Editor’s Note: A few months back, I met Sierra over a cup of coffee. We chatted about our love for Frye boots and the day-to-day ups and downs of being your own boss. She has tons of wisdom to offer you—so enjoy the interview below and shop her beautiful jewelry!
Name: Sierra Bailey
Current Title/Company: Owner and Designer of Manic Trout Jewelry
How did you get started as a jewelry designer? I started making jewelry in boarding school to stand apart from the sea of Cartier and Tiffany’s silver pieces. It was the early 90′s and hard to find colorful jewelry. In college, friends started asking if they could buy what I made for myself, and I sold some pieces to a local store. After I graduated, I worked for a gallery and assisted an artist (I wanted to be a painter way back then). I slowly started Manic Trout which was at the time, a myriad of creative endeavors, including jewelry, paintings and web design. In 2006, I designed my first e-commerce site featuring jewelry and paintings. In 2010, I rebranded and realized that I as much as I loved painting, I didn’t want to do it as a business and focused on jewelry completely. This went well as in 2011 I was able to go full-time.
What qualities do you think it takes to be successful at your job and why? Creativity, organization, passion, drive and the ability to see the big picture. Creativity is obvious, I’m a designer. Organization is incredibly useful to any business, and when you are a tiny start-up and wearing many hats, even more so. Passion and drive are key, as without these there is nothing to get you through the bad times and make you want to keep pushing in the uphill battle that owning a small business is. Being a big picture thinker is also key, as you can’t dwell on the details or on the day to day. I am constantly updating my goals, both short and long term and once I have met one it’s on to the next. Without being able to grasp the big picture, the tendency to get stuck is hard to avoid.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
10am: I wake up and check emails and all social media sites while still in bed. I am not a morning person so I have to drag myself out of bed to get dressed and feed the dog.
10:30am: I head right into the studio (it’s in my house) and my husband kindly makes me coffee while I start to answer emails and check all of the online stores I sell on.
11:00: I list things on online stores, print orders do social media updates.
12:00pm: I usually realize that I have not eaten anything yet and munch on something while reading through my blog reader.
1pm: I fill orders from manictrout.com and the handful of online stores I sell on and invoice and pack up wholesale orders.
3pm: Answer emails, write my blog post for the day, work on banners and other graphics that need to be done, edit photos, work on line sheets, update the website… basically any and all computer work.
6pm: I try and stop to workout most days… I either do a workout video or go running, then shower and eat dinner. My husband works evenings, which is awesome as I am a natural night person and prefer to work late.
8pm-12am: Make jewelry. I do all jewelry production at night. I keep a pretty large stock of inventory, 3-5 of everything available and it needs to be restocked often. If I am working on one the 4 collections I release a year, I’ll be designing and photographing new pieces, but for the most part, it’s just production.
12am: Hang out time with Adam, we maybe eat something and usually watch an episode or 2 of a show.
2am: Bedtime and I read for about an hour every night before I fall asleep… some nights I read 2 pages and fall asleep with the book in my hand… others like last night, when I’m at the end, I’ll read for 2+ hours.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business? Never stopping. There is no one telling me to take a vacation or a day off so I never feel that I can stop working. There is always more to do. The slow times are rough to handle mentally as they feel like failing. I also try and always have things in the works for at least 4 months ahead this however is tough around the holidays when it’s the busiest time of the year, but if you’re not working on leads and projects all the time, you’ll pay the price a few months later.
What’s the biggest misconception about your job? That I spend all of my time designing jewelry. The majority of my day is working on running the business, mainly while sitting at a computer.
Best moment in your career? When an article in a magazine was written about the town I used to live in and it referenced Manic Trout as being one of the highlights of it. I had no idea it was being written, hadn’t been interviewed and had not pitched to them, they had found me while researching the area. I burst into tears when I saw it as I was so honored! They also compared me as a designer to Vivian Westwood, and that was the 2nd best moment.
What advice would you give to a person trying to become a jewelry designer or person who wants to start his or her own business? Success does not happen overnight and do not expect to be an overnight success. I worked full time while running Manic Trout for years, so I could afford to reinvest everything Manic Trout made back into the business and pay for things such as a PR firm. Jewelry is an insanely competitive field which makes it even harder to be successful. It’s said that an overnight success take 10 years of work to happen. Also, be true to yourself, do not replicate what someone else is doing. Keep your head down, work hard and don’t worry about what someone else is doing.
How do see your business evolving in the next five years? I have been focusing more on wholesale in the past year and am hoping that this continues to grow at the rate it has been. This would lead increase would lead to having a production assistant or 2 in the studio and for the actual studio to be in a converted shed type building in the backyard so I feel like I am leaving the house to work.
You can’t leave the house without this in your purse: Besides the obvious iPhone answer, Burt’s Bees Lip Balm. I have a tube in every room of the house as well. I just feel better knowing I have some nearby.