While JCK was back in June of 2023, it’s taken me a while to write this post.  The trip was A LOT to digest, and being anything #Extra isn’t in my wheelhouse.  And mostly because traveling anywhere for a few small relationships is costly, and the trip wasn’t any part of my initial budget.  But in the very beginning, I didn’t know where to start.  I didn’t know how to find manufacturers, suppliers for chains, packaging, or tooling.  And JCK is billed as the industry’s largest and most renowned jewelry trade event in the world.  This year it was in Vegas at the Venetian with over 30,000 attendees from 130 different countries.  It’s for REAL massive.  

Once I had made the decision I had to go, I first had to figure out how to register.  They’ve got pretty stringent requirements in terms of documentation, but being able to register as a designer gave me a small window of opportunity to apply as a ‘representative’ for 29 AND 11 as opposed to a full on retailer.  And of course I had to have my life size Xanax with me – my sister.  She got to be an honorary employee and designer for 29 AND 11 (LOL - it helps to be the boss).  I was SO not going to do this alone, and needed a wingman.  And no one was better than her at keeping me dialed down and letting me get all the nerves out before I met with vendors.

And once I ripped the band aid, it was okay.  Not great, but okay.  I mean it’s never going to be great for me, but I had to do it.  And I did.  And one of the first people I worked the nerve up to talk to was a company called National Chain.  They are essentially one of the largest chain manufacturers located in the US, and their product catalog is amazing.  I wanted to open an account with them desperately.   And after meeting the NICEST rep and essentially internally panicking the whole time I was talking to her, I proceeded to pick up her phone and put it in my pocket and walk off.  I thought it was mine, but I should have taken more than a second to realize that my phone was already in my other pocket.  I was mortified, and spent most of the rest of the day assuming she thought I was a thief.    She didn’t.  But it took me about three weeks of additional emails and one account opened with them for me to believe that she didn’t think I was a pickpocket!!

The rest of my vendor interactions were underwhelming compared to that one, and I’m thrilled to be able to say that.   We walked A TON over the course of two days.  Lots of it was browsing and seeing repeat trends from the vendors.  While JCK isn’t necessarily a cash and carry type show, you could buy one off samples to take back with you.  So we did…Because why wouldn’t you?  LOL.  We had the best time, and for me the event wrapped up with a face to face conversation with a US manufacturer that I had been stalking online.  They are big too, and they only manufacture private labels (Not their own lines that are rebranded) and so they are super customer focused.  I’m a SMALL fish in their pond, but the face time got me a yes from the owner to produce my samples.  I think he’s doing me a favor, and I’ll totally take it.  He made the comment that everyone has to start somewhere, and if I’m guessing someone gave him a break some time along his career path, and maybe he’s doing the same for me.  Whatever it is, I’m grateful as all get out.

So was it worth it?  Yes - 100%.  If nothing else, it made me realize how large the industry is and how many manufacturers and suppliers there are.  It also reaffirmed my belief that there is a place for everyone at the table.  I met the people I wanted to meet and established the relationships I had hoped to establish (Even if I did stumble through it a little bit).  Will I do it again?  Hmmm….Probably not next year.  But maybe in the future.  There was a lot of camaraderie there and I could tell that people used it as a chance to catch up and reconnect. For now, the connections I needed to make are done and I’ve been able to since come back home and establish a business rapport with each of the suppliers.  So my advice to anyone starting out is this - Prepare to be uncomfortable and be prepared to stumble over yourself as you start the process.  But also this - People are inherently kind and are responsive if you're genuine and if they really believe you’ve got something good going.  So trust your gut and get uncomfortable!!


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