Here at Unicorn Marketing Co., we have the privilege of working with some incredible creatives, entrepreneurs, and overall wonderful people! We want to highlight our creatives and their amazing businesses. Meet one of our lovely clients, Sarah from Sarah Mulder Jewelry!
Where It All Began
“My infatuation with jewelry began as a child staring at my mom’s bangles that she never took off, and swooning over jewelry that she had purchased during her travels. I started to collect jewelry through my teens, and into my 20’s, and then my house was robbed, and all of my jewelry was stolen. The insurance company reimbursed me to replace my jewelry collection. I took my time and bought myself a capsule collection of beautiful gold-plated pieces, and I realized how much wearing jewelry made me feel complete. I started to consider a jewelry career to create beautiful, timeless pieces with a twist, wanting to offer my customers something they might not be able to find anywhere else.” – Sarah
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company!
I’m a born and raised Vancouverite and a self-taught jewelry designer with a Bachelors in Fine Arts. I’ve been a full-time designer for 11 years now! It’s crazy how fast that’s gone by. Sarah Mulder Jewelry was born out of a desire to be my own boss and show the world what I had in my creative brain. It has a long way to go but it’s certainly an endless adventure. Currently, I’m creating contemporary jewelry pieces that make my customers feel uplifted and beautiful.
How did you first get started in your industry?
I went to school for Fine Art and many jobs later I became a jewelry designer, almost by fluke. Jewelry was always something that I had dabbled in and sold to friends and family, doing little weekender markets and playing around with beaded designs. I was ending a job and trying my hand as a full-time artist. The first bigger market I signed up for, MAKE IT at the Croatian Cultural Centre in East Vancouver, became my jumping point. I had three stores contact me to consign jewelry after the show. It was enough monthly income to pique my interest in the industry as a full-time gig.
How was the process of building your own company? Is there anything you would have done differently?
It was challenging and exciting all rolled into one. I’m kind of a “just do it” person, and meet the challenges as they come along. I was really excited about registering as a real business, and at first, I was just having a lot of fun creating jewelry every day. Then I realized how quickly the supplies were adding up, and I didn’t have enough demand for the product I was making. Eventually, consigning jewelry turned into wholesale orders and a website. I continued to build on improving the business each year. I learned new industry bits and pieces along the way, and I’m still learning new things weekly.
There’s not a lot I would have done differently, but there are things I would have liked to have done earlier. For example, I would have loved to have taken business courses in college rather than learn as I go. It would have been good to incorporate day 1, the process to do it after you are a sole proprietor is a little more complicated. I would have and still would love to have a business mentor. There is so much to learn, and I always think I’m behind when it comes to learning all the bits and pieces.
Do your visual arts and jewelry-making processes look the same? Do they complement each other?
I don’t think they complement one another in a work way, but they certainly have a similar flow sometimes in style if I’m creating in both mediums at the same time. They lend nicely to one another when I’m in a creative head-space. My art making is very organic based since it has come secondary to my jewelry business for years. In the jewelry business, there is a very strict set of deadlines that always needs to be met. Currently, I release 2 full collections per year (one in January and one in August). These deadlines are industry standard deadlines, set up for wholesale buying. This is the first year I will be dropping mini collections, one for Mother’s Day and one for the winter Holidays. Sometimes jewelry deadlines feel a little pressured. For the most part, the deadlines work well for me, knowing what the expectations are each year.
How do you come up with inspiration for new pieces?
I’m inspired every single day. It can be a shadow, a crack in the pavement, someone’s belt buckle, a pattern on a rug, or a scrap of paper torn up in some interesting way. I see beauty in literally everything, it’s hard for me NOT to be inspired, it’s my favorite part about life.
What are the steps when creating a new piece of jewelry?
It starts with some random sketches that I jot down when inspiration strikes, and I tuck those sketches away for a design day. I will come back to those little scribbles when I want to gain inspiration, have an idea for a collection, or want to expand on an idea. Then I’ll head to a cafe where I can watch the world go by and start building a collection. From there, I will measure out and start refining the pieces that I want to create. These final pieces will go to CAD and I will make final adjustments on paper from there. My pieces are created in wax and then a mold is made from the wax sculpture. I make a run of 100 pieces from each mold. I will either retire a design after that first run or if the design is a huge hit, I will continue making small runs of jewelry. Always ensuring we never over-produce designs.
How has your practice grown through the years?
It’s grown in so many ways it’s hard to summarize. I went from buying ready-made pendants and stringing beads together in my parent’s basement to moving into a Gastown studio where I had to take myself and my vision more seriously to create a brand voice. The things that I couldn’t do myself that would have taken me years to learn, I outsourced. I found craftsmen to work with, making my custom designs into reality. Things ran so much more smoothly after I gave myself the grace to know what I loved doing and what I wasn’t strong at. I showed up for myself day after day and continued to push the momentum forward. I ended up getting my foot in with a sales rep that quite literally changed the game for me in sales.
What do you love most about your job?
The freedom to set my own limits/hours and I generally work harder when it’s something I love (don’t we all?). The constant unknown possibilities make me want to get ahead of the game. I love the creative community that I’ve met through projects and shows and obviously, #1 is that I love creating.
What are some of your favourite products that you offer?
I like my most unusual “power pieces” the most. I love the power they hold. Stores have told me that they put my statement pieces in the windows and it brings customers in. The power of a beautiful piece is incredible, and it is so special to know that I can evoke that feeling for someone. (My top three specific favorites are my Ariam Earrings, Empress Earrings (back in stock this Spring), and Rebel Earrings (will come back from retirement next year). I have a long list of faves but I will stop there.
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What is your typical day like at work?
A coffee shop and a sketch are an absolute first for me. I feel like it’s an important little meeting that I have with myself every day to write a short list of To-Do’s and get in that tiny creative moment each day. I think it’s that revisit to my “why” that I need as a moment of therapy and centering each morning. My day will look different after this depending on what’s going on. I usually like to get any orders finished immediately. From there, we have a long list. Currently, it’s prepping for Spring Shows, finishing designs for Mother’s Day mini collection, making unfinished pieces, returning my never-ending emails, placing orders for packaging, and prepping the studio for creating art. Generally, I’m in from 9am – 5pm on weekdays.
How do you handle work/life balance?
I don’t have kids so I’m a work-a-holic for sure. On the weekends I like to get some outdoor time in, time with my finance and bunny Max, and make sure I see friends throughout the week. The pandemic really knocked me off of my work/life balance. I’m ready to get back on that train for 2023…it needs some improvement but I’m ok with that.
What do you love to do when you are not working?
Honestly, making art. Even though I know that’s my job, it’s what I like to do when I’m not working….it’s sort of funny to write that. It’s my first true love, and always will be. When I can let go of that, I love a good nature stroll in the woods, by the beach, or however I can get it. Currently, we are planning a trip to Portugal now that travel is back. I’m elated to be planning a trip, doing research, and booking adventures. It’s so bloody brilliant, and I’m feeling lucky to get to do that this year!
If you had one piece of advice to share for small business owners, what would it be?
Perseverance is the key to success. It’s going to feel hard forever as every time there is a win, your company grows. Growth is generally met with learning curves, this is the exciting part about growing a business! Instead of feeling overwhelmed, seek out advice and move forward. Try to meet stress with positivity, it makes a world of difference.
Do you have any exciting news that you would like us to share?
Expect lots of fun announcements this year, including:
- Spring Pop Up, Pipe Shop, North Van April 22nd | 11-6pm | Find out more @VancouverEtsyco
- Croatian Cultural Centre in East Vancouver May 6th + 7th | 10am- 5pm | Find out more @gotcraftmarket
- Find SMJ featured throughout Season 3 of Prime’s UPLOAD (so excited for this!)
- And of course, we are very excited about a bridal section being added to our website. We are also launching our first ever bridal lookbook going out to our wholesalers!
How can people connect with you?
Thank you Sarah for taking the time to share about yourself and your company, and thank you to all our readers!
Check out our Magic Hour Podcast where our Founder asks imaginative, light-hearted questions to her incredibly talented guests from here, there, and everywhere!