I was so excited to sit down to find out a little bit about Michele Baratta an incredible Momprenuer.
Can you tell me a little bit about ShopMichele.com? We offer customers a very unique line of heartfelt, romantic and touching jewelry that women can relate to. Each piece of jewelry has a sentiment behind it, with inscriptions of meaningful symbols and messages of inspiration, and many of my jewelry designs are meant to hold a cherished photo. Each design has a story that comes from my personal life, so our catalog is like a scrapbook of my family.
Unlike other jewelry companies, who purchase their jewelry from different manufacturers outside of the US, I design every piece in the Michele Baratta collection, and we make everything by hand here in San Diego, California. I actually sculpt my designs out of wax, then every piece is hand-casted in sterling silver and then handmade using freshwater & cultured pearls and semi-precious stones. I’ve been told my jewelry is not just jewelry…it satisfies the soul with so many details hidden in each piece. Details of the 17 steps can be found here.
What led you to start your jewelry line? I started designing jewelry in 1988 when I was 22 and still in college and working part time in a boutique in Malibu. My Mom was a sales rep for a precious metal company and she brought me some silver wire to play with so I designed a very unique bracelet with hand blown glass beads and the silver wire. While working in the store in Malibu, customers kept asking about my bracelet. The store started carrying them and to make a long story short, they kept selling out of the bracelets!
About a month afterwards, our next door neighbor caught wind of what I was doing and asked if I wanted to show my jewelry at the LA Gift Show. Knowing I couldn’t afford the $3500 booth fee, he said he’d give me a booth for $500. So, with tools in hand, and my now-husband Andy, we put together my booth. I picked up my first 40 retail store accounts and my first sales rep at the Show.
I sold my jewelry to department stores such as Nordstrom’s and Macys and retail catalogs like Sundance, JJill and Coldwater Creek, and lots of boutiques around the country.
Why is keeping the ones you love close to your heart so important to you? I have always known how wonderful life is, and have never taken it for granted. I have two beautiful children that constantly remind me of how fortunate I am. I have a supportive husband, Andy, who is my partner in life and business. There really is nothing as important to me as family, and at the end of the day the ones you love are the most important thing in anyone’s life.
How are some ways as a mom and entrepreneur you find time to keep your family close?
I built this business with “me” in mind. I’m selfish that way. I want to spend time with my family. I own my business; the business does not own me. I take our kids to school and I pick them up. Andy and I teach art in our kid’s schools and drive on field trips. We eat dinner together every night. We’ll leave whenever we want to go on a bike ride or a walk on the beach. Often times we (Andy and I) just say “see you tomorrow”. Our children see the efforts of hard work and they see the benefits and values of making your own decisions. And, they definitely see the value of the family unit together, communicating and playing. They grow up fast, and we all know that. Nothing is taken for granted.
Your jewelry has fans everywhere from Hollywood to Main Street USA. What are some of your favorite stories of people who have been touched by your jewelry? We had always received stories from women that really love my jewelry, but it wasn’t often as our jewelry was sold by sales reps in the wholesale arena. It wasn’t until we turned the business into a direct selling business a few years ago, that we heard a lot more stories. For example, we never thought our photo jewelry would be helpful for those that lost a loved one. We never anticipated it being worn to hold a loved one that went overseas to fight in the war on terror. We did not know people sold our jewelry to help support their own charity. We’ve heard stories of triumph and strength from women that have become less shy and more independent. We know the business is paying for someone’s braces, private school or special trip. It’s extremely rewarding to know that jewelry that I designed, from my heart, actually changes a person’s life! It’s thrilling that I get a personal note from celebrities like Felicity Huffman saying “Thank you Michele, I love the photo necklace. My husband William H. Macy is putting pictures of the children in it right now”. I just love the idea that other people can relate and have a very personal connection with my jewelry.
I have heard that you have Michele Baratta atHome jewelry parties can you tell our Moms about that and how they can get involved.
I’ve always been able to work from home. When I got married and started having children, other women would always tell me how lucky I was to be at home with my kids and how much they wished they could be too. They wanted to be with their kids and hated leaving them off at daycare while they went to work. I had to find a way to offer this same great opportunity to other women. So, in the fall of 2004, I left my wholesale business and created Michele Baratta atHome which is a home based business. I now sell exclusively through independent sales consultants via home parties and online. Now, 4 years later and almost a thousand consultants strong, we have an extensive learning center called Michele Baratta University and training sessions across the country 3 times a month.We knew the jewelry was going to be loved, however we had no idea that we’d have consultants earning an average of $800 per party, which is nearly twice the industry party average. Women can buy a Starter Kit for just $199 and then pick out their jewelry samples at 40% off. We have a beautiful 84 page catalog and matching personal website for each consultant which makes it easy and fun. They can sign up online at shopmichele.com or call us at (866) 817-3482.
Why do you think so many women enjoy working with Michele Baratta atHome? Because we keep it personal. That is what is totally different than when we were wholesale! It’s all personal! Our staff really makes it a family affair. We know about each consultant: their dreams, aspirations, and why they are selling. My husband, Andy, who is the CEO and co-founder, along with me, are always on the phone with the consultants. They love it! It gives them a connection to our company. And it gives us a connection to the field. They can relate to us because we have the same goals…to work for ourselves and to be with our family. We are consistently told “I can’t believe I get to talk to the owner”!