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When artistic vision meets business acumen

Ruth Morlocke runs Different Facets Jewelry in Chagrin Falls with a passion that comes from being both artistic and heading her own business. To her it is a happy combination of doing what she wants to do: creating unique jewelry and working for herself.

Her store on South Franklin St. is the result of a concept that was born in 16 years with IMG Jewelers, where she carved and did gold casting while also creating jewelry in her home studio.

Before starting a small business - even before starting a business plan - the entrepreneur needs a concept that has the potential to bring profits. Morlocke's vision was to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry that become keepsakes.

"Instead of being just a jewelry merchant who buys merchandise from factories and puts it on sale, I wanted to create quality pieces priced on quality materials and true labor", she said. "Customers would be paying for artwork and hand labor."

It is important to know what justification you have for being in business", said John Tressler Jr., counselor with Business Advisers of Cleveland and retired marketing manager for such companies as DuPont Co., World Publishing Co., and American Greetings Corp. "If you can't find a justification, you shouldn't be in business at all."

He said that preparing a business model should also include determining what customers will pay for a particular product.

"The business concept is a way to state why you are in business and really contains the major components of your business," said Tressler.

Concept, marketing plan
Without the concept, there is nothing to test in the market, he said. When budding business people go to potential customers to see if an idea will fly, they have to know what they are testing.

Morlocke's special offering is the unique jewelry she designs. "I am an artist as well as a jeweler. I consider beauty, comfort and durability. Everything is produced from design to finished piece in my studio. I want each piece to be a miniature sculpture that can stand by itself as art as well as being jewelry."

Once over that hurdle, the entrepreneur must work on a marketing plan: what media to use for advertising, how to use a flier, and where to get mailing lists, Tressler said. Common sense should be able to tell where a potential market lies.

Morlocke tested her concept in several ways before launching her business about three years ago. First, she showed products at her home studio and exhibited at galleries, including Cleveland's Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.

"I wanted to create pieces of art," she said, "not just a holder for a diamond but something special, and I don't care if it takes a lot of time to make."

But then came the time for practical applications, the business plan and marketing strategy.

"I did research," she said. "I read books on small business, met with small-business resources, gleaned trade information from jewelry industry publications, although nothing there really applied totally to my venture as they were geared more toward retail jewelry stores than custom artwork.

Keeping it Simple
At the same time, she opted to keep her finances simple: Don't incur debt and only create items of value.

Financial planning can have its problems, she said, when income depends on many variables, including how many orders come in, how labor-intensive the piece is, and the prices of the gold and precious gemstones. She quickly learned, for example, that custom work doesn't' necessarily follow seasonal shopping trends.

She turned to the Service Corps of Retired Executives for help and met with Muriel Rivchun, who worked in her family's jewelry business, Charles S. Rivchun & Sons Inc. in Cleveland for many years.

"We saw she knows her stuff as an artist," Rivchun said. "She is very capable in designing what she wants to make. And she had a natural aptitude for business to begin with, but she needed a little help with her marketing strategy."

Morlocke's marketing plans included advertising in local newspapers as well as national artist-oriented publications. She put on seminars at her store and used specialized mailing lists.

It brought customers from other parts of the United States, many of whom heard about her shop from other buyers. And she draws buyers with special needs.

Judy Bailey, a customer from Burton, said she came to Different Facets in search of an unusual design and found what she wanted.

"I inherited my grandmother's engagement ring, and I wanted to bring it up to date. But I wanted it to retain its original design for sentimental reasons," Bailey said. "We worked on a design together, and I liked what I saw. It holds the original feeling in a new way."

Multiple rewards
The reward of this kind of creative business is seeing people really happy with the finished artwork, Morlocke said.

I rarely do two pieces the same way," she said. "And if someone wants a limited edition, it is just a few pieces and not in the hundreds as some artists do."

She is showing a new collection of what she calls ocean memories, a creation that she hopes evokes sand and water. Parts of it look like sparkling water made up of little diamonds. The other parts are soft with gold as sand.

"And above all it is very gratifying and exciting to be able to do all this in your own business, and I can only be mad at myself if things go wrong", she said. "I think independence to make your own choice and do your own things your way, and not have to answer to anybody else, can be a very fulfilling way of living."

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