Name: Maggi Simpkins
Business: Maggi Simpkins Fine Jewelry
Maggi Simpkins grew up making jewelry as a hobby, but she never imagined doing it to earn a living. A decade ago, however, while Maggi was doing quality control for an online boutique, she vented her creative frustrations by one day whipping up a collection of feather earrings. Her boss loved them. Within a week, Maggi was designing full-time for the private label. Over the next few years, other jewelry-related jobs followed. Maggi was determined to learn everything she could about merchandising, designing, production, materials, diamonds and more.
Eventually, she decided to venture out on her own. During her first year of “figuring it out,” Maggi created an engagement ring for a friend. The process was “beautiful and really powerful” -- and the friend was moved to tears. That’s when it clicked: Maggi Simpkins Fine Jewelry would help people tell their love story with decadent, intricate, custom-designed engagement rings.
Maggi, what inspired you to take the plunge and start working for yourself?
When I was working for other people, I was learning so much. But at a certain point, I started feeling like a part of me was dying. Every day, a little voice was telling me I had to honor myself and go out on my own.
I spent the first year of working for myself thinking I was going to create a collection, because I knew how to merchandize and develop a line. That’s what I was focused on when, as a side project, I designed an engagement ring for a friend. When I showed it to him, he was speechless. I saw how powerful it was to be part of this important moment in life -- the joy was palpable. I realized, this is why I create things. I want to make people feel love. Every piece of jewelry I make has a story to tell.
You had some pretty big “wins” early on in your business. How did that experience shape you as an entrepreneur?
Kylie Jenner and Kendrick Lamar have worn my designs. It was a huge compliment, especially when I was just starting out. But it turned out having famous people wear my jewelry did nothing for my actual business – or for my soul, really. No one discovered me as a result.
As cool as it was to contribute to a famous person’s photo shoot or music video, more than anything, it was simply validation that I was good enough, that I was doing something right and that I should keep going.
Ultimately, what brings me the most joy is connecting with the people I’m creating for and knowing they love their pieces as much as I loved creating them. Famous people might wear my stuff, but my real clients are regular people who love and are moved by my work. It was a great lesson to learn early on.
Why is it important for you to use socially responsible materials and reclaimed metals?
I grew up in Portland, OR, and being socially and environmentally conscious is part of my core belief system. For me, it’s a no-brainer that my personal beliefs translate into my business.
In my jewelry I use diamonds, sapphires, morganite, aquamarines, emeralds and more, and all my stones are verified as ethically sourced. Whenever I can, I use recycled or reclaimed metals, too.
As a small business owner and a woman of color, I’m always thinking about how I can empower other people. I deeply believe in paying the artisans I work with fair, livable wages. I’m happy to pay a premium for high quality renderings, casting and diamond setting, which, in turn, helps other people live happy, productive lives.
I’ve never really been in the business of being the most affordable option, and I don’t mind passing along a higher cost if it means treating people right. My clients tend to have similar values.
Is it important for you to “give back” to the community in some way?
It is. My mom was a social worker, and I grew up understanding the importance of helping other people. Recently, I put two and two together. Although I chose a different path from my mother, I can still use what I’ve learned to help empower others and give back.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve led jewelry-making workshops with various nonprofits supporting women and girls, like the YWCA. I also ran a workshop at the only women’s prison in Belize. That led me to get involved with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition here in the States. The coalition helps people who were formerly incarcerated with mentorship, job training, housing -- it’s all based on the belief that humans are bigger than the worst mistake we’ve ever made.
What do you find most challenging about working for yourself?
It’s not easy waking up every day and being your own cheerleader: You’re great! You’ve got this! Keep going! Working for yourself can be boring and lonely. I don’t have any office friends -- but I have my dogs!
Looking back, I spent a good chunk of my 20s saying no to things because I was devoting all my free time to working on my business. Sure, I could go to a pool party or go shopping, but that meant spending time or money on something besides my work. Being an entrepreneur means living in a way most people aren’t willing to live. But soulfully, for me, having the freedom and fluidity to create things my way is worth more than anything else. I’m so grateful!
What’s ahead for Maggi Simpkins Fine Jewelry?
I’m very focused on keeping my head down and putting one foot in front of the other. I do zero marketing besides posting my designs on Instagram. People have offered to market my jewelry, but for now, I’m still figuring out where I want to take my business. I’m very clear that whatever I build for myself, it needs to be balanced and sustainable.
I will probably always make engagement rings, because there is so much love tied to the process. But I have been itching to explore other design fields and create on a much larger scale. Whether it’s interiors, furniture, light fixtures or gallery installations, the thought of creating large metal pieces really entices me.
Throughout this journey, I’ve often found myself wanting to be further along than I was. Looking back, I have so much love for every step I’ve taken along the way. Now, for the first time in a long time, I trust I am exactly where I am supposed to be on my path. I love making really special pieces of jewelry for people, so instead of trying to control where I think I should be, I’m staying open to saying yes to what feels right and good.
Before you go, tell us about the jewelry you wear on a daily basis.
I wear my mom’s 30-year-old engagement ring. When my dad passed away six years ago, I made a ring -- a simple, thin gold band -- out of his gold wire-frame glasses. I once gave him a brass bracelet, and I wear that every day, too. Around my neck are pendants that belonged to my grandmothers. For me, each piece is so much more than just a sparkly, pretty thing. Each one represents a history, a story and a person.
There are so many inspiring small businesses in the world … check out these other stories and videos from the QuickBooks 2018 BACKING YOU campaign.
Before you go
Join our QB Community and read more inspiring stories like these. Here are five reasons to join right now!
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.