[dropcap cap=K]elly Silva and her husband, Christian, entered the jewelry business with the notion that if they worked really hard, success would surely follow. And so for the first years they did just that, putting in 85-hour weeks at their 700-square-foot space in the Great Northern Mall in Cleveland, OH. The result? Little in the way of a financial return.[/dropcap]
"We never had a plan. We played the typical mall game, mark it up and mark it down. We owed our vendors like crazy," Kelly recalls.
After five years, the pair decided to try a different market and settled on Kelly's hometown of Wooster, OH. They found someone to take over their lease, but again ran into trouble:?the buyer's business foundered and the Silvas never got fully paid.
If it hadn't been obvious before, now it was clear: working hard wasn't enough, they needed to get smart. The duo attacked their education with the same zeal as their business, attending seminars, reading trade literature, exchanging ideas with fellow jewelers and joining a benchmarking peer group.
"Focus (Business Management Institute) taught us how to run the store as businesspeople, not jewelers. We'd come back from sessions with a to-do list that was 100 items long," Kelly recalls.
In Wooster, the Silvas put their newfound business savvy into practice with a whirlwind approach that is still their hallmark today.
By the end of 2003 sales hit $585,000. In 2007, confident they finally had a handle on the business, the Silvas invested in a second location, a supposedly high-end life center being built in Ashland, OH. But when it opened, their neighbors turned out to be a check-cashing office and a dollar store. The location never took off, and within a year the Silvas decided to close it and swallow a $200,000 loss.
"A lot of people would hang on and keep losing money. We felt the fact we were able to walk away, despite how much it hurt, was a positive thing," Kelly says.
Back in Wooster, things have gone better. In 2008 they had their best year yet, with sales climbing to $750,000, driven by the Silvas' all-action approach to retailing: They market aggressively through e-mail, radio, the local newspaper and billboards, hold store events and do cross promotions with local businesses such as vineyards and bridal stores. They are involved with the local chamber of commerce, and participate in community events on an almost weekly basis as well as stay on top of the small things, like thank-you, birthday and anniversary mailings.
Despite the weak economy, sales have continued to grow this year and by June, were up 30 percent on-year. De Silva Collections is now on target to crack $1 million, supported by a move to a better location, bead sales and more hard work.
With everything they've been through the Silvas aren't taking anything for granted. Rather than cause them stress, however, their trials have given them peace of mind. "If we were to lose it all again, we're confident we could start over and build it up again. This is what we are, what we love. And we think we know how to do it well now," Kelly says.