She's Brave Podcast - Kristina Driscoll

Amanda Pearl: A Story of Ethical Jewelry and Entrepreneurship

February 06, 2024 Kristina Driscoll Episode 72
She's Brave Podcast - Kristina Driscoll
Amanda Pearl: A Story of Ethical Jewelry and Entrepreneurship
Show Notes Transcript

Amanda Brotman, founder of Amanda Pearl Jewelry, shares her journey of establishing an ethical and affordable jewelry business. Despite challenges, she remained dedicated to providing customers with ethically sourced pieces. Amanda believes in sustainability and ethical practices, ensuring all her pieces are locally made in New York and contributing 5% of sales to various causes. She encourages entrepreneurs to embrace their vision and build businesses that reflect their values. Born in Seattle, Amanda transitioned from ballet to launching her first business, creating evening bags in Italy. She sells directly to consumers online, making her creations more affordable while maintaining fair pay. Amanda Pearl Jewelry focuses on distinctive designs, local manufacturing, and charitable contributions. Her resilience has led to a successful business she is proud of.


About Amanda:

AMANDA BROTMAN: Founder / Creative Director

New York-based Amanda Pearl Brotman is the founder and designer of AMANDA PEARL, a luxury accessories brand whose aesthetic is a study in dualities, creating a truly modern sensibility and approach to jewelry.

Born and raised in Seattle, Amanda’s childhood was both full of culture and the arts, and the freedom to explore the wild outdoors. Twelve years studying and performing with Pacific Northwest Ballet instilled an unerring discipline and sharp attention to aesthetic detail, which was tempered by her ceaseless curiosity about the natural world.

Constantly pushing boundaries, Amanda left for NYC where she received a degree in Art History and Visual Arts from Barnard College. After a tenure at Marc Jacobs, in the technical design and production departments, Amanda brought her experience to Erin Fetherston’s womenswear label, where she was Collection Director, before decamping to launch AMANDA PEARL.

Amanda is settled in NYC with her husband and boys, but still considers the Pacific Northwest ‘home’ – drawing upon its stunning natural beauty and innovative spirit as inspiration for her work.

Amanda won the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award for her handbag designs and was most recently a finalist in the fine jewelry category.


Connect with Amanda:

www.amandapearl.com

IG: @amandapearl

FB: @amandapearlcollection

Pinterest: @amandapearl

Twitter: @amandapearly

TikTok: @therealamandapearl



Connect with Kristina:
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Join our Podcasters Facebook Group
Website

Loved this episode? Leave us a review and rating here: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/id1660488233

Kristina:

Hey everyone, its Christina. Today's guest is Amanda pearl. She is the owner of Amanda pearl jewelry and I wanted to just tell you guys that she is truly one of the most authentic people I have ever met and encountered. And I feel like her message is really, really important. For those of you trying to live more authentically those of you branching out and wanting to start your own business, be an entrepreneur. She's a female founded and women run company, she's really rebelled against traditional retail and the traditional retail model and discount culture to make a new kind of purposeful jewelry. She's a direct consumer brand, which means there's no retail markup in her jewelry and everything is made in America and sustainably made. Amanda also donates at least 5% of her profits to go to various charities. I absolutely love that. I wanted to have Amanda on as a guest because she's just such an incredible example of being an entrepreneur, and staying true and authentic to yourself and running your business according to your own values, even if that means going against the grain. Here she is. Amanda Brockman.

Amanda:

Welcome. Welcome, Amanda, you so much for having me. So

Kristina:

glad to have you here. Before we hit record, you guys, we found out that Amanda grew up in Seattle, which is where I now live. Do you want to just tell us like a little bit about your childhood? You now live in New York, New York? And how did all that come about?

Amanda:

Well, yeah, I was born and raised in Seattle, the beautiful Pacific Northwest, grew up there studying ballet, being outside, just like really appreciating the region, and then ended up getting injured having to stop dancing and ended up going to Barnard in New York. And that was kind of the beginning of the end in terms of me being a little bit stuck in New York started working there. Met my husband had kids and started a business and I'm still there. But of course love, love love getting home to the northwest. Yeah,

Kristina:

yep. And isn't it funny how I've heard this so many times where people like, Well, I was gonna go down this path. But then a lot of times, like in your case, it was an injury, like you may have gone into ballet, but you didn't. But like, look what you're doing now, which is amazing. So actually, before we launch into more about your journey, tell us more about Amanda pearl jewelry, because I'm in love with your company, as you know, and your products and just your business model is so amazing to me. Oh, thanks.

Amanda:

I could pretty literally say it was a lifelong dream to be able to do that. Because when I was young, I was always collecting rocks and shells. And I love gems and jewels and making jewelry. So it's funny that I didn't start there. I guess, you know, that wasn't the first part of my career. But we got there. And I absolutely love, love, love what I do. So we are a made in New York, sustainable, ethical fine jewelry company. In addition, we cut out the middlemen markup so we don't sell to other stores because I wanted to be able to take out all of that markup so that our customers could benefit from having just that real true price every day. That markup even if if you're selling to other stores, you still have to sell for that same retail, which means even if the customer is purchasing directly from you, they're still paying that kind of false price. That markup that gives the retailer the ability to ultimately do sales and do all this funny business with that final price. And I just thought after being in business for a while, it just seemed such nonsense and really unfair to the consumer. And I really wanted to just be able to bring beautiful, sustainable ethical fine jewelry to our customers directly at that real fair price. And literally just have the discipline to have no sales ever. Because we don't have the markup to be able to do that. And I don't want people to think that they can't shop that and shouldn't shop that every day. So just great price every day. Fair price every day. No markup any day. Yeah.

Kristina:

Yeah, I just I love that so much. It's that's what attracted me to your company was I was oh my gosh, I absolutely love fire opals. I cannot even believe that I could get an incredible necklace that I'm wearing right now. For the price that I did, which was probably I don't know, it could have been 400 $500 Somewhere in there. And it's so so beautiful. And it's Ethiopian fire opals do you find gems Less expensive prices, too. How does that work?

Amanda:

I mean, it's the same as any other jewelry designer or wholesaler. But again, we have probably higher costs and a lot of people because we're making everything in New York. So we're not outsourcing to Asia or anywhere else. We're making it all New York. So we know everyone's getting paid a fair wage. And all of that, and our costs are probably a little bit higher than a lot of other jewelry on the market. But again, that difference is just that we're not charging that full markup to get from Wholesale to retail, and having to sell that padding that a lot of people have in there.

Kristina:

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, love that. Well, let's go back to when you started. I know you mentioned in 2008, you began being an entrepreneur by selling evening bags made in Italy. So tell us more about your journey to where you are now.

Amanda:

So I graduated college and I was looking for a job and because I can't not be busy. While I was sending out resumes and going on interviews, I started making little evening bags out of my apartment, I had collected vintage fabrics and beads and all of this stuff, right? I kind of had a habit of doing my whole entire life when I started just hand sewing these little Bejeweled evening bags. And even though I think I knew I would always have my own business one day, I also knew that I needed to have experience and I needed to work for someone else, then I needed to learn the ropes and what to do and what not to do and all of that. So even though I had sold a few of these bags at that time, I took a job with Marc Jacobs, where I worked for a few years, learning a ton about the business and what to do and what not to do, worked for another young designer and then ultimately launched Amanda Pearl, with production in Italy, working with just the most incredible factories that made the most immaculate bags, but you would see with all the big luxury houses use these factories. So we were making some really exquisite, really niche evening bags, which there was a market for it at the time. But it ultimately ended up being kind of a difficult business had a difficult time in the US economy and everything. So pretty soon after launching the evening bags, I started to do a little bit of jewelry. So one of those evening bags had jeweled handles and details. And I started taking those and making jewelry, just to have things that could be worn more often that were a more accessible price point than those evening bags. Yeah.

Kristina:

Yeah. And it's really fascinating to me, too, because I'm realizing you started in a time when the economy was not doing so well. And then that was a struggle. And so I think sometimes it's okay to start something. And maybe the economy's bad, maybe this maybe that but then just branch out, add something else. I think that was really smart of you to do. So I love this is great. Continue, please. Yeah.

Amanda:

So that was the first little pivot. And while it was a really awful time for everyone in retail, I guess I had the benefit of not having a bunch of overhead to worry about as things were kind of tanking in retail. So that was one silver lining of being new during that time. And obviously, it was very, very difficult to break it. And because just no one was buying anything, none of the retailers wanted to buy anything. And I guess starting at that time also was really, really informed how I do business now because I was seeing all the things that were going wrong. And what I perceived, the problems were with how all of these department stores, even the smaller specialty retailer stores what the problem was with how they were operating and why they were getting into so much trouble and how they gotten here. I mean, obviously, the grander scheme of things, the economy was having trouble. But I felt like I had a sense of how these retailers could have helped themselves and how they didn't. And why kind of operating the way that we'd always operated, which is how I started my business operating the way everyone else always did. Because that's how you did it. That's how it was done. Right. That's how it was, but quickly saw that that was not sustainable. It clearly wasn't sustainable for the retailers because they were all having trouble. And it wasn't extendable for me. Yeah.

Kristina:

So I'm deeply curious about this. So what were they doing that wasn't working? And I agree with you. It's an interesting thought of starting a business during a recession because everything's amplified. So you have to figure it out because the sales are not just gonna walk in the door. So what were some of the things that they were doing wrong? And what are some of the things that you were doing that was right? Well,

Amanda:

I think the biggest thing is everyone was buying kind of the same brands. No one was trying anything different. So you could go to 10 different stores and they didn't necessarily have a point of view, they were all carrying the same brands, there wasn't anything to differentiate anyone and no one was taking a risk in that regard. So that was one thing. So it was really hard that made it really hard as a smaller new emerging brand, because no one would take you on. And maybe you're not doing well, because you have the same 10 brands that every other store has. And you're not giving the consumer any reason to shop your store. And obviously, these are broad strokes, but and the other thing that I started to realize was that the buyers for the stores weren't really taking responsibility for their buy, especially for jewelry and handbags, and even a lot of ready to wear wanted everything on consignment, meaning they didn't want to have to put out the dollars for the merchandise, they wanted the designers to give them the merchandise to just see if they could sell. But that meant they didn't really have to be responsible or really forecast anything. When they said they wanted $100,000 worth of merchandise from some brand. It didn't matter if they didn't think they could really sell 100,000 It didn't matter if they thought, well, I'll probably only sell 15 Because

Kristina:

then they would just send it back, they would just send it back. Wow, it

Amanda:

was all this sort of stuff that I was just this is completely ridiculous. This is not something I want to be party to this doesn't make sense at all. I was playing the game, because that's what you did. But I really quickly saw I can't do this, I will be out of business. This is unfair, and won't work. So I slowly kind of pulled everything back out of all of our retailers at that time. Okay, what else? What else do I want to do to make this brand something I'd be really, really proud of the world doesn't need just another fashion brand or another jewelry brand? How can I make this something really great and really different and something that I truly, truly would be proud of. And I was like, I want everything to be sustainable, ethical, I want this to give back. I guess that's something that I didn't mention the beginning as well. We give 5% of all sales to a different cause each quarter.

Kristina:

That's yet another reason why I love everything sustainable, ethical, giving back at least 5% to various charities, I just feel like you're doing everything right.

Amanda:

So I appreciate that. And it feels really good. And so I'm like, You know what I'm in charge, I can decide how I want this to be put together and how I want to do this. And so I did and it was this epiphany and realizing that I can do it. However I want to do it and make it make sense for me and make it sustainable for me. Because the way retail had always gone, it was never going to be sustainable for me as a small brand, as an emerging startup that was never going to work. And so to just kind of snap myself out of it and be like, Okay, what's gonna work for me what's gonna make me feel really fulfilled about how this business is operating. And just do it. I mean, none of this is rocket science, doing things in a sustainable, ethical way. It's not rocket science, it's just about making the decision about how you want to do it and doing it. And so that was really empowering to realize, which seems silly, I'm the one starting and building and operating this brand, but to realize that I really have the power to do this, however I wanted. And I didn't have to do it the way everyone else did it. And that might be difficult in the beginning, and people might not get it. And it might be difficult in many other ways that I couldn't foresee. But I knew that the other way, the only way it wasn't going to work.

Kristina:

I love that so much. So you started actually making the jewelry yourself. Right. So like it's never been farmed out, like to another country to get the jewelry made? I'm assuming is that correct? Correct.

Amanda:

So the early, early iterations of the jewelry I was hand making. And then now that we're doing gold and diamonds and all of that we work with factories in New York City's diamond district. Yeah, but I love that to

Kristina:

American made. I just think it's so important. Now more than ever, that we support businesses. We are helping people in our own country, we're helping our own people. It's a big deal.

Amanda:

It is it's really it's always been important to me. And unfortunately, the Italian evening bags, that was something I just could not find anyone in the United States that could do that. So that was done there. But now every last thing is done here. And I do feel really strongly about that. I feel really great about being able to do that. Yeah,

Kristina:

I absolutely love that. So when did you go online? And since you were talking about putting the jewelry in stores, but then pulling it back, and so was that when you were like, Okay, I'm just going to try this online thing is that, oh,

Amanda:

no, I've been online. I'm an early adopter, as we say. No, I believe before I even officially launched the brand when I was still I think sending out resumes. I nailed down Amanda pearl.com Love it. I'd set up a website and set up ecommerce and did all that when it was not as easy as it is to do today. Yeah, so I've always been online. And I love the idea of that. From the get go, just having full control. Yeah, control issues. But yeah, so it's I've had that since the beginning. But again, as it was always done, you did wholesale, you might have your own retail online, or your own store. But yeah, so it made it a decently easy segue. Because we did have business online, we had our ecommerce, we had some some customers coming there. So it made it somewhat seamless to be able to just pull that inventory back from stores and put it into our E commerce.

Kristina:

How was the growth in that I'm imagining, it would have been pretty slow in the beginning to find online buyers, how did it progress.

Amanda:

So that's the hard part about not having it out there in the world, and all these other brick and mortar places. And part of pulling everything back and not having the markup in the margin was that I didn't want to be having to do things PR and all this really expensive stuff that was going to add to our needs for markup. And so that was a big challenge in the beginning, okay, if we're not doing PR, we're not in stores, how can we get in front of customers? So it was a ton of trial and error? Doing a lot on Instagram, of course, and Facebook and just being out there playing with digital marketing and ads? Which

Kristina:

Yeah, yeah. And I have a question for you. Because it's something that I've noticed, because I haven't even been podcasting a year, but it's coming up on a year. And I am now in the top 2% globally. So I've done really, really well. But it's interesting. I remember in the beginning, just that whole thing of trial and error, having to just try things and fail. And at first it would really, really staying or getting a no somebody says no, no, I'm not coming on your podcast, or whatever. Right. And that first rejection was so hard. And I found that over time, I just almost built up a muscle, a courage muscle, I don't know what you want to call it, but I, I just got bolder with trying new things. What's the worst thing that can happen? It doesn't work? Oh, well, let's try something else. Here I go. And I love that about you. And here's the other thing I really love about you. I love that you were like, I do not like this thing of me giving my jewelry to the to a big store, and then they try to sell it, but they don't really care. Because if they don't sell it, they're just gonna send it back to me. They're marking it up. I like the fact that you said I'm gonna do business on my own terms. I'm not going to follow the crowd, I'm gonna do something different. And I love that you were so motivated to take out the middleman make it more affordable, because we all do as women, most of us do enjoy some nice jewelry pieces, and to not have to pay an arm and a leg for it. And just really, really doing everything on your own terms. Okay, I want to hire Americans, I want to keep it at home. I want to give back. I mean, I really admire that about you that you you really stayed true and authentic to your vision. Were you always like that? Or do you think that was something that you developed over time?

Amanda:

I think to certain smaller degrees, I always was always felt confident and my vision, or my sensibility or my aesthetic or creativity or whatever it was. But in terms of something as big as it to me, it is pretty big, completely pulling out of how everyone an entire industry did things and being like, No, I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm going to do it this because this is what's going to work. This is what's going to actually function allow my business to function in the current retail landscape. That's big. And I think the hope was that, I mean, not even the hope the Fantasy was that other people might follow suit and just be like, you know, screw these big department stores, and kind of take it back a little bit because that was all fair. And we were all being I mean, it was really kind of abusive for them to take so little responsibility and care. And it really was I feel like abusive to these brands and these designers in these houses. And so I guess the fantasy Not that I ever thought it would come to pass was that other people would follow suit and do this is dumb. Let's do it this way that that works for us. And let's do it in a sustainable way and let's make retail something that can do more that can give back and I mean, not that I've moved any needles on that front at all, but I'm doing it for my brand. And that's enough.

Kristina:

And that's really all you can do. Right? Yep. Yep. And that's beautifully said, and what advice would you give to my listeners? You know, it's all female listeners, usually 30 Plus Up, that are thinking about maybe starting a business and want to keep it ethical and do apply things the same way that you have, what what advice would you have for that person?

Amanda:

I would say, obviously, to not get stuck in the rat of how you think things should be done, or how an industry typically works. Because we are not going to be successful if it doesn't work for us if it's not done in a sustainable way for us. So if you think you should do all these things that these bigger brands are doing, because that's how you see brands doing it, you're never going to be able to keep up with the I mean, this is an extreme example, but believe Aton, spending millions of dollars on advertising every quarter, that's just it's not going to work. Think about what can you manage? What can you keep up with? How can you build the business and around yourself and a way that you can manage? If it's not sustainable for you, it's just not going to work? So I think that's one thing. And then, of course, what's important to you? What are the things that you want to do? What are the things you want to bring? How do you want to bring those things? And again, build that around yourself, and what you want and what you need and how you want to do it? And really, don't worry about how others do it. Put it together and build that around yourself?

Kristina:

Yeah, I love that so much. And it's so funny, because all the things you're saying, Amanda, are basically the messages that I'm trying to get out to my listeners to it's called, she's brave, but it's really about the underscore of it. It is live your life authentically true to yourself, find out who you are, because the media will tell you who you are, if you don't figure it out on your own. Yeah, they'll

Amanda:

let you know many opinions out there. Yeah,

Kristina:

and, and live an authentic life, do what is right for you and your values. And I think that is truly one of the big keys to happiness, I really believe that because it even comes down to freedom, our greatest sense of freedom is being authentic to ourselves. And it sounds like that is the journey that you have just been on. And I think that's part of why your jewelry resonates so much with me is just who you are as a person. And I also love that your jewelry is unique to you. A lot of the beautiful pieces that you are selling I don't I don't see them in a department I will never find this beautiful fire Opal necklace. With these fire Opal beads. It's incredible. You guys, I know you're listening. Someday this will be on YouTube so you can see it. But you're not going to find out in a department store. Again, you're being true to yourself, designing jewelry that you love. I mean, the whole the whole package your the whole package. And it's so funny, because that was why I mean, I wanted to interview you because I just was I think this woman is everything that I'm trying to help women attain on my podcast.

Amanda:

Oh, that means a lot. Thank you. Yeah, yeah.

Kristina:

So I want to just ask you about grit, because I'm really I'm really focused on that right now. You know, what's your thoughts on that? In regards to being an entrepreneur?

Amanda:

Yeah, you're not gonna get fired if you don't have some bread? None of this is easy. And I mean, that's not a big surprise to anyone. Life isn't easy doing anything of worth or meaning is, it's not a well oiled easy path, but the entire way, entire path of building a business, it's not easy, nothing is gonna go your way. Everything's gonna be a challenge. I don't think even now, all these years down the road and I have finally things working a bit. That doesn't mean the path isn't without hurdles. It's just unused, jumping over them, or going around that more, or whatever it is. But yeah, it takes a lot of grit because there'll be a lot of noes. Every step on the path is going to be a challenge. You're going to run into people that as straightforward as the task is it's going to go wrong because someone just wasn't paying attention to following instructions. You can give the clearest instructions. They're everywhere and they might not be followed. So it just takes a lot of grit and perseverance and foresight about what could go wrong, to allow yourself to kind of continue along the way. And I don't think that anyone should ever expect that you're not going to require grit even 20 years down the road or that it's going to be easy. 20 years down the road, you're just used to it a little more. So I

Kristina:

love that. I've never heard anyone say that, like, it's not gonna go away. But you do get used to it. That's beautifully said. And that's really wise words. Yeah.

Amanda:

I mean, maybe a little 5% goes away, because you learn how to avoid it. Or if you're working with anyone else, which we always are, you know, I'm not just the Andres opals, or this work out of the ether. I have to work with people just great. But it comes with its challenges. Yeah,

Kristina:

definitely. Any last words of advice either about you and your business and entrepreneurship or even just life in general?

Amanda:

What do you think just not to be afraid and to really think outside the box and think about what you want. And I mean, it's not a mistake. It's just how it was that I started. And I set my business up and the way it was Emily's down the way everyone else did it without really thinking or does that even make sense? I was very young. But yeah, I think we all deserve a little leeway. We do make mistakes, we're gonna make mistakes no matter what. But really thinking about what you want, what makes sense. Don't look at that one over there. Don't look at that business over there. Don't look at that woman over there and how she's doing things. Do it in a way that makes sense for you and your business, whatever that is, because they're all very different and require different things and have different needs. So just really think outside the box and make it work for you. Beautifully

Kristina:

said, Thank you so much, Amanda for taking the time out. And speaking with me and sharing your wisdom with my listeners, you are such a beautiful inspiration to me. And to so many others. I am so sure. Well, thanks

Amanda:

so much for having me. It was wonderful.

Kristina:

Hey, everyone, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy life to listen to today's episode. I love learning about what makes you brave. I'm here with you. I see you. I hear you and I want to hear from you. I want to know how you're showing up as being brave and authentic. Connect with me on Instagram at she's brave podcast or come join our community in the she's brave podcast Facebook group. I'm sending you so much love. Until next time. Keep being brave.