80's there was a very popular TV talk show in Detroit (where I spent my early years) on WXYZ-TV, Kelly & Company.  Emulation is the sincerest form of flattery. I loved the way co-anchors Marilyn Turner and John Kelly used the words "& Company" for their program.  Dictionary definition #2 -  "the fact or condition of being with another or others, especially in a way that provides friendship and enjoyment." And this is completely what I intended when I followed suit. The word COMPANY in Dunitz & Company has nothing to do with definition #1 - "a commercial business" at all. And we all know "Co." is the abbreviation for a commercial business!

So there you have it. When I can, and if the correction can be done easily, I politely ask people to update their business listings, blogs, event signage and badges. If the change isn't a simple one, I roll with it. Didn't I mention Google earlier? Google has our business location listed...just like I hate seeing it. Did I say we're technically Dunitz & Company, Inc.?

When I launched my operation back in 1989, I struggled to name it.  At the time I was primarily offering home decor items with a few hints of jewelry. I considered several options. And ultimately I decided to use my name. (I always joke that it's a good thing I did that. What happens if I'd incorporated as Pillows Plus? I'd sure be in trouble since we've exclusively sold fair trade jewelry for many years.) 
Here's another tidbit of information I learned (by chance, not planned) when I launched my business.  While I was building relationships with custom brokers, packaging vendors and component suppliers, I was told by their collections representatives that companies (that's co. companies) using their names to represent their businesses are the best credit risk. It makes sense. By choosing, Dunitz to represent myself professionally, I've definitely told the universe that I have no intent to soil my name. That sort of goes hand in hand with fair trade jewelry.

So now you have it. You now know why Dunitz & Company is named as it is. What do you think? - ND

Saturday, June 9, 2018

All About Shape for Joanie M Fused Glass

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My. Oops wrong story. Circles and Triangles and Squares, Oh My. That's more like it when it comes to our Joanie M fused glass fair trade jewelry.  This collection is all about "color" and "SHAPE".

Every season I spend a lot of time following color trends. I learn from runway shows, fashion magazines, Pantone projections and watching people on the street. This provides me lots of ideas for color combinations I'll develop for not only our Joanie M fused glass, but for our long established Dunitz & Company seed bead jewelry designs. I adore color work and planning.

Now - back at the topic at hand. It may seem simple, and perhaps it is. But the main thing that drives Joanie M fused glass sales is finding the right shapes and offering those shapes in the perfect size. Seriously! It seems for earrings, smaller is better. But, not always. The answer? Lots of trial and error.

Through trial and error, I've learned there are definitely shapes that never seem to sell well.  If it has more than 4 sides, forget it.  Pentigons. Octagons. Hexigons. No. No. No. Been there, done it. Take my advice. Or make your own mistakes. I've also learned if something is 4-sided, and the sides are different lengths, forget it. That means no to trapezoids...unless it's a rhombus. These are the rules of my fashion by geometry lesson.

Now don't think I've exhausted all the options. You'll have to stay tuned to find our what our new Joanie M fused glass earring shape (and size) introduction for Fall 2018 will be. Yes, I have something up my sleeve. And if you work at it, you might guess what that might be. Feel free to send your guess on over! 

What is the queen of all shapes? It seems in fused glass jewelry and seed bead jewelry, all fair trade jewelry, the "teardrop" reigns. Let's put a crown on her! -ND

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Iconic Art Images for Fair Trade Jewelry

What is the most famous painting in the world? OK, there might be a few. And many of them have been around for quite some time and their likeness is available in public domain. If an artist has been looking down from the heavens above for over 100 years, we know it's OK to use their our work. So as it is, Dunitz & Company has launched a new laser cut fair trade jewelry collection this season. I actually test marketed my concept at the recent Museum Store Association meeting in Washington DC.  And the feedback was quite encouraging.  Mona Lisa was smiling.

The most famous painting? It might be Mona Lisa.  But it sure seems Van Gogh's Starry Night will give that girl a run for her money.  Just sayin'.  And I was thrilled that the museum shop buyers loved the way I split many famous images for left ear and right ear views.

For years, it has seemed as if  sales of our beaded studs and fused glass studs cover our office rent. We're always packing these little things by the dozens and dozens. Punch line. I decided these famous images in art should also be offered as stud earrings.  Would you wear these?  Does this image ring a bell with you? The Circus Horse by Marc Chagall. I'm almost certain my aunt gifted me the book, "Marc Chagall Life and Work", when I turned 11 or 12. That book must weigh 12 pounds. I still have it.

Not into European art? Our debut also includes images from famous Japanese artists.  Kitagawa Utamaro is one of my favorites. I fell in love with his work while studying Ukiyo-e wood block prints in a senior seminar at the University of Michigan. Did you know I majored in History of Art? #goblue (Had to do that!) Would you wear Three Beauties on your earlobes?

We've already had several conversations with museum shop buyers and a few gift stores about creating earrings with custom images. And we're all about that! That's exactly what I had hoped for when launching this line.  In some cases, these designs will be exclusive to the institution commissioning them. Others, we will make available to everyone.  Some museums have paintings where they own the rights. Without their collaboration, we could not use their images.  What are some of the images we've been asked to offer in our fair trade jewelry collection? Stay tuned for the Virgin of Guadalupe, ancient textiles and...even fingerprints! -ND

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When My Dog was the Best Model

I recently had a prospective customer, a museum buyer ask me if Dunitz & Company could produce "rainbow" jewelry. He thinks our fair trade beaded jewelry may be perfect for a LGBTQ show his museum will be hosting next year.  I smiled and said of course.  I was reminded that once upon a time, our mascot, and my first dog, Byron was our best and perfect model.  In the mid-90's we offered rainbow jewelry. And we sold a lot of it.

I left my job in Corporate America in 1989 and never looked back.  I was young and stupid and hopped on a plane to Guatemala in search of beautiful handicrafts.  I didn't know this exquisite country was in the midst of a civil war.  (OH...the stories I could share from that time.) While there I met the first women (one American, one German) who taught Mayan women how to create beadwork. Yes, we were on the ground floor. We had no competition. And the retailers 'ate up' everything we created and showed them. It didn't matter that our prime model was a Vizsla/Weimaraner.

The buyers would have so much fun in the Dunitz & Company booth. And the portraits of Byron always stirred up great conversation about our beloved pets. I mean, seriously. Who could not laugh about a dog wearing glasses?

I have a few of Byron's portraits are on display in the office. They're propped up on the file cabinets. Unfortunately a couple of fallen behind the cabinets. This means I won't see them again until we move from 2142 N. Cahuenga Blvd., or figure out a way to go paperless and rid ourselves of customer files. My guess is neither will happen anytime soon. This choker, which we still sell on Shop Dunitz is ladled with Swarovski crystals.  Gosh, I'm certain we sold one recently. Unfortunately with high material costs, this design is no longer viable for our wholesale markets.

I used a photo similar to this one to create promotional buttons.  I'm guessing the printed portrait of that image is behind the file cabinets. (If you look closely, you'll see this photograph does not match the button exactly.) "BEADING AT ITS BEST...for humans".  Yes, I was silly. But, Byron and I had so much fun together. He was so spunky and full of energy. Did I saw he was a Vizsla crossed with a Weimaraner?

Gosh. Even his paws got in the act. Several images even landed in the press.  Gifts & Dec. Giftware News. Even, Dog Fancy! Many years later, I actually offered a line of high-end dog collars. (They were made in India.) Pantone color expert, Leatrice Eiseman discovered us at a show and asked if she could use Byron's portrait (wearing one of  our dog collars) in her book, The Color Answer Book.  Yes, he's now featured in one of her publications for all of eternity.

I used to tell Byron, "I love you forever and for all of time."  I'm so thankful to that museum buyer who reminded me of that sweet sweet dog wearing rainbow jewelry.  Byron was an excellent model for Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry. And even better, he was the best face washer! -ND

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Reflecting on MSA Forward 2018

I just returned from Museum Store Association's annual meeting and expo in Washington DC.  It was the first time Dunitz & Company has attended and I have several colleagues to thank for that. For years I have interacted (and sold to) museum buyers at larger trade shows such as NY Now.  In recent times, both customers and vendor colleagues told me it was time to participate in MSA Forward. Those encouraging my attendance include Ione Saroyan (New York Historical Society), Stuart Hata (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), Debra Reiff (Origin Jewelry) and Susan Davis (Grandmother's Buttons.) If it wasn't for these friends, I might not have jumped on the bandwagon.

What's different about seeing museum buyers (and vendor colleagues) at a MSA conference?  One word. OK, two. "The Atmosphere."  At larger gift shows, everyone is in total business mode.  At the MSA conference, we were as well. But there was also a sense of family, camaraderie, community and supportive-ness you don't typically sense in other business settings. Seriously. Have you ever seen buyers and vendors taking Ellen DeGeneres type selfies together at a gift show?

My adventures with the MSA Conference started with Terry Tarnow (Dennos Museum Center) inviting me to be her roommate at the Renaissance. Terry and I have worked together several times before. We had never before broken bread. Our glue? We both were raised in Detroit and had previously discovered people and places we love in common.  Now I can say Terry is a true friend and an easy roommate. We've even discussed returning to Washington DC (without a conference) to focus on the many museums and their gift shops.

Ari Lowenstein (Vendor Member Advisor) gave me some terrific advice before attending MSA Forward. And, I'm sharing it here with you.  He said if you are taking the time to participate in this conference, make sure to join in on the educational tours and seminars. Make a point of meeting other attendees. This was sage advice.  I along with a bus-full of others enjoyed a tour to Hillwood Estates and Tudor Place and their gift shops! Whenever I could, I introduced myself to those I didn't know.  I attended seminars when I could. At luncheons I consciously sat with people I didn't know.  I joined the Western Chapter for their group pizza dinner.  Sometimes it's tough to mingle with people you're not acquainted with. It may seem awkward. Do your best and try it, always with a smile.  (Turns out many of those people I met stopped by my expo booth. And some wrote orders. I'm certain had I not dined with them, this might not have happened.)

On Saturday night, MSA staged their Gala. There was a fabulous band. Many of us danced for hours. (I can't think of the last time I danced so much. That was sooooo much fun.) Staged concurrently with the party was a Silent Auction with a host of terrific products donated by vendors and museum gift shops. The goal; to raise lots of money for scholarships for deserving buyers to attend future conferences. Dunitz & Company donated two necklace/earring sets.  One, beaded. The other, fused glass. I wanted anyone seeing our donation to know that Dunitz & Company wholesales two very different fair trade collections.  I was nervous that no one would bid on our donation. I was thrilled to see by the end of the evening a bidding war had ensued.  The winner, Ryan Oswald (Vizcaya) had bid three times to make sure his wife would be wearing our pretties. Now that put a big smile on my face.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to set up my booth starting Friday morning, and not after dinner as many others.  Even with using most of Friday for creating my attractive display (which I absentmindedly forgot to photograph), I was able to attend a couple of seminars.  I really had no idea what to expect when I attended Neal Cohen and Jeremy Richardson's session "Year in Review, Your Annual Business Check Up."  These guys are smart and they're very savvy when it comes to issues of product safety, copyright and trademarks.  Some of these very BIG issues can actually have impact on small businesses like ours. My view? Even if most of what is said doesn't apply to you, if you take away one valuable point at a seminar, it was worth being there. I am better off for having attended their presentation.

And finally! Yes, the main clincher for why I attended MSA Forward.  I wanted Dunitz & Company to be seen at the Expo.  As my colleagues had promised, the Expo was a terrific way to get our jewelry in front of the faces of many museum buyers I'd never previously met. And do you remember my mentioning all those people I nervously sat with at lunches?  Several came by my booth. Some ordered. Many left their business cards for follow up. (Next blog post will be about the new Laser Cut collection we launched at MSA Forward. Earrings that can be customized for any type of institution or exhibition. Butterfly teaser photo here!)  And yes, I did see several buyers I already knew, which accounted for reorders. Yeah!

Other feedback from me? Order the lights for your booth. I was told that the ballroom and exhibition spaces were well lit and extra lighting was not needed. My booth was dark. Thankfully most everyone's booth was dark. With a small show and a captive audience, it seemed most buyers looked everywhere. My gut is if I'd had a few spotlights, my booth would have garnered a few more pauses.

The jury is no longer out.  Attending MSA Forward 2018 was a success for so many reasons. I enjoyed DC. I made new friends. I wrote business and I was able to pitch our fair trade jewelry line to those who didn't previously know Dunitz & Company.  And guess what? Next year MSA will be hosting it's annual event in San Diego. (And may the hotel there have food as edible/delicious as the Renaissance Downtown DC.) I can even drive to San Diego!  Will you attend? - ND

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Color Inspiration Everywhere - My Trip to Pakistan

Some of you may know this about me. I love to travel and adventure to all kinds of places, often those offbeat and difficult to access. And although Dunitz & Company offers beautiful fair trade jewelry from Guatemala, my design choices are often inspired by things I see a million miles away from where I work. Point in case. Earlier this month I traveled to Northern Pakistan with a group of friends.  From the streets of Lahore to the apricot blossoms of Hunza Valley, I was inspired by the colors I saw everywhere.

The Wazir Khan Mosque (Lahore, Pakistan) is a 17th century mosque that was commissioned during the reign of Moghul leader, Shah Johan. Much of the building has been restored and/or still boasts preserved mosaics and frescoes. How could one NOT be inspired by these wonderful colorful stones, tiles and paint. Our clients always love blue with jade. Add vibrant gold and terracotta and, yes, I've been inspired by Shah Johan's choices!

The Badshahi Mosque (sometimes referred to as the King Mosque) is probably the most visited site in Lahore. It's absolutely magnificent.  This grand structure was commissioned by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1671 and only took a couple of years to build. We visited early on a Sunday and there were several wedding contract signings in process. For the most part the men and women were grouped separately in different rooms of the mosque. We were allowed to watch. In fact, the families flocked to me and my (Thai) friends. They wanted to have photos taken with us. And they wanted us to take photos with them for our future pleasure too.  One father insisted that his daughter lift her veil so I could snap this photo. And talk about color. Salmon. Peach. Dark Pink. Gold. Yum. Now this IS inspiration!

Trucks. I went nuts for the Pakistani trucks and buses. These guys know how to decorate a moving vehicle. My friends had so much fun teasing me.  "Truck Truck Truck!"  Every time I saw another truck I salivated over the colors and the painting. They're glorious. Here's a detail from one. These grouped colors provide endless inspiration for...well....tens and tens of bead color combinations. Thank you, Pakistan.

And the women (of all ages) seemed to have amazing color sense. These women from Hunza Valley grouped all sorts of shades and tints of green, blue, red and pink together in ways I may have never thought of before.  And each one of them looks absolutely fabulous!

We met these sisters on a trail leading through the old village of  Passu.  Their uncle was our special tour guide for Hunza. And it turns out the young woman on the right is part of the Pakistani Olympic cycling team. There's no way you'd know she was a pro on a bike from this image. What we do know is that these women possess color savvy. My gosh. Look at how they combine pumpkin orange with rose, beige, pale yellow and black. I'm completely inspired by their color combinations.

So here's the thing. You may soon purchase the perfect piece of fair trade beaded jewelry or fused glass jewelry from Dunitz & Company. You'll know your new piece was beautifully crafted in Guatemala. And now you also know the colors may have been inspired by my trip to Pakistan. -ND

Monday, April 16, 2018

Making a Difference in So CA - Teresa Baxter

I've been acquainted with Teresa Baxter for several years now. And I've always been impressed with her tenacity and drive to promoted 'fair trade' in Southern California.  For this reason, I asked and she agreed to be interviewed for the Dunitz & Company blog. Guess what? I learned more about Teresa than I'd previously known!

NANCY: You've been an advocate for 'fair trade' for a long time. Can you tell me what inspired that? How long have you been fighting for this cause?

TERESA: I discovered my fair trade mission when I began volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages Pasadena when the non-profit store opened about 12 years ago.  This took me back to school, earning my BA degree in International Relations from Columbia University and State University of New York.  While in New York, I became the Publicity Coordinator for HandCrafting Justice, then an international fair trade project of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. [Note: HandCrafting Justice closed their doors in January 2016 and had been long time members of Fair Trade Federation.] I was also active with the New York City Fair Trade Coalition. My passion didn't stop there.  I lived in Alexandria, VA for a year and while there, I was involved with Fair Trade Town Campaigns. I helped Alexandria obtain their 'fair trade' designation. I'm happy to be back continuing my mission of service in Southern California.

NANCY: We met when I first joined Fair Trade Los Angeles several years ago.  You were the social media maven for the group.  What is your background that gave you the know-how to do this?

 TERESA: Social Media was part of my publicity position at HandCrafting Justice, where we had over 3000 followers on Facebook.  I have a nose for fair trade news, and I used social media to share all of the global good many on the same mission were accomplishing. It was also a great vehicle to promote all of our events and social justice projects. Ad Age Magazine even featured an article on us.

NANCY: And now I know you're actively involved with Fair Trade Long Beach. Can you explain what roll you've taken on with this group?

TERESA: We are a strong group of activists pushing forward our wish to earn Long Beach a "Fair Trade Town" designation.  There's a lot of groundwork identifying retailers and organizations that promote fair trade. This also entails getting media coverage and interacting with the city council to promote and commit to passing a resolution advocating for fair trade principles.

NANCY: Describe some of the important projects you are working on.

TERESA: Fair Trade Long Beach holds monthly meetings that keep growing in attendance, so much that we grew out of our meeting space. We are currently looking for a larger venue that shares our values.  Our strongest partnerships are with Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force and the local Salvation Army.  We previously participated in a 'youth empowerment safety symposium' promoting awareness against human trafficking and showed how fair trade helps battle this fight.  Most recently, we participated with the Task Force and Salvation Army with a table at the start of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Our campaign "I Am Not For Sale" was all about educating the public.

NANCY: Can you tell me a little bit about Fair Trade Campaigns and how it will make a difference?

TERESA: Some of our team represented our [Fair Trade Towns] campaign at their national conference in Washington DC. I represented us [Fair Trade Long Beach] at the recent Fair Trade Federation conference in Denver.  The takeaway for most of us was how much stronger we are collectively. We know that together we can accomplish great acts toward a more just world.  One of my favorite quotes from Margaret Mead seems to capture our spirit. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Note: I love that Teresa is pictured here with Rachel Spence,  the Engagement Manager at Fair Trade Federation. I interviewed Rachel in December, 2017.
Thank you Teresa for taking the time to answer my questions. I know many of us will be thrilled to know a little bit more about your efforts to promote fair trade. I know I am. I'm so impressed with your tireless efforts. -ND