Entrepreneur trades bestsellers for bracelets
— Melinda F. Emerson, known as the SmallBizLady, is an entrepreneur, professional speaker, small business coach and the author of “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months“. In 2010, Forbes magazine named her as one of the Top 20 Women for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter. This article originally appeared on Second Act. —
Until three years ago, Janet Hill Talbert worked as a vice president and executive editor at a major New York publishing house. It was challenging work, and Talbert enjoyed nurturing her writers, including many bestselling authors.
But the stress of the job took its toll, and she started making jewelry as a way to unwind after hectic days.
“I needed to make something that was my own,” Talbert says, “since I spent my days helping authors with their creative endeavors.”
At 45, after more than two decades working her way up from editorial assistant to top editor at the Doubleday/Broadway Publishing Group, Talbert walked away from her high-powered career. She is now a full-time jewelry designer and entrepreneur at her own company, On This Rock.
Talbert works with sterling silver, bronze and gemstones; her pieces often feature inspiring verses. “We are living in challenging times,” she recently told an interviewer. “And it’s my prayer that people will feel comforted, encouraged and inspired by the jewelry.”
From hobby to business
Talbert started making her own jewelry more than 10 years ago. Her colleagues and family often complimented the gold cuff she wore that was embossed with a Bible verse. She began making pieces for friends and later started taking classes during vacations and on weekends to learn more techniques.
Her journey from editor to entrepreneur began with a week-long, intensive course at the Jewelry Arts Institute in New York City to learn silver and gold smithing. She continued taking Saturday classes as her schedule permitted.
As she got more serious, Talbert signed up for more classes at the Jewelry Arts Institute and studied with jeweler Bianca Lopez. She also enrolled in the Fred deVos Wax Workshop.
Talbert describes her style as modern yet classic. She hammers small pieces by hand and crafts larger pieces in wax first and then sends them out to be produced in silver, brass or bronze. Jewelry cast in brass and bronze is later plated in 18K gold. She says the verses that adorn her jewelry are an important element in her designs.
“I want to spread God’s healing word on jewelry to as many people as possible,” she says. “There’s so much cool and marvelous stuff in the Bible, and I want the jewelry to illustrate that.”
I addition to studying her craft, Talbert also focused on the practical aspects of starting a business. She took a business planning course at Workshop in Business Opportunities, a New York-based nonprofit that guides people starting businesses. She also attended a seminar run by SCORE, a national nonprofit of retired executives dedicated to educating entrepreneurs. Then she tapped into her own network, enlisting the help of publishing industry friends who are publicists, marketers and photographers and hiring a personal business coach to help her stay focused on strategy.
“I have wonderful friends and family who continue to be supportive — hosting jewelry parties for me and spreading the word about my jewelry,” Talbert says. “I’ve been given valuable professional advice and services that many people have to pay for.”
Growing a company one bracelet at a time
“Janet has been able to make the transition from corporate executive to entrepreneur with ease,” says Denise Brown, Talbert’s attorney and business advisor. “She brings the same passion she had as an editor to her new role as a designer of inspirational jewelry and other merchandise.”
Talbert says her jewelry strikes a chord with Christian women and also with women who consider themselves “spiritual” and are in need of encouragement and comfort. She also targets male customers since they often buy jewelry for the women in their lives.
As for her biggest mistake in business so far, she says, “I jumped in and started making and selling jewelry before I had a firm business plan. I was anxious to get started. I would recommend “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. It really helped me take a step back and think about my business in a different way.”
While she has not quite broken even with the revenue she’s generated from sales primarily made through her website, Talbert says she’s fortunate that her husband, Aaron, a music executive, is supporting her so that she can invest all of her money back into the business. She pushes herself every day to make sure she does at least one thing to promote her company.
Recently, her hard work paid off. On December 6, On this Rock received a huge boost when Kathie Lee Gifford announced on the Today Show that Talbert’s 18K gold cuff featuring the 23rd Psalm was Her Favorite Thing.
The on-air mention of the $150 bracelet brought in so many orders that Talbert’s website nearly crashed. She considers the holiday season challenge of filling all those orders a huge blessing, and she talks about expanding her product line for 2011, including adding more items for men.
“I want to bring the Word of God and inspiration to even more people,” she says.
Talbert offers this advice for others considering a major, mid-career change: “Pray, plan and dream,” she says. “Don’t lose faith. Stay encouraged and ask for help when you need it!”
— All photos courtesy of Second Act —