15 Things on our 15th Birthday : Thoughts, Misconceptions, and Real Truths
1. "A jewelry designer? How fun!" Yes. It is. But - to be clear - owning a jewelry business does not mean I sit around and play with sparkly beads all day. A lot of days are full of bill-paying, photo-editing, emailing, inventorying, copywriting, and the millions of tiny, sometimes-tedious, non-glamorous, but important-ish stuff that makes a business run. Some days are sparkly beads, and those are THE BEST. Just not all of them are, and that is the truth.
2. I am not best friends with Oprah. Yes, I was in her magazine once. Six years ago. And, yes, I've heard she does have to approve everything that ends up in her magazine, which is incredibly flattering and encouraging, but we've never actually met. And I'm pretty sure Gayle is still her bestie for life.
3.I love what I do, but I still think about walking away and working at Trader Joe's at least once (sometimes 14 times) a month. This shit is hard, and the people at TJ's seem really happy.
4. "Elva Fields jewelry is expensive." Here's the thing: we sell $14 earrings and $350 necklaces, and a little bit of everything in between. Almost every design is made by hand (mine or Grace's - see #9), gift-wrapped by hand with a hand-written note, and shipped for free. So, while I 100% get that not everyone is in the market for a $300 statement necklace, a $20 pair of beautifully classic silver love knot earrings that never go out of style, give half of their purchase price to a charitable organization, and that arrive in a custom logo pouch wrapped and ready for gift-giving (or enjoying) seems like a deal at twice the price.
6. I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. I love that I can feel not alone. I strongly dislike that I can feel not enough. It is often a very tricky line to walk, and I wobble a lot. So some days I post, and others I just can't even deal.
7. Elva Fields has the most wonderful and amazing customers on the planet. They celebrate our milestones with love, encouragement, smiles, texts, cards, calls, showing up, flowers, gifts, and their own families in tow. They respond with understanding and warmth when we've goofed, dropped the ball, totally screwed up, or shared a setback. They reach out just to say hello, wish us happy birthday, ask how our kiddos are doing when they heard one was sick, to express delight about a new collection, share of photo of how they styled their jewels with a beautiful outfitor how they've hung them for viewing when they've either enlisted their spouse to create a wall display for their Elva collection or they've picked up a hammer and created one themselves, or to comment on a fun flea find from a vintage adventure they saw on Instagram stories. They are fun, intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful, affirming, vibrant, wonderful women. I would not be here 15 years later writing this without you, ladies (and approximately 6 very brave gentlemen.)
8. You do not have to have a multi-million dollar business to be in Forbes. I know this because when I was in Forbes, I spent the week before the article came out in tears about our sales being down by 50% and worried I'd be unable to pay both the electric bill and the rent. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Being in Forbes did not result in being able to pay those any easier.) Takeaway: Press isn't always about sales. Or security. But it can help tell a story, and being transparent and authentic in an interview while telling mine was infinitely more rewarding than writing that check to LG&E.
9. "The Elva Gals are an exclusive, elusive bunch." They are. If by "exclusive and elusive" you mean awesome, hard-working, thoughtful, creative, skilled ladies. And that team of badass babes has grown, changed, shrunk, and grown again over these 15 years. Those who once were part of the pack and have moved on to other adventures will always be honorary Elva Gals. Others have stayed and shifted with the changes. In fact, Grace, who strings most of the necklaces from her home studio space, jumped in over 6 years ago, and Amy, who started running the business side of Elva that same year, now does all of our graphic design from her new home in Arizona. Elva Gals are loyal, lovely, and essentially the best.
10. "You're famous." This was said by my kiddos when they saw framed articles about me/Elva Fields from O, The Oprah Magazine and Country Living during the studio move this summer. You wanna know what one of those two said when they saw the Oprah article in the magazine the day I purchased it off the newsstand back in 2012? "That lady has fancy fingernails," POINTING TO THE L'OREAL MODEL IN THE ADVERTISEMENT NEXT TO THE GIANT COLOR PHOTOGRAPH OF HER MOTHER. It's all about perspective. Also, we all know I'm not famous. Some people may have heard of Elva Fields, a very few handful of others may have even seen those articles in the checkout line, too. But, at the end of the day, no amount of fame or recognition - in my VERY limited experience - brings any sort of sustainable, lasting fulfillment. I have God for that. (But that's a whole other blog post.)
11. The business may be named for my great-grandmother, but there are lots of other women in my family who helped (and continue to support) the business and me along the way.My grandmother loaned me the money to start Elva Fields full time and proceeded to be our best jewelry model, telling all of her friends about her "really talented" granddaughter who made her jewels and forcing them to attend and shop our first trunk shows. My aunt did the same - and even hand-sewed our first pouches made of felt and grosgrain ribbon. My mother - well, there's not enough space/time to list her endless contributions, but among them are: childcare, transportation, catering, financing, design assistance, emotional encouragement, cheerleading, patience, listening, understanding, sales, marketing, invoicing, shipping, sourcing, smiling, more listening, storage, attendance at EVERY event, delivery, and inspiration. On that note, maybe my next business will be called Debbie Wheat.
12. "You can't go home again." NOT TRUE. This business started at a small white desk in the corner of a tiny guest room in my first home (a condo) with my former husband. Though Elva Fields has had a few other spots since then - a downtown office in building on Broadway, an unmarked room at the back of a small-town Chamber of Commerce, a former pool hall on historic Main Street in that same small town, a sunlit studio overlooking Frankfort Avenue - we're kind of back where we started: home again, this time in a converted attic space right next to my bedroom. It's not glamorous, not planned by a high-profile interior designer, not even (gasp!) really all that Insta-worthy, but it is exactly where I need to be right now, and I'm loving the ease and flexibility of merging my life as a single mother of two young girls and my work as a single-owner LLC. (And yes, I'm writing this in my pj's on the couch, so there's that confirmed stereotype for you.)
* This statement is in a three-way tie with "Wow! A whole week without kids! Don't you miss them?" (Yes, of course I do. I'm not a sociopath, I'm just divorced. And, also, it's kind of nice to miss my kids and then see them again.) And then "Wow! A whole week without kids! How does that work for you?" (WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! Asks a question without making a statement OR an assumption, opening the door for real conversation. I wish this happened more often.)
14. No, I cannot make the necklace I wore on my date to Costa Rica before I got the rose because I AM NOT THE BACHELORETTE EMILY MAYNARD.
15. This is my own brain bringing the misconception and doing the talking: "You should really have this more figured out after 15 years." The truth? My brain/ego can be such an asshole sometimes. It likes to think of these things that attempt to completely destroy my serenity and self-worth, and - if I'm not careful and taking reallllly good care of myself - I'll believe it. But here is what I know and believe deeply to be true (even when I forget for a bit and go along with my a-hole ego/brain): all is well. There is no such thing as "figured out." And there is no timeline of "After ___ years, everything makes sense/works out/goes perfectly/is easy/falls into place/is set for life." And the "shoulds" are just basically the WORST. That "should" is based on some made-up expectations or idea that I had for myself, my business, my life. That it all should be a certain way by now, and it's usually (sadly, I cringe to admit this) based on a comparison to/with other people whose lives are not mine. And, even worse, I'm comparing my insides to their outsides, so I really have no idea and it really, really, really doesn't matter. It's apples/oranges.
What I wish I felt were the truth more often (because it is): I've made it 15 YEARS doing something I truly love and that (hopefully) brings joy and beauty to the lives of those around me. I am able to earn a living (with some business debt that pretty much stinks, but I'm doing the best I can) and support my beautiful children with my time, efforts, and resources. I have learned that I am so much more than what I do for a living. I smile most days. I never, ever dread showing up for work. THAT is a success. It may look very different than I thought it might at this point. (It does.) It may not even make it to 16 years (Who knows?) But FOR TODAY I can celebrate and be proud of what it is, the art I create, the real, meaningful connections we've made with others, and all I've learned and become as a result of growing Elva Fields these past 15 years.
I am profoundly grateful for each of you; for allowing me to show up creatively and pursue this passion for making and for including Elva Fields in your own pursuits of beauty, celebration, growth, and fun. I am still here because you believe in and support me, and I appreciate (more than I can adequately express) each of you for loving Elva so well in your own ways. So much love to you all. Thank you. And cheers to 15!