Small Business Spotlight: An Interview with Cincinnati Junebug Jewelry Designer, Dawn Grady
We are featuring a special jewelry collection designer today! Meet Dawn Grady, the owner of Junebug Jewelry Designs, a Cincinnati local business. This unique line of jewelry emphasizes the power and strength naturally inherent in every woman.
Below is our interview with Dawn. If you have a natural talent, or passion, and are looking for inspiration to create a business, I suggest you keep reading!
Tell me about yourself, and what inspired you to start your business?
I’m a public relations professional by day, and jewelry designer by night. I’ve always loved bold jewelry, but I never wanted to buy the kind I saw at the mall, considering it’s often over-priced with limited craftsmanship. So I started taking classes at the University of Cincinnati to learn how to make jewelry for myself. I started designing beaded necklaces, but learned that beading isn’t my thing. So, I started taking metalsmith classes and eventually developed the skills and techniques to create my version of wearable art. I like to combine copper, Argentium Silver and semi-precious gemstones to create timeless, unique pieces. At first it was just for my personal pleasure, but all the compliments I got inspired me to start selling my work.
What type of jewelry do you sell?
My jewelry is all handmade, and either one-of-a-kind or limited edition. The style is bold, wearable art that makes a statement, but each piece is designed to be comfortable enough to wear all day. From vibrant statement necklaces and earrings to funky cuff bracelets and cocktail rings, Junebug is about delivering the ‘wow’ factor with every design.
How do you get the word out about your products?
I have an email list that’s pretty extensive. I also use social media, specifically Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also done some digital advertising and snail mail to reach more people. I frequently open pop-up shops in Over-the-Rhine. That way I can connect with customers in person. I also participate in a select group of craft shows and charity functions. No amount of promotion trumps the ability to experience my jewelry in person. So, it’s important to find opportunities to connect with customers face to face.
What inspires your jewelry designs?
That’s always such a tough question. I’m a Gemini, so it often depends on the mood I’m in. I pride myself on being a diamond in the rough, with each of life’s hills and valleys polishing me into the jewel I’m supposed to be. We are renewed by good times and strengthened by bad times. I like to bend, fold, stretch, curve and beat metal into beautiful pieces. I think this gives my pieces the heirloom quality I’m trying to achieve.
So how did you finally launch your business?
It sort of developed on it’s own. Originally, I just wanted to make jewelry for me. But I was hooked on the craft. I’m always so excited to make jewelry, and have no problem waking up at the crack of dawn to get started. The selling part came later, after I got comfortable with my techniques and the quality of the materials I was using. It’s been a journey for me to find my passion. But the skills that I’ve been able to gain throughout my career have helped me to start this business. I still have a day job, but now with Junebug, I’m able to create something that is beautiful and can outlive me. Customers can pass along their jewelry for generations to come.
How have you used the skills you learned on the job or through education, as a business owner?
I graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a journalism degree. I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s such an important skill if you want to connect with people, especially online. As a public relations and marketing professional, I have extensive experience in designing promotional strategies. And this skill-set has served me well in launching and building the Junebug brand.
How do you juggle running a business and still working a full time job?
It’s a challenge having a full time job! I often use my vacation days to open a pop-up shop, or make new jewelry, or photograph my collection. As a business owner there is always something to do. Time is something I wish I had more of. As successful as I have been so far, I realize I will have to step out on faith and commit to it 100% to build the worldwide brand I want to create.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think all entrepreneurs should be passionate about what they offer. Don’t just go into business to sell stuff. Offer what you’re passionate about, so that you can maintain the level of effort it takes to run a business. This is not for the faint at heart. My feelings have been hurt dozens of times. But, I love what I do. I love making the pieces, talking about them, and seeing them on happy customers. And, I think my passion for jewelry making is a huge selling point.
What’s on the horizon for your business?
Next year, my focus will be on increasing my online sales. To do that means creating more opportunities for people to “experience” my jewelry in cyberspace. So, look for more videos coming from me soon.
More with Dawn Grady…
What’s the one tool that helps your business run smoothly?
I would have to list two: my hammers and my torches.
What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?
Family. There is nothing like spending time with family over the holidays. It’s extra special, and a great time to bond.
If you could have lunch with any woman (past or present) who would it be and why?
I’d say Michelle Obama or Oprah. There is so much to learn from these women in terms of how to follow your passion, stay driven, and achieve your goals. The two of them have navigated the complicated world we live in -- particularly as Black women -- flawlessly. They are true masters of the boss-lady game, and I would love to learn from both of them.