If you have a passion for all things jewelry or just love browsing stunning beads, you have more than likely found yourself inspired by the bead-u-tiful selection of products from Jesse James Beads—an online wonderland of one-of-a-kind and exclusive beads, components, tools, findings and more.
Recently, we had the pleasure of interviewing the creative superstar and #GirlBoss behind Jesse James Beads—the wonderful Sarah James! Since Sarah will be returning to Bead Fest Philadelphia this August, we thought it would be great fun to learn about her creative process, goals and passion for all things beads!
Without further ado, let’ have a chat with the lovely Sarah James!
How do you come up with the gorgeous and colorful concepts and collections featured on your website?
“The design of the product lines starts with a little spark—a little idea. For example, Viva Frida started during a buying trip overseas last September when I found these really amazing Frida Kahlo shots. She has always been an artist that inspires me so much, so I thought ‘why don’t we do an entire bead collection based off this woman?’. So, we chose a couple different photos that seemed very characteristic of Frida, and then we used that to create color palettes off of the images.
We picked out different beads that go along with the vibe. The green palette—Frida Verde—is very lush green, but also has a vintage-y feel to it. We found things like dyed turquoise leaves and little ceramic doves, tassels—anything that would give us that vintage Mexican flora-fauna feel.
From there, after we create the collection, we give the beads and the original image inspiration to our graphic designers, and they come up with really cool concepts that speak to the vibe the collection is giving off. There will also be a new logo that goes along with the collection, and backsplash images that you see in our newsletters, on our homepage, and on our Facebook page.”
The process behind your collections is amazing! How have your customers reacted to your beautiful new website?
“In terms of seeing numbers roll in on our site, we have a lot of people who know about us and they will place higher volume orders, because they know they love their Jesse James items, but just from watching the items from a financial standpoint, we see some smaller orders come in and it’s really great, because I can click through and see the people’s names, and see that there are so many new names that we have never had visit us before!”
We started very small here at Jesse James Beads. Our operational plant used to be in South Florida, and it was just one person and myself working there. Since we moved back to Pennsylvania, we have an entire team that’s working to make things happen, and the numbers have been growing exponentially with our Facebook fan base, new customers coming to the site, we’re receiving excellent reviews every day, people are messaging us to tell us how much they love the beads, and it’s just so wonderful to hear, especially from the new people that we are doing a good job in their eyes.”
In your mind, what sets Bead Fest apart from other jewelry events?
“I’m pretty sure I’m speaking for anyone who walks through the door at Bead Fest, it just feels different—there’s a certain energy. Every exhibitor is really joyful to be there, and the customers pick up on that, and it’s just a sharing back and forth of good vibrations. You guys take care of us so very much with social media and show promotion, that everyone feels happy walking through the door–and it’s also a great learning environment–so that’s what is different from other shows. At Bead Fest, everyone feels very well taken care of. It’s a great environment to be buying and selling in!”
Can you tell us what it’s like to prepare to exhibit at a Bead Fest event?
“It’s always very busy. For Jesse James Beads, we only do a select few shows, and we really appreciate getting out there in front of the community, because it’s a nice way to meet our people and be one-on-one with the community that supports our brand. With that being said, it takes a lot of prep going into the show. We always want to make our booth different from the year before.
We always want to have something new and enticing for the people who come to see us year after year, and then also just becoming better and better from the last year, so if people didn’t see us at Bead Fest 2016, they’re going to have to stop by and see us at Bead Fest 2017 to see what’s buzz-worthy in our shop. The booth on the show floor doesn’t even feel like a booth. It literally feels like a store—like a little boutique. We have music, there are lights, there’s a little bit of extra fluff—it’s a very sparkly place to be, I like to stand behind it, and I think customers like to visit because of that reason, too.”
Do you have any memorable moments from a past Bead Fest event that you would like to share?
“We started this little tradition two years ago, because we just wanted to shake things up a little bit. Candie Cooper, who is a designer, and myself decided that we were going to throw a little tailgate in the parking lot—just for something different in the morning. It was Saturday, before the show and we had discount beads. We had a lot of stuff at the warehouse in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and we brought some buckets of it up to the show, set it outside the car, played some jock-jam, had some donuts and coffee and people came.”
We did it again last year, and we invited our friends from Dakota Stones and Stars Clasps to come also. We’re all friends outside of the office. We get drinks, go bowling, we do Bead Fest and other events around the country together, so we got together and did tailgating last year, and it was a huge success. We had a lot of fun and it was just a great way to kick off a Saturday. We plan on doing it again this year!”
Why do you love selling your products at Bead Fest?
“I just love the energy of the customers who are there. I love watching someone come into the booth and just taking a step back and seeing that awe-inspired look come across their face. It is so validating for what it is that I am doing with my career and what we as a team are doing at Jesse James Beads.
They start to pick the items up, look at them in their hands and they’ll turn to you, and they’ll express that they have an idea and they’ll tell you about it. They start putting things in their basket, and you know they are so into what they are doing, and I love being part of that creative process. It’s being there from the very beginning, before something amazing and artful is made, when the decisions are being made about what’s going to go into that piece. That’s what I really like about my job.”
Is there anything surprising about your job and working at Jesse James Beads that you would like to share with your fans and customers?
“There is no rule book to this thing. It has been about trying different things, seeing what works, seeing what makes people happy, seeing what people respond to and then doing more of that. It has been a really fun learning process, and I think it goes to say that we as a team are learning every single day. There is never a shortage of things that can’t be learned.”
Can you tell us about any goals you are currently working toward for Jesse James Beads?
“Though we would love to have a physical space where people can come and learn and shop in person, the right-now one year goal is to cultivate this sort of environment online. Online is where everyone has access, and are so lucky to be able to communicate with each other and share ideas and inspiration through this technology.
So in one year’s time, I would like to see Jesse James Beads develop more online resources for learning: a YouTube channel with short how-to videos for beginners, work with designers to inspire our community with innovative ways to use the beads, and continue our reach and development of the JJB Creative Community. We have an amazing community of makers on Facebook.
We should have creative Facebook groups within our fan page for makers to share ideas and show off their latest innovations. The Jesse James brand that we are developing is about having fun, empowering one another and creating something that was never yet there before. We are innovators. We are inspirers. And we are inspired by you, and by our entire community.”
Do you have any tips and tricks for someone exploring the idea of starting their own jewelry-related business?
“There is a wealth of knowledge on the internet. If you want to create your own business or want to get started with social media, there are all kinds of tips and tricks out there for you if you go ahead and do a little bit of searching.
For anyone who is a beginner wanting to start their own business, it can absolutely be done. It can start off as a side hustle, and they can gain enough traction to make it their full-time gig. There are a lot of resources out there online, and Etsy puts out a ton of information on their blog on how to take photos, how to market yourself, how to use social media.
Everyone has to start somewhere, so no one should feel intimidated that they don’t know anything. All of us knew nothing when we first got started, and you just have to have the confidence and perseverance that you can do it. We all have the tools to make something of our hobby, if you want to. You just have to have the desire to do it and the willingness to put in the time to do research.”
Do you have any favorite jewelry trends right now, or are you really loving any particular stones, metals or bead colors?
“For me and my style, I really like a geometric, tribal feel. I love tassels, and I’m pretty stoked that tassels came around and they’re still going strong. I also love long layering pieces. I just picked up some cool leather and feather earrings from a blogger. I love bracelet stacks and anything you can layer on, including big thick rings. I have a very bohemian yet modern vibe.”
PSST! Sarah and the team at Jesse James Beads are releasing a brand-new collection this week, and we have some insider information you’ll only find here on Bead Fest Blog…
“It’s called the Bora Bora Bead Collection, and it’s all inspired by the island vibe of French Polynesia. It’s all about lush blue waters, tropical plants and very whimsical and bright summer color palettes.”
(Okay, who else will be clicking over to Jesse James Beads this Thursday to discover the new Bora Bora Collection?!)
Sarah has fueled up our inspiration for the day, and we are sure you feel the same!
During our time speaking with Sarah, it was clear that she has a never-ending passion for her career, inspiring others and helping others discover their love for creating. She is full of energy for what she does, and she has a deep respect for her team, and she loves nothing more than helping a customer ignite a new idea for a project.
If you’re attending Bead Fest Philadelphia this August 16-20, you are in luck! The amazing Sarah James will be spreading her sparkly vibes and beautiful products in Jesse James Beads’ boutique-style booth. We are so excited to find out what their theme will be this year! In addition, keep checking back for more information on Sarah James’ and Candie Cooper’s Bead Fest tailgate extravaganza! We’ll fill you in on all of the details as the event gets closer.
Leave us a comment with your favorite Jesse James Beads product, or tell us about what you plan to buy from her beautifully-curated online store next! Have a beautiful day, jewelry artist!