Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Celebrating 25 Years - What a Journey!

Flashback 1992
I remember picking out names for my eclectic little group of knobs. Oh, this one reminds me of a wizard hat. So I'll call it Merlin. And isn't that one a badminton birdie? I never expected to see those names on invoices 25 years later!

Souvenirs From a Ski Holiday
I was a jewelry designer when I created my first knob and Knobs by Susan Goldstick. Not quite sure how to market this new product, I reached out to my sales rep in Colorado to see if she could spark some interest among her stores. It was an experiment with amazing results!

The shops in the ski resorts were my first customers and I couldn't ask for a better test market. Before I knew it, my knobs were finding their way into homes all over the country. The resort retailer was a perfect venue and I had the opportunity to repeat this scenario locally with a gift shop in Sausalito. The city is a "must see" destination for anyone visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and the shop owner replenished her inventory every week. The tourists were my honey bees for sure!

Hugs and Kisses for The Press
In those early years I couldn't imagine a better friend than the magazines and newspapers that featured the knobs in design editorials. Always on the lookout for something innovative, the knobs touched on a new and exciting concept in decorative hardware that was aptly labeled "house jewelry". I was bowled over by the consistent requests for photos and interviews. A six page feature spread in Better Homes and Gardens was the ultimate flattery.

But it was an appearance in the "hot picks" of Interior Design's big Market issue that triggered a significant direction for my business. Noted as the bible of the industry, the magazine exposed my line to a huge audience of professional designers and decorators. They were a demanding and sought after clientele that inspired many a new product design. Our decorative drapery hardware was definitely an offspring of a designer's request for window treatments! Gift shows in San Francisco, New York and Atlanta as well as appearances on HGTV further fueled the momentum in populating the market with jewel encrusted hardware. So who's making all this product you might ask?

Better Homes and Gardens 1995
Decked out in knobs, that's my dad's dental cabinet I turned into a jewelry armoire.
New product introductions were often a response to designers'
requests. Such was the case with drapery hardware. I ended
up developing a whole new line with finials, poles, brackets...
the whole shebang!
Tapping Talent
Once I found a studio space in Sausalito, I hired my first employee and was ready to roll. Within two years I moved the operation to a bigger space and I hired more people. Assembling a team of talented and skillful artists was a mission I took to heart. When interviewing a prospective employee for our workshop, they were often baffled when I requested to see their art portfolio. It helped me determine the skill set needed to produce a beautiful and quality product. High standards with meticulous attention to detail was established early on and became the norm for everything that leaves our workshop.
My first studio in Sausalito was 200 sq ft in a shared space. Yep that's a sink 
right next to my desk! I was there a year before finding a new larger space 
I could call my own.
Marsha was my first employee. I hired her when
she showed me some exquisite marzipan fruits 
that she made. Artistic confections and knob 
making? It seemed a natural fit! That's my mom
who dropped by for a visit.

Leslie wore many hats. Although she was my designated painter,
she was also an invaluable assistant. Here she is at the spray
booth where the knobs are varnished.
Daniel was one of my first employees.
He sculpted with incredible precision
which set the bar high for all who
followed him. 
Sonoko probably painted over 400 furniture 
pieces in her 8 year tenure. I had to get an HB1
visa for her to assure her position with us. She
was too modest to sign her pieces but each and 
every one was truly a work of art!
Aah Norma - She was with my company from 2000 - 2014.  Norma was my chief knob maker and trained every new hire that entered the workshop. Every Christmas I would write a heartfelt thank you note to her for all the gorgeous knobs she created. She was very proud and greatly appreciated! 

Testing Testing
Even before the internet, our customers often shared photos of their decorating projects. For the most part, the knobs were used to dress up built-ins, bathroom cabinetry and refinished furniture pieces. I was naturally curious to see how our hardware would look on furniture using our pigments and our colors.

So I did a little experimenting with paint applications and was lucky to have a local designer give us a challenging project. She provided an old bedroom set stripped and prepped for refinishing. Not knowing what to expect, I have to admit she was a pretty good sport. Hooray! The results were a success. There was no doubt our lustrous jewel tone finishes were as unique and exotic as the knobs. It was time to design my own furniture line!

Naming the furniture was like naming the knobs. Looking
at the cabinet's lively paint treatment, flamboyant knobs and
cabriole legs, the jitterbug dance came to  mind.
The Big Leap
Our decorative finials like to get noticed! The Barcelona bedposts are
just the right height for viewing the finials at any angle.

I was fortunate to find a cabinetmaker in Los Angeles whose workmanship was on par with our hardware. The Jitterbug dresser was the first creation. Excited to move forward, I teamed up with Michael, a versatile architect who understood my vision and helped me with my designs.

The Diva armoire, Tango tower and a complete bedroom set were the fruits of our collaborations. Every piece has one key design element; all knobs and decorative finials have to be at eye level where they are most appreciated.

Ready and anxious to take on bigger projects I decided to incorporate and we officially became Susan Goldstick, Inc. in 1999.

The "Book"
Once I made a commitment to developing a furniture line, I had to figure out how to market the merchandise. Certainly my most industrious project, I decided to develop a a full color catalog. I had no idea it would take me six months to complete. So I gave myself a break and each new edition became a bi-yearly event. My graphic designer David called it "the book" because it reminded him of coffee table art. Just a glance at my catalog covers and you could easily see my other passion. I loved staging and shooting photos of the knobs and the photographs also had their own Susan Goldstick signature style.
Seashells and flowers had a way of jumping
into my catalog covers. In my eyes, nature's 
jewels and my jewels make great companions. 
Magazine editors are partial to eye -popping
pages and often used my colorful photos with 
their articles.

Now That's Bang for Your Buck!
In addition to trade publications, a savvy ad campaign in Elle Decor and California Homes Magazine proved to be amazingly successful. I got more latitude than I could possibly imagine when people would tell me that they saw our ads in Architectural Digest. I never actually advertised in this magazine, but being associated with any esteemed publication was just fine by me. A brilliant strategy that I didn't even plan!

Show of Shows
I embarked on our biggest venture yet, when I signed us up for the infamous International Furniture Market in High Point North Carolina. Every April and October, I got a chance to see the trees bud and the leaves fall. Aside from nature's splendor, it was a pretty special event that attracted a global audience. Excited to be so close to the pulse of the home furnishing industry, I felt privileged to participate.

More than I Bargained For
As it turned out, the High Point furniture show brought more than furniture orders. Lamps, picture frames, rugs and Christmas ornaments were all licensing projects that gave me the opportunity to work with exciting companies noted for lighting, gift and home decor. It was the impetus for the GOLDSTICKS TM that allowed us to expand the Susan Goldstick look and explore new designs. Working with my talented assistant Stephanie, we stretched our imaginations and churned out all kinds of creations that were manufactured overseas.

The Stout Lady Lamp in cast resin was part of 
my Splash series (licensed)
   Blessed with an amazing assistant, 
   Stephanie  was a gifted artist and
   contributed her talents to every 
   licensing project. What a joy!

Confetti series candle stick holders are cast resin. (licensed)
Splash series drapery hardware (licensed)

Christmas tree ornament
in cast resin. (licensed)
Scrolly rug design drawing (licensed)

Kevin Delong joined my company in 2000 and 
we got married a year later.  You could say the
business became our "baby".
Half of the Tag Team

Up to this point I've raved about the artists that created our products. But I have to mention my sales director Kevin, a master at customer service who opened and closed each and every trade show for 10 years.

At our first trade show in Atlanta he asked me "where is your banner?" When I looked at him dumbfounded, he asked "How do people know what you do?" Okay I get it.
His tireless, charismatic and professional demeanor was always appreciated by both me and the customers. To this day he is still my key advisor and consultant. His keen intuition about people and design are always spot on.
P.S. Kevin is also my husband.

Blushing Babe table lamp has a 
pink lining that turns the shade a
bright cinnamon when switched on.

Aha Moment!
One would think that after spending
so much energy on designing lamps
for licensees that I would have a lamp line
for Susan Goldstick. Lo and behold it was
easy to see that our finial shapes could be
translated into beautiful lamp bodies.
After sourcing the marketplace for
colorful silks and the right shade
manufacturer, I finally added table lamps
to our product line in 2005.

No White Hats for Us
Keeping in character with our colorful style all
lamp shades are created with colorful silks. Some
even have tinted linings that changes the shade
color dramatically when switched on.

Got Pulls? 
 Although designers had been using the knobs in kitchens and baths for years, we were missing a key element in many a kitchen cabinet scheme. After we did our first Kitchen and Bath Industry show (KBIS), I realized that if we were going to be a real player in this arena, I needed to add handles to our line. You can understand the enormity of KBIS when you think about how most  homeowners spend their renovation budgets. It's an unbelievable event where every major manufacturer has a huge presence. The pulls were introduced at our second KBIS show and OMG it opened up a whole new market for us! Now our displays were in major kitchen and bath showrooms across the country.
The back legs on our jitterbug were straightened out so the 
cabinet could rest flush against the wall. We made the top
detachable with the option to install a stone surface.

Living in the Bathroom
When converting furniture into sink cabinets became a fast growing trend, I was right on top of the movement and consulted with Stan our cabinetmaker. He made a few modifications to our Jitterbug dresser and Voila! We had a hot looking sink vanity!

Another Rising Star
When we showed up at our third KBIS event with the Charisma vanity, HGTV was there to greet us and we were featured in their Highlights broadcast. It was quite a thrill to be sharing the limelight with the likes of Kohler and Jacuzzi!.

Who Knew?
At the 2007 KBIS show an unexpected challenge came when a visitor in our booth asked me why I don't offer switch covers. I kind of shrugged, but then became keenly interested when he told us that he just wrote a sizable order with one of our decorative hardware competitors.  I knew nothing about the industry but was game to try something new. Within 6 months I launched our Cleo line of switch covers in paint treatments that mimic our furniture finishes. It turned out to be one of our most successful products. You might ask what happened with the visitor at our booth? He became our best customer!

Teaming up
In 2012,  I was looking toward the future and wanted to involve someone who could eventually manage our production. So I partnered with Jas who was my supplier of all our casting and sculpting materials. Even though his business was located outside of Sacramento, he wanted to engage his family back in India who had the perfect space for production. So off I went to Chandigarh to set up a workshop and embarked on a whole new adventure.
That's Jas in the middle with cousins Vicky and Aman, all 
dedicated to providing a quality product in a timely manner.
Mission accomplished!
Setting Up
Of course I hadn't made a knob in years. So who was going to teach our Indian personnel? Before I left the states, I decided to make up a series of training videos with Celeste who not only made beautiful knobs but also proved to be a great instructor. I call her my movie star because she was the primary tutor in all the videos.
The Gods Are With Me
Jas and I were starting to feel a little nervous after our first three trainees showed very little knob making potential. I was worried our venture was a bust. But the day before I was scheduled to leave, Anita appeared. His luck? My luck?
Anita, my jewel in India. Her knobs 
are so perfectly executed, it's hard 
to believe they are made by hand.
When she's not making knobs, Anita
paints beautiful minature paintings.
Celeste was a knob maker and talented painter. I always
enjoyed the way she was game for any project. Besides   
being the star in my videos, she also drew the avatar 
for my blog. Comic book style was her niche and you
gotta love how she portrayed the boss!

When my webmaster urged me to start a 
blog back in 2010, I whined "what am 
I going to blog about? " Nuf said I guess.
Naming it Pure Goldstick was his idea. I like it! 

Log On 
Having a website was  a newfangled novelty back in 1998.
In the days before anyone "googled" things, we had to lead
customers to our website and often had to tell them to how to
find the address bar on their browser.
It was not the norm but a luxury to have a web site in 1998. My cousin Kimberly was up for the project and designed a beautiful site that captured the look and style of our catalogs. In those days we depended on links and Google AdWords for exposure. Only a professional IT person could upload new product and content. So it was almost impossible to be current.

All this changed when I had the site remodeled in 2006 and we learned some basic webmaster skills. But it wasn't until the remodel in 2014 that gave the website all the bells and whistles of an ecommerce store and essentially replaced our printed catalogs.

I Feel Faint
I was a little off balance when David my webmaster told me that all products had to be pictured "Amazon" style on white background for our new web store. This was the new look of the internet and important for me to get on board. Unwilling to retire my sea shells and all the props that I enjoyed using in my photography, I found a happy place to stage my photos with our newsletters.

I put up a fuss when my webmaster insisted I had to have a 
monthly email newsletter. It seemed like a lot of work and
I wasn't convinced of the benefits. Boy was I proven wrong!
Was there life before Constant Contact? 

My Field of Dreams "Build It and They Will Come"
In the years before the internet, the phone, the fax and the first class stamp were the tools of communication. Inventing a new product and getting it into the hands of the consumer was a tedious process that took a lot of determination, perseverance and passion. I spent hours prospecting on the phone and mailing photos and press kits in the hope to stir a spark of interest. Needless to say, there were times I felt all my efforts were futile. But a successful business man, friend and mentor assured me not to worry.  He said "Just keep doing what you are doing and success will come. You are a true entrepreneur."  The journey continues...

Happy Birthday Birdie  - 25 Years!
Just yesterday I was looking at an 
invoice and spotted Birdie finials
on the order. :-)
This is a long blog for sure. But creating a scrapbook of twenty five years in business can't be capsulized in two paragraphs. I've left out a lot of people who were part of my journey and grateful to all for their contributions. It's a history full of rich experiences and warm memories and I wanted to tell my story.

July 2017
Susan Goldstick 
Artist, Entrepreneur

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