High Frequency Marketing
PR & Media Relations in Spanish - Website positioning


Almost everyone has a box of sparkling old buttons from

Grandma's sewing chest to marvel at, or set of dominoes,

checkers or mahjongg pieces rescued from a flea market. Maybe

they have a partial Scrabble game and perhaps even a collection

of colorful, fifty-one-to-a-deck playing cards purchased at an

antique store tucked away in a drawer. Gather your treasures

together and start earning extra income now! Strap those buttons

on a piece of elastic to create eye-catching bangle bracelets.

Glue the dominoes, checkers, and Scrabble pieces onto earrings

or pin backs for guys and gals. Whatever the material, mount

your artwork on one-of-a-kind playing cards for good money in a

rewarding home jewelry business.

In addition to having the satisfaction of creating fun gifts for

family and friends out of "heirloom" materials, once the word is

out, relatives will often send along their extra buttons and

collectibles. This helps build your inventory, resulting in a

minimal investment for supplies. The season for successful

jewelry selling is year-round, since the pieces make wonderful

birthday and Christmas gifts, as well as fun wardrobe

accessories anytime. Men, women, and children can wear these

buttons, domino, and checker pins and earrings, so the sky is

the limit for profits. And this business can be worked out of

your home part or full-time.

Bev Rice is one designer who not only models what she sells, but

delights in the pleasure others have in purchasing her sporty

art. She and her husband Jim started a home business called

"Sport in Life" ten years ago with one imperfect mahjongg set

originally bought as a present for a friend. In the past five

years "Sport in Life" has evolved from marketing craft-fair

products to bona fide antique buttons sold at more expensive

retail-quality level. With mostly word-of-mouth advertising,

their jewelry has captured creative awards, been featured in the

Image section of her local Sunday newspaper, displayed for sale

in clothing and curio boutiques, and sold at jewelry parties.


Like most business entrepreneurs, Bev started out "needing to

make a living," and she wanted to combine her love of going to

flea markets with creative, artistic urges. She also had a

curiosity about the ability to manufacture interesting game

pieces. While she comes up with her signature creations, Jim

perfects ever-sturdier ways of fastening pieces together and

drills holes in the mahjongg tiles for Bev to thread with

elastic to make bracelets or neck amulets. She took her first

product, a "rigger" domino with a tell-tale crack, to her

husband, who polished the domino to sheen and bolted it to a pin


Earrings and pins can be made without drilling, however. Just

purchase an inexpensive glue gun from the neighborhood hardware

store, or sturdy "glue dot" stickers, as well as earring and pin

backs, available wholesale. "What's more, anyone can do this,"

says Bev.

INVESTMENT. Bev estimates start-up costs can be less than $500

because of "miracles and mitzvahs." Don't underestimate the

value of trading services or receiving supplies when starting

out. "People were inspired to gift us," she says. An artist

friend created a simple but effective domino logo, and another

friend who was teaching a printing class made up 500 business

cards as a gift. While Bev did read a couple of start-up books,

such as Working From Home, and Small-Time Operator, (similar

books can be obtained from the library) she advocates getting a

business license from City Hall (if your area requires one) and

an invoice book from a stationery store. Then just start-up.

The jewelry maker recommends that once you are in business, get

a sales tax resale number from your state's taxation bureau to

make quantity purchases at jewelry supply stores giving

wholesale discounts. You will also be able to legitimately write

off business expenses at tax time. Initially, Bev spent $100 per

month on supplies. That included game pieces, pin and earring

backs, and glue. She notes that "the most interesting pieces can

be found at thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales."

BUYING SUPPLIES. Finding supplies can be time-consuming at

first, says Bev, but all supplies can be bought in one's own

neighborhood or ordered from supply catalogs. Her inventory is

now built up, but when she first started out she went to stores

three or four times a day to be the first person there and check

on items arriving during the day. With vigilance and luck,

"finds" can be snapped up as they get put on the shelves. Also,

friends who peddle their wares at flea markets might bring her a

mahjongg set because they know exactly the kinds of things she


While Bev's first mahjongg tiles cost 50 cents, and were sold

loose in a plastic bag, now sets might run $300 in a big city

where the game is popular.

To record money earned and money spent, and to keep track of

what pieces are on consignment or out for a jewelry party, Bev

recommends keeping an inventory sales book.


The person who wants to make jewelry and sell their wearable art

can make a part-time or full-time living at it. Bev Rice reports

that generating $10,000 per year part-time is possible, while

she estimates $30,000 to $40,000 could be made full-time,

depending on effort and expertise. The qualities of integrity,

flexibility and enthusiasm are personal attributes that will

make for better business, but being an artist is not a

requirement. In fact, Bev remarks that a little business sense

can really make or break profits. "I think I would succeed

better as less of an artist," she muses, "and more of a


Anyone who wants to get into this business has an intuitive

sense that they can put pieces together uniquely. Or talents can

be combined with a partner's help. Fortunately, Bev has a

husband with a natural inclination to use a drill press, which

can be purchased for under $100. Meanwhile Bev says she has

become a pro with a glue gun. Both are able to fill order for a

variety of styles quickly.

BUILDING A NICHE. The designer has built a niche for herself by

making pins out of the buttons and old mahjongg betting sticks

she loves. She enjoys making pins because "they are pieces I can

do myself-drill holes, find buttons, and put them together." Bev

relates that while she did not enjoy working for other people,

she loves her current work, loves the jewelry pieces, and says

that it has given her a personal sense of identity. "It is

gratifying to build a business from a broken set of dominoes.

Anybody can do it who has a set of buttons."

Most people have "secret stashes" of buttons, according to Bev,

and should be encouraged to be creative.

She recalls that her mother had a beautiful set of buttons and

her grandmother had lovely pieces of mahjongg set. And jewelry

making "is a nice way to keep those collections alive." But if

one is not ready to part with treasures, then items can be

purchased at flea markets. Buttons of quality range form a penny

to $8 or $10. The old glass and semi-precious stone buttons can

be considered a study in texture from a jeweler's point of view.

But ordinary plastic buttons, which comes in all shapes and

sizes, make perfectly creative and whimsical materials, too.

WHAT TO CHARGE. Jewelry prices depend on time, materials, and

what the market will bear. Simple Scrabble pins make great

holiday stocking stuffers or children's birthday party favors

and sell for $1.50. Antique button pins that look wonderful on a

blazer lapel can start at $25 and well-made button bracelets can

retail for between $25 and $50, depending on quality. Domino

earrings and pins can run from $16 to $26. Vintage collectible

mahjongg and bamboo bracelets may wholesale from $88 to $250.

JEWELRY PARTIES. Although there is a variety of ways to sell

jewelry, from craft fairs and festivals, at gift and clothing

boutiques, on consignment or by personal referrals, the best

methods really depend on individual preferences. There are

benefits and pitfalls to each. For those starting out, Bev

highly recommends holding jewelry parties as a fun,

tried-and-true way to sell. Better yet, ask friends to hold them

at their homes, serve a little something to eat and drink, and

invite a group of about six to twelve people. In her experience,

earnings of approximately $300 to $400 can be made from a home

jewelry party.

NETWORKING. Another method is to network with a friend to find

trustworthy places that will take a chance on your work. This

includes consignment at clothing or gift boutiques and possibly

museums or art gallery gift stores, where a percentage of the

profits are kept by the store upon sale.

"Most rewarding," says Bev, "is when stores buy outright,

because it keeps your cash flow going." She has refined her

product line to where she can market it almost exclusively at

the high-end retail level. But Bev avoids the large chain stores

because, she says, "it can be heaven or hell." Mostly it takes a

long time to get paid and a big store buyers can cancel on a

whim an order that has been rushed into production.

CRAFT FAIRS. Craft fair profits are tied into the costs of entry

fees, booth space rental, and transportation to the fair. Some

fairs require the artist to be present to sell their work.

Depending on regulations, this can pose problems for the jewelry

maker who has hired a sales representative. Sales generally

depend on the ability of the individual seller and the quality

of the neighborhood crafts to help draw customers. Sometimes a

percentage of sales goes for a worthy fund-raiser. Also, many

artists really enjoy displaying their wares in a festival

atmosphere where they get a chance to meet and learn from each


FESTIVALS. "Game pieces make people smile," says Bev, "and are

made to be touched." Unique designs, together with the

touchables and playful qualities of the jewelry, are the

strongest selling points at festivals and craft fairs. Although

she now shies away from what she terms "the stress and the rat

race," a small show may only charge a $50 entry fee and net

profit of $200 out of $400 gross sales is possible. "People like

a chance to meet the artist," says Bev, which can help sales.

For the person trying to get established, she notes that this

venue - the chance to talk to other artists, trade, and barter

back and forth - can be more lucrative than dollars and cents.

FASHION SHOWS. Bev is occasionally invited to display her

jewelry as part of vintage fashion shows where a friend is

already selling and the artists dress up in appropriate period

costumes. Or she might do a weekend show where she is given

space to set up in a clothing boutique where a sale has been

advertised. The store often sends out postcards notifying

customers of the sale and perhaps a flyer noting an artist

appearance. Bev says that she enjoys these, but points out that

the store claims 30 percent of her sales. Also, selling all

weekend can be very demanding.

PERSONAL REFERRALS. Since Bev has been in business ten years and

knows her market, she understands how her pieces sell best, and

certainly what is cost-effective for her business. Personal

referrals now account for 30 to 50 percent of Sport in Life

sales, and 30 percent in repeat business. Someone starting out

may need to try all avenues to see what kind of customers are

attracted to a particular jewelry style.. Besides word-of-mouth

referrals by friends, and boosting sales by wearing the jewelry,

a jewelry representative can bring up the bottom line of profit.

Bev estimates that referrals from a rep who worked for her

several years ago added another 10 percent to sales. "If you can

find one who likes you and you like them - they can be a buffer

zone between you and the public," says Bev. "That individual

becomes the Mary Kay of jewelry."

Because Bev now handles the business herself, she advises taking

it "one step at a time." She would like to teach people to gain

self-esteem from their work and says she feels it is important

for people not to underprice or undersell themselves.

"Otherwise," she says, "they could just go get a job!" Because

people are always buying. Bev remarks that the business is

becoming more competitive. But she sees this as a good sign, one

that breeds well-made designs, those made using good, non-toxic

glues which are made to last. But don't be afraid to develop a

niche, since every bracelet and necklace will be different by

virtue of the material. "This is fun," enthuse Bev. "Buttons are

really unusual and unique, and it feels good to make these


For example, just four stacked buttons can make an interesting

earring Bev explains. "I was the kind of person who threw out

earrings if they were broken and didn't know how to fix things."

She remarks that making jewelry is wonderfully therapeutic and

can be a way to teach children creativity by stringing elastic

through buttons as a birthday party game.

In addition to belts, her new product includes a few glitzy

patent leather handbags also festooned with buttons. A bag might

retail for $50 to $125, according to the buying market. A

developing product line is as individual as the person, and the

artistic preferences will certainly add distinction. Bev states

that she would like to inspire other people to start feeling

creative. But working with buttons is not limited to women. Bev

says she knows of one man who "makes fantastic bolo ties out of

old buttons and belt buckles." "Whatever the material, her best

advice is, "Only do it if it's fun: Sport in Life!"


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