Husband and wife team Charlotte Leavitt and John Guptill of Chart Metalworks have a thriving business on their hands. John tells us how they did it.
ABI: Charlotte started out making jewelry, but needed to make a huge change in the business to become successful. What happened?
JG: Charlotte was creating a more vintage line with oxidized silver and pearls. She was seeking to launch the business and began attending as many industry seminars and gathering as much information as possible.
She attended a Bruce Baker seminar on how to successfully set up and display a wholesale trade show booth. At the end, she asked Bruce if he would take a look at her work and provide feedback. After looking, he asked if she wanted him to be nice or provide an honest critique. She asked for an honest critique. His response was that she was talented and her work was beautiful, but in his opinion too common for market. Charlotte was a little devastated and shut down her studio for a couple of months seeking inspiration.
An avid sailor, Charlotte had scrolls of charts lying around and one day came up with the idea of embedding a piece of the chart under resin in a bezel pendant. She sought feedback from friends at which point one asked if she could have one made of Crescent Beach, where she was married. That was the “aha” moment that customization was the key, it was all about the location and the meaning of it. That was in 2006. Since then we have grown to incorporate Topographical, Vintage & Historic maps as well as Nautical Charts into our jewelry and can capture anywhere in the world.
ABI: How do you use personalization in your line to appeal to customers?
JG: Our jewelry is completely customized to the end customer. We feature the meaningful locations in one’s life that have extreme sentimental value. Where one was married, lives, docks their boat, vacations or dreams to visit.
ABI: What is your most popular line and why?
JG: Currently our bronze line is very popular. As the choice metal on a boat due to its corrosive resistant nature in salt water, it is very attractive to our nautical clientele. It also has a brownish-gold hue which seems to compliment most charts and maps. It patinas over time and evolves into a beautiful antique look and feel. It does not tarnish, so it does not require polishing and it has a bit of a better price point that sterling silver.
ABI: Can you tell us about using a press agent and how it worked for you?
JG: We invested early on for a time in a PR agent to assist in getting our name out. We had to pay a monthly retainer and it was an investment for a small growing business.
It’s something that does not provide immediate results, but over time we got some great features. One of which was a full page in Coastal Living Magazine. It was our first National feature and really expanded our customer base. Retail sales grew tenfold for several months while the article was out and it provided us the mechanism at that point to bring the business from level to the next.