Springboard Series: Susie Brand, Susie Brand Designs
Susie Brand is a jewelry designer and founder of Susie Brand Jewelry Designs. Her timeless pieces are featured in her Pendleton Art Center studio, which is open to the public. SpringBoard is ArtWorks business development program that targets artisans and creative entrepreneurs.
You studied in Atlanta and New York. How did you end up back in Cincinnati?
I was in New York for seven years, but I needed more space to work. Three hundred square feet isn’t much space to get things done, and I was tired of going from point A to point B and it taking 45 minutes. I have family in Cincinnati, and I knew Cincinnati had a good foundation for the arts and has had great growth and development for small businesses as well as support for people in the arts.
When did you complete the Springboard program, and what did you learn there?
Two years ago. It taught me about building my business, which had been difficult for me, as someone primarily trained as an artist. We’re not taught the fundamentals of growing a business.
They taught us how to determine if you’re a sole proprietor, how to read a real estate agreement, what type of insurance you need, how to budget and how to market yourself in Cincinnati. Overall, it gave me a vocabulary to use to describe my business.
What advice do you have for other small business owners?
Springboard taught me to build relationships with people, and that’s really important if you want repeat customers. This was very effective for me because it started to build my business. Not only did people come to buy a gift for a graduation, but they’d also come back for Valentine’s day, for example. People who support the arts and small business community work really well for that concept of repeat business.
What are your most popular pieces?
Rings; they’re so personal. I have a strong background with education within gemstones, and I take the opportunities to explore that in my work. For example, my spinner rings are popular: You can decide how many spinner bands you want, and they can be different metals—silver, or white, yellow or rose gold. People like those because the bands can symbolize different people in their family—they’re addictive!
What is your aesthetic?
Everybody has their own style. Mine is a bit more simplistic and modern, and it’s designed for a contemporary woman. That target market has worked well for me.
I don’t follow trends; I believe designers themselves are trendmakers, and that sets me apart. I let the shopper connect more with the stone and the metal than the trendy item of the moment. So, my jewelry’s more expensive, but you get something you really love and can wear for years.
Buying jewelry can be stressful, especially when it’s for someone else. Help!
When a customer is buying for someone else, I tell them to think about the simple things: What color do you see them wear in their clothing? Is it more blue jeans? Yellows and greens? We can play with that stone color as the foundation of the piece.
Next, I ask if they see this person wearing bigger or smaller pieces. That’s phase two. Finally, I’ll work with price point to determine how much metal I should use and what the quality of the stone will be. Buying jewelry for other people is such a great gesture, and it’s also nice to have the person buying the piece say, “You know what? I like this, and they’ll love it, too, because it’s part of me—I chose this for them.”
Interview by Robin Donovan