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 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Small & Affordable: A Winning Combination

Times have changed. And what we sell the most of has changed with the times. When retail buyers visit our fair trade jewelry trade show booth, they always ask "what is your best seller?"  And in recent times, I say "the designs we can wholesale for under $10.00 or a retail store can sell for under $25.00, $20,00 even better!" The response is always a chuckle and "ain't that the truth."  It's as if our customers already know the answer. In the old days, I could design exquisite cuffs that wholesaled for $32.50 (estimated retail price $85.00) and I'd write orders for them all day long. Honestly, those days have sailed. It isn't that we don't sell some amazing larger pieces. But, it is the small and affordable that pay the bills.

Thankfully, I've been able to successfully focus and design some fabulous smaller fair trade earrings.  I've learned low costs are of paramount importance. Recent trends also indicate many women more often choose to wear smaller earrings. Small and affordable; it is the winning combination. If you're familiar with our collection, you've probably ordered some of Dunitz & Company's smaller earrings. Have you ordered our Dream Net Earrings?  These delicate cuties, available in 12 colors were well received this season.

Some of our most popular, our small wire and beaded teardrops have been in our line-up foooooor-ever! At least it seem like that. And each season we show them in 12 new color ways for our wholesale customers. (We create new color combinations each season to follow fashion trends.) Looking for you? Don't worry. Look for a retailer near you on our shop locator.  No store near you? We offer some very pretty color options of these teardrops on our retail site. Sweet spot pricing, too.

Our Joanie M fused glass earrings also tend to be smaller.  And yes, they too are very affordable. When I first introduced this collection in 2011, I designed some larger styles. Some designs even had two components. We knew almost immediately that larger was not better. The cost was never that far off. It was confirmed that "small" was the winner.  When I share this information, there are naysayers that suggest it is because glass is heavy and our larger sizes might be uncomfortable.  Those that choose to wear the mightier designs, have confirmed this not to be the case.The truth is, as I mentioned before, lots of women prefer smaller earrings.

So, there you go. I just had to say it. Small & Affordable. That turns out to be our winning combination for our fair trade jewelry and specifically our fair trade earrings. Be sure to check out our wholesale and retail sites to see ALL of your options. -ND

Friday, March 9, 2018

LynAnne Wiest, Manager of HumanKind Fair Trade

Not too long ago, I decided the Dunitz & Company blog would be enhanced by sharing profiles and conversations with various individuals working in fair trade. We're all so unique and our experiences and motivations vary. Each of us has our own story and our own pearls of wisdom to share.

This is why I asked LynAnne Wiest, store manager of HumanKind Fair Trade if she'd allow me to interview her. I already knew from years of working with LynAnne that she is lovely and passionate about her work. Whenever I see her at a trade show or fair trade conference, she always has a huge smile on her face. In the past, I've called on her advice regarding Dunitz fair trade jewelry designs and whether she thinks this or that would sell given my costs. She has always been ready and willing to provide valuable input. And once again, she graciously accepted my request for this interview. So, here we go:)!

NANCY: You've been part of the HumanKind Family since 2013!  I'm just curious. Did you move to San Luis Obispo for the job? Or were you fortunate to find this perfect fit after moving to SLO?

LYNANNE: I moved to SLO for the job! I had previously worked at a fair trade store in St.Louis, MO, but had moved back to California to be closer to my family in Fresno.  I was job searching in Calfornia when I discovered that HumanKind was hiring. I had always loved this shop when visiting SLO, and I was lucky enough to get the job.

NANCY: Was there a pivotal life experience that encouraged you to work in 'fair trade'?

LYNANNE: My pivotal life experience happened over the course of a year. I had studied graphic design in college [Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS] and I knew I wanted to use that skill for some kind of social good. After college I signed up with a non-profit organization, Mennonite Central Committee, which does relief and development work around the world. I was willing to go anywhere that could use my design skills, and they found a place for me in Cambodia working with a couple of fair trade artisan groups. I spent a year there working on product design and marketing with artisans. I saw how hard they worked and how much they needed additional buyers for their products. I knew that when I moved home, I wanted my work to be all about creating a greater market for their crafts in the United States. 

NANCY: Describe some of the important projects you are working on in the shop?

LYNANNE: We are just starting to venture into ecommerce. The retail trend toward online shopping only seems to be getting stronger, and we feel it is a great next step for our shop.  I am always looking for ways to grow and improve HumanKind, and I am excited about the potential we have in ecommerce.  Of course, it is a big project to create a new website and develop systems that will make our online shop manageable and profitable, but I think it is going to be worth it. The more we can grown our business, the more we can purchase!  (Gosh she thinks like me!)

NANCY: And do you have a favorite project or activity you're involved with at HumanKind?

LYNANNE: I love the creativity that goes into managing a shop. From curating our product selection, to merchandising items in the store, I put a lot of energy into creating a beautiful space for our customers to discover. Even though I have a background in graphic design, I don't enjoy designing on a computer screen.  I find satisfaction in merchandising real, tangible objects that all have a significant story behind them.

NANCY: When did your shop become part of Fair Trade Federation? (I actually think I wrote one of your recommendations for membership.) Any thoughts about this partnership?
LYNANNE: We became members of FTF in 2015.  We joined partly because we wanted to be able to tell our customers that we were vetted by another organization, and partly because we wanted to create better connections with others working in fair trade.  The greatest benefit we have from this membership is the ability to learn from the other stores. I have learned so much about good business practices and how we all can practice fair trade better.  The annual conference is a great chance for us to learn from other retailers and to make new plans for the year.

NANCY: Can you share a story that makes you smile?  A story where you and/or HumanKind were integral in making a positive change? 

LYNANNE: I smile every time I get to explain what fair trade is to a customer. I recently had a family with elementary-age kids come in the shop, and I was able to tell the kids all about how fair trade supports families in other countries so that kids can go to school and don't have to work.  These kids loved everything in the shop, especially learning to play the singing bowls. Their time in HumanKind opened their eyes, just a little bit, to the rest of the world.  Watching someone's face light up when they learn about fair trade for the first time is one of the greatest parts of working this job.

NANCY: You must be proud of your website.  Where else can people learn more about HumanKind? Do you do any local outreach?

LYNANNE: We are active on Facebook and Instagram, and we love sharing beautiful products and artisan stories with our followers.  Other than that, visiting our brick & mortar shop is the best place to learn about us.  We have a wonderful team of staff and volunteers who do a great job educating our customers about fair trade and our fair trade artisan network.

NANCY: Do you know Dunitz made their first sale to HumanKind in May 2009? What is your favorite part about working with Dunitz & Company or the favorite thing you sell from Dunitz? (You know I had to ask!)

LYNANNE: We have been buying Dunitz jewelry since we first opened our doors in 2009! We love the beaded Dunitz teardrops earrings and the Joanie M fused glass jewelry.

Thank you to LynAnne for the time she took answering my questions. Meet LynAnne and visit at HumanKind Fair Trade at 982 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. And keep watching their website. Their ecommerce portal will be available soon. And you're sure to find some Dunitz fair trade earrings for sale. - ND

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Red Hot Oscars

Let’s talk about “red”! Especially since we spotted some serious fire engine red at the Academy Awards on Sunday.  Red screams ‘look at me.’ And a few celebrities had every reason to call attention. (Photos to follow.) As a Dunitz & Company fair trade designer and vendor, I’ve also noticed that even if I see fashion spreads in Elle and Marie Claire with the likes of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, we tend to sell red to a more mature audience.  Yes. Yes. There are lots of exceptions. However, historically we find our “missy” crowd digs red.  In tow at the Oscars, it was no surprise which actresses took on this hot color trend.

Allison Janney was a lock for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother. Did you see her in I, Tonya? I thought she had one of the most memorable performances of the season. And wow, she had every reason to strut in red at the awards ceremony. Long, lean and bold. She was a stunner in her Reem Acra gown. (Should we also mention that she was wearing over $4million worth of borrowed diamonds?)

Another reigning Hollywood royal, Meryl Streep donned red this season. And I thought it was one of her best ever and most flattering award show looks. Her Christian Dior Haute Couture looked like it was made for her. Hard to believe she is 68 in this get up!

More maturity. Maya Rudolph looked ‘old lady’ in her Valentino, 'don’t show any skin number.' I’m not sure why she chose this gown which seemed to age her quite a bit. Perhaps with the #metoo movement, she chose to erase any hint of her sexuality. One thing is for sure. She did not go unnoticed.

And talk about sexuality. Blanca Blanco strutted her stuff in a slinky and revealingly gown designed by Atria Couture. One twitter follower thought her dress was a "wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen." (Remember? She also wore red at the “all black” Golden Globes earlier this season.) This girl likes to get her red on! And well, she's 37.

But here’s the thing. You don’t need to be at an awards ceremony to wear red. Red can be for any occasion, fancy, casual or otherwise. Heck, one of my favorite “ look at me” pieces of clothing are my straight leg red corduroys. Now we’re talking.

Got Red? You know I have to make a plug for Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry. This season we’ve offered several red hot designs in our Joanie M fair trade fused glass collection. Don’t want to wear red pants! You’ll make a statement without being overbearing in a pair of red earrings or bib necklace.

Do you wear red? -ND