Debbie Behle of Spoonin' Jewelry
is an online mom-and-pop shop that sells custom rings, pendants and bracelets made from silverware. It's run by Deb and Dave Behle, who pride themselves on their quirky, green business approach.
How did you start your business?
We actually had no intention of starting a business. We both had full-time jobs, one child in college and one in high school.
We had always enjoyed going to local arts and craft fairs like the Appalachian Festival
, and it was one year at the Appalachian Festival that we found a vendor who made jewelry from silverware.
Our daughter, Caitlin, and I both really liked the bracelets and I bought one for her and one for myself. It was a few weeks later that my husband, who teaches carpentry, decided that he could make one himself.
With a donation of silver-plated silverware from a friend, we made a few pieces for family. We both took other pieces we made to work and found that other people really liked them, too.
These early pieces were all given away, but then we thought if other folks liked them so much, maybe people would actually pay for the jewelry. We then decided to try our luck at selling at arts and craft fairs. With help from a family member who just happened to be a CPA, we launched Spoonin’ Jewelry and took to the road.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
It was mostly high-school craft shows at first, but as we perfected our processes, made our own tools and came up with new ideas for pieces like fork bracelets, pendants and rings, we started getting accepted into juried arts and craft shows in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
We also found that we could do ‘theme’ jewelry when our son asked us to make his prom date a bracelet with a colored crystal to match her dress, as opposed to a corsage that doesn’t last. We then got three more requests from his best buddies. This year, we’ll be making jewelry for his wedding party.
What local resources did you take advantage of and how did they help?
It was with our daughter’s insistence and help that we took the business online and into local shops, like The Spotted Magpie
. She also put us in touch with a local graphic designer for branding and someone to develop a website, both of whom were also trying their hand at startup businesses. We couldn’t have done it without her help since she was the one with connections to other entrepreneurs.
What would you do differently if you started your business again?
One thing we would have done differently is to take advantage of programs like Springboard
, which helps small businesses and those who are thinking about starting a business. I think we began to lean a little too much on our daughter for things like branding and getting our jewelry into local shops. I just don’t think we ever imagined that it would take off like it has.
What’s next for you and your company?
Next for the business is to get many, many more items on our web site, in our Etsy shop and in more local shops. We continually work on new designs and try to find rare silverware patterns, and iintroduce them via Facebook.
We’ll continue to do shows because we enjoy meeting the customers. They’re always happy when they find a piece made from their grandmother’s pattern of silverware or a pattern first produced the year they were born or married.
We also do custom pieces using customer’s silverware, which adds to the sentimental value. It’s just a good feeling to have turned a challenge and hobby into a green company that our customers enjoy.
Interview by Sean Peters