QuickBooks® Connect is your moment to step back from the day-to-day demands of running a business to get the learnings and skills to help blueprint your future. It’s two days of inspirational speakers, small group and one-one-one learnings, and support from some of the savviest experts in the industry. It’s also an opportunity to connect with small business owners like yourself, including the master makers joining our Small Biz Bazaar, where you can discover unique products available for purchase.
We sat down with Sandra Martinelli of Delicora to learn more her business journey, advice and what she’s looking forward to at this year’s QuickBooks Connect.
Established in 2017, Delicora is a California-based hand-made jewelry brand with a give back mission. Founder Sandra Martinelli creates every unique collection for all skin types using hypoallergenic 14k gold filled and sterling silver materials. From classic to bohemian to sophisticated styles, the collection includes a wide range of semi-precious stones intended to capture a woman’s confidence, natural beauty and individual style.
Delicora prides itself on its charitable DNA. For every piece sold, 20 meals are donated to fighting hunger through Feeding America. Delicora participates in additional efforts to give back with programs including Dress for Success, UNICEF, Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services, the California Fire Foundation, and many more. Follow Delicora on Facebook and Instagram.
Cynthia Hwang: Tell me about Delicora.
Owner, Sandra Martinelli: Delicora is a handmade jewelry line specializing in 14k gold filled and sterling silver pieces. It was established in 2017 as a small business, but I’ve been hand-making jewelry since my college days. Through personal experience, I’ve been very sensitive to certain metals found in department store jewelry such as nickel, so I set out to build a line that is both high quality and fairly priced.
What motivated you to go into business?
It all started out as an Etsy listing. At the time, I was working at eBay and working on the selling app as a product manager. I had to do some competitive analysis, so I had to list something on another platform. To my surprise, one of my listings sold on Etsy, then another, and another — so I continued to create new designs, listings, and the rest is history!
What’s been the most unexpected part of starting or running your business?
I am definitely surprised by the opportunities that have popped up over the last year, whether it is requesting a wholesale order, pop up participation, or other opportunities to engage with the community. When I first started out, I would pursue a lot of time into outreach with no responses. I still put a lot of focus on that, but am noticing more responses and new opportunities brought to me. What used to be a seemingly one-way conversation are now engaging conversations and opportunities. I recently did a pop up at a school fundraiser in Los Gatos. A former teacher of mine knew the event planner, and the next thing I know, I had a fantastic show!
What was the most stressful part of starting your business?
The most stressful part of starting out was definitely trying to determine what areas of the business to invest in. In the beginning, the cost of materials was fair and the business easy to manage as a hobby — but became more stressful once I started to invest more in semi precious gemstones, packaging, high quality photography imaging, and ads. Through these changes, the cost of goods increased, and that, by nature, is a little scary!
Would you consider that and evolution to where you are now the biggest change?
Yes, it definitely felt like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. When this was happening, the credit card racked up and I definitely felt the stress. However, it has been an incredible learning experience and has forced me to be more strategic and intentional about the areas I choose to invest in.
What’s been the most stressful thing about running your business?
Being patient, executing on your vision, and remembering that your #1 focus is always the customer. At the beginning of the year, I set a vision and goals for branding Delicora and put too much focus in that area. The idea of branding is important, but not more important than your customer. In general, I’ve always been there for my customer, but in recent months, I’ve taken a step back to retarget all of my focus on them. For now, this means that I park my expectations of production value videos, packaging, marketing materials, a sleek Instagram feed, and focus on returning every single text and voicemail I receive from my customer. It is important to tackle these other areas, but it will take patience and my customer will always be the priority.
What keeps you motivated if you’re having a bad day or feeling overwhelmed?
I love going through the design process, getting my hands on the wire and wrapping stones. This process alone is motivating in itself. There are certainly days where I’ll just find myself scrolling on social media or my husband has a great show on the TV, but all I need to do is take one look at my calendar and to do list, and I’m back in the studio!
What do you wish was easier about running a business?
It’s hard to say because, I think, in retrospect, I really enjoy figuring out the challenging process. It’s the best way to learn. In theory, it would be amazing to have a jewelry business playbook, but where is the fun in that? The best way to learn is to do, and I appreciate all of the challenges I’ve had and will have.
What’s your next business goal or milestone to cross?
I currently sell my line online direct to consumer, and through small boutique retailers. Last year, 15 stores carried my line, and now I’m in 25 across the U.S. While I have grand goals to get into some of the big stores, collaborate with big brands, and open my own brick and mortar — My business goals are definitely incremental. My own brick and mortar wouldn’t make financial sense right now, so I’m trying to set more incremental goals like having my line in 35–50 stores over the next year, and doubling online sales. One day, it would be awesome to have Delicora storefronts sprinkled across the states, but I am also focused on more incremental goals.
Why is that important to you?
For me, both incremental growth and bringing value to people is important. It’s valuable in that it shows that you’ve made progress in some way and impacted lives in a positive light. I get super excited when I get a phone call and receive messages like, “Oh, my gosh, I just bought your Huntington Marquise in aqua. I love them so much. Do you make them in labradorite? I’m telling all my girlfriends about them. They’re my favorite. I wear them every day.” This is the kind of feedback that reminds me that starting small and bringing value and quality to my customers is what it is all about.
How do you define success: financial freedom, time with your loved ones, something else?
I think it’s a combination of all of that. I definitely prioritize time with my family and loved ones as number one. In terms of financial success, there’s not really a number, but it’s more conceptual. Can we still maintain a comfortable way of life without worrying about money? I think that’s a good gauge. I feel like once you put a number on it, you’ll just keep increasing it and won’t be satisfied or happy. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to know how much you make, spend, and learn how to budget. However, I don’t think ultimate success can be defined by a number unless that is the most important thing to you in life.
What has been your biggest failure, and how did it set you up for later success?
I took an opportunity to do a pop-up in Long Beach. I bought flights for my husband Philip and me. We went down there. I got an Airbnb. I had my parents come down too, just to help out and spend time with us during the day, and I would be at this boutique in the evenings. That whole weekend, I had one sale. The owner said, “We’re having one of our biggest nights, one of our big community nights.” So they had other vendors. They had a DJ and drinks and food, so it was this whole event. But no one bought. One woman bought, I remember, an aqua quartz necklace. That’s it. That was the one thing I sold. That was the biggest failure for sure. Through this experience, the owner felt bad and agreed to have my items on consignment. It has been over a year – and radio silence. I still haven’t received payout for my items. I learned a ton from this experience, and also learned the value and power of consignment contracts that I now have with my consignment accounts. Do your research and keep your wits about you!
What advice would you give aspiring business owners?
Don’t be afraid to try new things, and start small. There’s a ton of value in starting small, being patient, and learning how to pivot along the way. I do struggle with wanting things to happen overnight. Patience is really tough, but once enough time goes by and you look back, it is easy to pinpoint the progress you’ve made.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made in your business or yourself?
I live in a two-bed, two-bath house, and my husband and I love hosting parties and hosting people. I’ve always wanted to have an awesome guest bedroom where we can actually have guests stay over. Instead of that, we turned that room into my workshop, and that has probably been the best thing for my business. It’s great to have a space designated for all of my materials. I think that’s been a great investment for the business, and for my own organization.
What about QuickBooks Connect excites you?
I’m excited to meet everyone possible. Really excited to meet all of the business owners who will also be participating in the Bazaar, and I understand that they’re from all over covering different categories. There’s even another jewelry person, but I think our things are very different, which I love. So I’m very, very excited to meet them and learn from them. I’ve never really experienced an event or place filled with small business owners and people passionate in that entrepreneurial sense so this is exciting. I’m looking forward to the speakers as well. I think that interaction and making new connections is incredibly powerful.
What does owning the future mean to you?
The first thing that really comes to mind is change. Over time, the only constant is change. But as a business owner, how do you adapt and switch things up to take ownership or lead in that space in time? It makes me think of examples like social media. Facebook ads were everything at one point and they still are in some ways, but now Instagram ads are the thing for exposure as a small business. How do you adapt and create relevant content for your business on each platform? I think it’s embracing and owning the change that’s to come.
What about the future most excites you?
It’s everything. I get goosebumps when I look back on my days in college when I created my own little pieces of jewelry to the growth and development of my business today. I definitely find myself more stressed, fulfilling online orders, and store orders. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hopefully, I’ll be solving some other problem in the future. I want to think to myself, “How the heck am I going to scale this thing?” I welcome and want to have that problem.
What do you love most about QuickBooks?
I used to be in Google Docs and Excel spreadsheets. QuickBooks Online was super helpful when I opened the Delicora bank account. The fact that it all just funnels automatically is so amazing. I’m sure I’m not using the tool to its greatest potential, but being able to manage finances, look at P&Ls, and create sales reports all in one place is fantastic. I love it.
Meet Sandra at the Small Biz Bazaar at QuickBooks Connect 2019.