Closing one chapter is never easy and I wanted to reminisce and explain some items I haven’t addressed about my company T&J Designs in today’s post. I feel proud and so positive despite closing down the primary jewelry business and wanted to relay some highlights that I never really spoke about. These highlights include the many friends/bloggers and people who have supported us throughout the years and showcasing some pretty jewelry we still have for the closeout sale. These (below) are some of my favorite photo shoots throughout the years. Looking back at everything brings back the best memories.
About 7 years ago, my sister and I launched T&J Designs together as a small e-commerce boutique that curated and designed items that we thought would sell well on our blogs. We were inspired by the blogging community and Instagram had just started being popular and growing quickly. What we never revealed was that we started our company with $5,000 and just an idea that we wanted to create something we hadn’t seen out there. My family came together to build it from the ground up. My dad was in charge of production and accounting, my mom accounting and shipping, and my brother helped us build our site. My sister and I were to create and buy products and do all the marketing. What started as a soft launch in the holiday season of 2011 became something I put my heart and soul into for 7 years. The one big thing that changed our business life forever was this one event that happened shortly after launching.
June 6, 2012 – we were featured on the Today Show on Jill’s Steals and Deals. At that time, the sample sale fanatic was happening. Hautelook, Gilt, etc was the way to shop and the Today Show featured our bracelets and within 24 hours we sold 5,000 units. In less than 10 months of just opening our e-commerce site, we made enough to launch our company full force into a real business. It changed our lives and it was only 1.5 months after I had my first son. It was a whirlwind of a year and by the end of 2013, T&J Designs was able to reach sales of over $1 million dollars. It was an amazing achievement, that I’m still so proud of and I did it with my family, which is the icing on top.
We started designing clothes shortly after and created collections based on social media trends. We handled retail business on our e-commerce site, we launched a wholesale business and had over 200 accounts, and alongside all this, my sister and I both blogged, Instagrammed and had babies. To be honest, I don’t remember much, it flew by and I was traveling to China every 4 months, and trying to balance my life. I gave up on balance a long time ago, but things were happening so fast and our company kept growing. If you have been following along for some time, you know that on the outside it all looked perfect. Things moved quickly and of course, parts of my life did suffer from it. For at least 3 years, we had tremendous growth in sales, product, and design. I loved it all. But into 2016 things started to slow down as the competition got tougher and so many boutiques popped up online.
Another milestone that I’m proud of was getting into 500 startups in May of 2016. 500 startups is an accelerator program that invests in your company and has batches where you learn about running/accelerating your company growth (MBA for start ups). It’s a tough application process and mostly focused on the tech industry. So believe me when I almost fell out of my chair when they said they were interested in having us apply. A friend, David, introduced us to one of the founders as we were asking questions about getting investors, and when we stepped in the door we had no clue what an accelerator program was. That one decision to go out to Mountain View to talk to her was a life changer.
For four months I traveled to San Francisco from Chicago every Monday and back home on Thursday and Friday. Every single week for four months AND I had two kids. My ex took the full initiative in helping me get through this time and it was tough on all of us. I learned a ton, so much that it has enabled me to blog full time and take my learnings into coming to the conclusion to close out the jewelry business (our clothing is pretty much sold out). It was a once in a lifetime experience that was challenging personally and professionally.
Fast forward to 2018, I was going through a lot in my personal life and 2017 was a rougher year in sales. Owning your own business means sacrificing a lot of your time, energy and stress on money, worrying on how to keep going, and because my family works together we were all in it together.
Although I loved what I did, I was worn down and the money coming in and what we paid ourselves just wasn’t enough to sustain it for the long run. We looked at a 5-year plan, I was having issues at home, and realistically with so many more price competitive e-commerce businesses (than 2012), it was getting harder and harder to stay the course and grow. Blogging continued to bring my sister and me more opportunities and I used to take them when I had time. T&J Designs was #1 and blogging and Instagram came in last. I did it late at night after a full day of work. And then between all of this I was managing my kids, trying to be a wife at home, and maintaining friendships, and going to events.
I sat down with my sister and parents and we looked at sales and time spent and ultimately decided to slow down the business by not designing any more products. We would maintain our bestsellers and sell through our jewelry, and work through our best wholesale accounts.
So in March of 2018, I started blogging and doing social media full time for myself. I stepped away from 14 hours of work on T&J Designs, to see where blogging would take me (and so did my sister) and here we are now. Blogging has brought me opportunities that I would never have imagined and this past year was the best career-wise and the worst for my personal life. My parents chugged alone and maintained our site and wholesale accounts and they did well without our daily support. They are AMAZING at continuing their positive attitude and supporting my sister and me.
So here we are March of 2019, and we are doing a closeout sale of all our jewelry as low as $2 (shop it here). We aren’t closing because of failure, we are just closing it because it was time. I knew in order to keep growing we needed more money, more resources, more help, and I was happy where we had been and I know if we wanted to reopen we could. We still have the site, I still have my knowledge, but I just needed a break. This past year has been a personal journey of thought, growth, and making sure I’m happy by myself and being the best mom I can be to two kids.
I don’t know where 2019 will land us but I do know that I am forever grateful for the thousands of people that have touched us with their purchases, notes, and support. And many continue to on my Instagram and blog.
T&J Designs will continue with small assortments here or there with our wholesale accounts with my parent’s management. As for the site – after the closeout, we will mostly take it down. I know that we could have continued working on it as our site traffic does well, but sometimes everything has an ending. I love being an entrepreneur and it continues with my blog and Instagram.
For everyone that supported us, thank you from my family to yours and please reach out anytime. I love hearing from everyone and hope you’ll continue sharing in my journey as a mom of two kids who love fashion.
This isn’t good-bye but hello to new beginnings. If you haven’t checked out my sister’s blog please do here!