(Editor’s Note: The Colorado Springs Business Journal honors the city’s fastest-growing companies each year with a celebration in September. The eight companies who won are being featured in a series of articles discussing their business models, success stories and challenges.)
Revolution Jewelry Works, founded in 2013, is a custom jewelry design studio in Colorado Springs. The company focuses on “unique fine jewelry, custom jewelry design, jewelry repair,” according to the company’s website. They also offer on-site gemstone faceting and lapidary services. They were named “best of Colorado Springs” by the CSBJ’s sister paper, the Colorado Springs Independent. Revolution Jewelry Works also received national recognition as one of America’s coolest stores by InStore Magazine.
Recently, Jennifer Farnes, owner of Revolution Jewelry Works, took time to discuss her challenges, her goals and her employees.
Describe your business.
First and foremost, we are a custom jewelry studio. About 70 percent of our business is creating one-off designs for individuals who want something different from the mass-production jewelry in big-box stores. When we opened in 2013, we built our studio to be among the most technologically advanced jewelry workshops in Colorado. Our team consists only of highly skilled tradespeople capable of some of the most complicated and intricate work in the industry.
What are the secrets to your success?
My team is incredible! As individuals, they are the perfect blend of fearlessness, logic, calm and enthusiasm. They are like a group of rock star jewelry ninjas who amaze me with their talent and ideas each and every day. Our store wouldn’t have the growth and success we’ve had without one another.
Also — breaking the mold! Our focus has always been handmade fine jewelry by individual artisans.
What are some of the challenges you face?
I never knew how hard it was going to be to find talent to fill the ranks as we grow. There are so many trade industry articles about skilled craftsmen… jewelry is no different. By 2020, there will be more work in the jewelry industry than there will be jewelers to complete it. Additionally there are already more jewelers retiring than new talent entering the field. We work hard to skill-test potential new employees, understanding that many jewelers come from different types of shops and work-style backgrounds. When we see potential, we know we can teach modified techniques to heighten quality of work so we can turn a good jeweler into a great jeweler.
Do you have a way to keep employees engaged?
PROFIT-SHARING! It’s fine to think “my business, my investment, my profit” — but when there is a sense of ownership throughout a team it becomes about more than the person who started the business. It really has worked wonders for Revolution Jewelry Works. As an owner, solving problems doesn’t rest on my shoulders alone. When there are challenges, my whole team offers up potential solutions. When someone has an idea, they feel obligated to voice it so everyone can benefit. The final decisions are still mine, but when we talk things out we usually find an answer together. At the end of the year, half our profits stay with the business to purchase new equipment, travel and for training. The other half of profits are divided up among the entire team.
Do you have advice for other business owners?
I have seen businesses thrive and fail by how the owners value their employees. Too often people can forget the Golden Rule — treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t give people desire and reason to come to work (beyond a paycheck), you will never have people willing to go the limit to be a part of your company’s success. Respect your employees… because without them you can’t succeed.
How do you refrain from becoming risk-averse?
My husband is an incredible sounding board. When I have doubt about a new venture for the store, I talk to him about the risks and rewards. He is such a believer in me and my team that the conversation always ends with, “You’re doing things no one believed Revolution could do. Take the shot, make it work.” It’s good to have a healthy fear of risk… but every risk is worth taking. Failure is always an opportunity in disguise!