Resigning From BMW To Grow Her Own Business

  • Photos by:
    Kaliada's Jewelry
  • Published on:
    March 20, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    7 minutes
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A mom of two, cancer survivor, Business Management Professional, and now an entrepreneur. During the last 20+ years, Kaliada worked as a Corporate Human Resource Manager for large and global corporations, such as Lehman Brothers, FujiFilm, and BMW. In 2012 Kaliada started her own business and embarked on the entrepreneurial journey. 

Each day since the 2015 launch of Kaliada’s eponymous collection has only further validated her decision. Through her meetings with other women and her outreach with fellow cancer warriors, Kaliada has continually reminded that when we feel beautiful, beauty is reflected into the world.

From her kitchen to a bedroom in the basement

Kaliada’s hobby took off and grew to the point that she had to move her work from her kitchen to a bedroom in the basement, which she converted into a studio. Kaliada had wholesale accounts, scheduled pop up shops at boutiques, was having features on magazines, and TV, collaborations with non-for profit organizations and hospitals… all while she was still holding her part-time Human Resources job. 

In early 2018 one of the largest home decor chain stores (William Sonoma) purchased some of Kaliada’s pieces to sell under their local program at one of their West Elm stores. To further her mission of empowering women Kaliada took the plunge in October 2018 and opened her flagship store in the beautiful touristic town of Warwick, NY. Kaliada offers in store a curated selection of sustainable gift items from small socially responsible women-owned businesses, as well as her jewelry collection. 

In January of this year Kaliada gave her resignation letter to BMW and had ended her Human Resources career, so she could grow and focus on the business on a full-time basis!

What inspired you to start Kaliada?

In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After my treatment, I decided to step down from my corporate job and decided to do something I always wanted to do–start my own business. We tend to see life from a different perspective after experiencing difficult situations that mark our lives forever. I thought life was too short to not pursue what was closest to my heart’s desire.

Throughout my cancer treatment, the most difficult thing for me was that first time I had to see myself in the mirror with no hair–completely bald. I felt as if I was looking at a different person. To me, it was a moment of self rediscovering or rebirth, and the opportunity to create my own and beautiful life, each day.  I remember that the words that came out of my mouth while staring at this “new person” were: “Well if I am going to fight this I might as well fight it pretty”–with a big smile on my face and wearing my favorite pieces of jewelry.  I believe that when we feel beautiful, beauty is reflected into the world.  

Not only does this belief inspire the mission of Kaliada jewelry, but it was truly the foundation of the company. I wanted to offer a product that would allow me to connect with women so I could share my story and my message of positivity, to bring hope and inspiration. 

How did you actually start making and selling jewelry for a living? 

In 2012 I finally decided to start the business by creating a website and contacting a few jewelry designers that would sell wholesale so I can resale online.  It was just a hobby with the intention to connect with women and bring hope to those who needed it. But, I did not feel any special connection with the jewelry.  I wanted to offer a product that I could passionately talk about and wear it proudly. I did not know how to make jewelry and I did not want to give up. 

This new “hobby”  helped me to keep my mind occupied and was giving me the opportunity to connect with fellow cancer warriors.   In 2015, I sat down in my kitchen’s table, watched a few how to’s Youtube videos, and the first Kaliada piece was created. I outgrew the kitchen so I converted my downstair bedroom into a private studio. What started out as a hobby grew into a part-time business with wholesale accounts,  magazines and TV features, collaborations with bloggers and influencers, consignments, and pop up shops. In late 2018 I opened my Flagship store, on Main St in the beautiful village of Warwick, NY.

What investment did you need to start a jewelry line?

I started the business in 2012 with $1000, which I used for inventory.  I did not have a lot of overhead expenses because it was a home-based business, all I needed was inventory and a website.  Eventually, as the business was growing I needed to invest in other things, like tools to make my jewelry line.  Although it was a part-time business, it was self-sustained. I did not have to make any further financial investment until I opened the storefront, late last year. 

Is Kaliada your full-time job?

Yes. I resigned from my part-time corporate job in January of this year, so I can finally work on my business on a full-time basis. 

Tell us about your design style. What kind of person wears your jewelry? 

I think that for most of us women there is enough to worry about in the course of any given day. Whether our jewelry is fitting for the occasion should not be among those concerns.  I create my collection of delicate jewelry to give options for how to wear the pieces, but all with the same outcome: Women will feel effortlessly beautiful wherever the day may take them. 

Each piece of jewelry is lovingly made while keeping in mind its future owner– the high-achieving woman who appreciates the versatility of a jewelry piece and loves to look and feel her best self at all times.

What fulfillment does being a business owner give you? 

I have never been as happy as I am now, career-wise.  Sometimes we do not take the plunge because of fear. Starting my own business has been the best decision I’ve made, as far as what to do for a living. The feeling of not having to report to someone, or not giving the power to someone else to tell me when and how I should work is so awesome.  I was so unhappy being an employee because I don’t like to be told what to do, ha.   As a creative person, I like to feel free and use my creativity freely in everything that I do. Being a business owner gives me the flexibility to determine how much I want to work, and how big I want to grow. It gives me the freedom to implement or change whatever feels right with my lifestyle, and it makes me feel in control of my life and the life I want to create for myself. 

What sacrifices have you had to make during life as an entrepreneur? 

Taking time away from my kids and family.  At the beginning was really hard to handle a corporate part-time job, a part-time business, and been there for my family, all at the same time. But, some sacrifices must be made if we want to achieve what we want.  I am thankful to have a supportive and understanding family.  It’s very important to surround ourselves with people who support us throughout the journey, as sometimes we might feel ready to give up. 

What steps do you take when you want to get through a less of a good business day? 

I always try to get the positive out of a -not so good- situation. Not a good business day for me is not having a single person come into the store. There are days like that, when there is no traffic on the streets becasue either the weather does not allow it, or during the slow months like January and February.  I use those days to brainstorm on how to “move the needle”.  I work on my website, create newsletters, social media posts, do some brand awareness and PR, and anything else I can’t get done during the good business days (the busy times).

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them? 

Trying to do or cover everything that as a business owner we think we are “supposed” to be doing, like trying to have and maintain too many social media platforms.  I’ve learned that what works for a business not necessarily will work for others. As a small business is important to invest our time and resources on the things that do work for us.  This is why studying our data is important as it will tell us what’s working and what’s not, as well as knowing who our customers are.

In the beginning, I spent so much money on Facebook ads with no results, because I thought I had to do Facebook ads like every other big business out there. Well, it turned out that my customer doesn’t hang out on Facebook much, but on Instagram.  So I now allocate most of my resources to Instagram.  Another mistake I made when I first started was trying to make jewelry pieces for every taste and style out there. By doing this I was missing out on the opportunity to build a database of loyal customers.  I was having lots of sales, yes, but I had to hustle a lot because there were mostly new customers.

I was not increasing my RCR (Returning Customer Rate) because I wasn’t speaking directly to my ideal customer,  or connecting with any specific target. We all like different things and have different styles, so knowing now who my ideal customer is helps me to invest my time and resources reaching out to that specific group. It helps me to create and select for the store jewelry pieces and products that they’ll always buy.  It helps me connect and engage with that specific group of women who will be happy to share my story, products, and brand.

What 5 things would you advise and give our ladies who starting their own business? 

The 5 things I would advise anyone who’s starting their own business are

  • #1 Offer a product or service that you love and feel passionate to talk about or share. As a business owner we need to work long hours in order to grow the business and if we are not passionate about what we do, sell, or offer it could feel like a burden and jeopardize the growth of the business.
  • #2 Know your target. As an entrepreneur, we can easily make the mistake of not having a clear understanding of who we want to connect with. When we try to connect with everyone we actually connect with no one.  Knowing our target audience or “dream client” helps in our marketing campaigns, brand voice, where to find our customers–it really helps on everything we do business-wise.
  • #3 Don’t quit your 9-5 job until you are ready with a strategy and a backup plan in place. Starting a business is a big risk, so knowing that we still have a weekly paycheck coming in to cover our personal expenses until the business takes off is the smartest thing to do. We don’t want to be pushy and become desperate to make sales so we could cover our personal expenses. This approach harms the opportunity we could have to connect with customers and build long term relationship with them.
  • #4 Be ready and willing to give up the 9-5 Monday – Friday work schedule. Businesses don’t grow overnight.  It takes time and a lot of hard work, so we need to be willing to put in the time and work, even if this means working long hours and weekends.  
  • #5 Be organized with finances.  We must make sure to keep track of the money that’s coming in and our expenses–be cost conscious.  Sometimes we might want to invest in things that we really don’t need or that do not generate any revenue.  We must keep our costs down so we can have a greater profit margin and grow the business.

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