Get to Know Erika Laureano Design Studio
It’s been a huge year for Erika Laureno Design Studio. After doing more than 70 markets last year, she capped things off with the opening of a brand-new retail location in North Bend, WA. We talked to Erika about her jewelry design business and what she loves about markets. Get inspired!
What is the origin story for your business?
Ten years in the corporate America grind led me to explore opportunities in the metalsmithing and jewelry design world. I spent 20 years in the fashion design industry and the last 10 of that was on the merchant side. I was ready to use my hands again, create again. I have always been drawn to art: ceramics, painting, drawing, sewing, fashion illustration, etc. Once I took my first metalsmithing class at Danaca Design in the U District, I was hooked. From there I took two years of metalsmithing and jewelry classes nonstop.
What about your business are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my customer connections. The customer connections I have made throughout the last eight years are so rewarding. I have a solid background in customer service from my 10 years with Nordstrom. I enjoy nothing more than talking to customers and potential customers, learning about them, and talking to them about what it is I do.
Just this year I have had multiple customers come to me and tell me they met me at my very first show, or that they are an Instagram follower, or that they have purchased my work from other shows in the past. There is nothing more rewarding to me than the customer, the people I encounter at shows and now at my new store in North Bend, WA. I love it! If it was not for them, I would not be as successful as I am today.
What do you love about vending at markets and craft shows?
My relationship with fellow vendors is what I love most about vending at markets and craft shows. I have always made an effort to connect with the other vendors at a show. I believe we have to support one another, not compete with one another. I have made dozens of vendor connections and love to see how their work is evolving too! I have reached out to quite a few vendors and am now carrying their work in my new retail location. I consider many vendors that I met at craft shows my friends now!
What has been your favorite market experience and why?
I think my favorite market experience was at Pike Place Pavilion. I was part of a Seattle Made handmade group that was at the Pavilion last summer for two to four days. I love connecting with customers and asking them where they are from. I met customers from over a dozen different states and continents. The best was a family that was from Italy. I studied and lived there, and they started talking to me in Italian and I just couldn’t keep up! It’s been more than 20 years since I spoke the language. It was amazing that for a quick second they thought that I was fluent. I was so happy to see one of my favorite rings go home with them to Italy.
What are your must-haves for markets?
I did over 70 shows last year so I have to admit, I have it down. I must have the following: six battery charging packs so I can always have lights and a working phone. I also have a tool box with duct tape, zip ties, and scissors (I always have multiple pairs of scissors, it’s an obsession). I also have learned that I must be as neat and organized as possible. I now bring a seven drawer Ikea filling cabinet to all shows. In there I have my boxes, bags, my tools and materials, ring sizer, cash box, and snacks. Everything in there helps to get me through a show and enables me to work on pieces if I need to.
Any advice for people looking to start their own business or start selling at markets?
Yes! Engage, engage, engage! If you can’t talk and promote your work, there is no future in this for you. It’s not something everyone is comfortable with but it’s a must to learn in order to succeed. I often see makers sitting behind their table in their booth reading a book, on their phone - this is an unapproachable stance. Yes, customers don’t want to have a pushy sales person when they enter your booth, but they are there for a reason - to see and hear about handmade. Talk to them about your processes and your collections. That will engage them and get them interested in asking questions and BUYING!
Brag to us! What are you most excited about right now?
I am most proud of the investment I made with my first retail location. I now have a working studio/retail store front in North Bend, WA. It's amazing to see what has happened already in the first six months. I have connected with old customers and hundreds of new customers. The amount of custom work I do now has jumped up 100% from last year! I am excited to continue to grow in this location and build more relationships with existing and new customers in years to come!
WRITTEN BY JT Siems
JT Siems is a freelance writer and the owner of Immortal Perfumes, a historical and literary inspired micro-perfumery. She also produces a historical pop-culture podcast called Storical. You can find her on Instagram @immortalperfumes