by Christine Zika
Jennifer Bonacorsi decided that she needed a hobby.
For her the hobby needed to be something that she could do at night while her children slept and her husband was away on business. It all started in 2002 when she began learning how to make jewelry.
Proud of her new skill, she wore her jewelry in public. However, every time she wore a new piece out, someone would want to buy it from her. So she would sell it for a price that she thought was reasonable.
It was her husband, Bret, that began helping Jennifer determine her cost, time so she could offer the best Retail price.
With the encouragement of many, Jennifer booked her first home party with her neighbor which would give women an opportunity to design their own pieces. It was a huge success. The party goers wanted to book parties of their own and others wanted to represent her and her business by selling Jennifer’s jewelry.
It took a full year to create their direct sales model. It was important to Jennifer that their business model would give women an opportunity to make money just for selling jewelry. She continued to book parties and kept a list of the names of the women who wanted to be a part of the business.
They had discovered the gem of a business and in 2004 U Design Jewelry was created.
For the first two years, Jennifer ran the business from her home. It was in 2006 that they made the decision to move into one of the incubator spaces at the EDC Business and Community Partners building.
As with all start-ups, challenges began to arise.
In the business model, each representative had to be trained by Jennifer which created a lag in the number of representatives that could be added because the system wasn’t duplicable. The economy crashed, they used sterling silver and silver prices skyrocketed but their catalog was based on the lower prices.
They started to lose momentum and money. If that wasn’t bad enough the desire for beaded jewelry was falling out of favor and personalized jewelry was becoming their highest seller followed by fashion pieces.
They were also starting to notice that more women wanted to wear and sell the jewelry but not create it at the party. Reps were spending a lot of time at parties as well as spending many more hours after the party in order to complete pieces for customers.
In October 2012, Jennifer designed a kit that was $199 to sell the product only. Jennifer was now making all the jewelry and the company started growing again. They had found a formula that worked and in July 2013 they re-branded and modified the business model. U Design Jewelry then became jBloom.
After the relaunch, Jennifer needed funding to buy a Laser to personalize the jewelry without having to hand stamp the pieces. They relied on the assistance of the EDC Business and Community Partners to help secure funding through their Revolving Loan Fund when traditional avenues weren’t working. They also utilized this option to purchase much needed software.
In January 2014, they began experiencing true growth in jBloom. As Jennifer sees it, “Jewelry is the tool that we get to use to help women grow.”
Currently they employ six full-time and 8 part-time employees, have over 700 Representives (now called “Designers”) in 40 states, and they are on track to have a 70-80% increase of revenue in 2016 over 2015 when they had tripled their revenues over 2014.
They will be graduating from the EDC incubator in October 2016 when they move into their new 11,700 square foot jewelry manufacturing facility in St. Peters.
“We would not be where we are today without the EDC. We could not have made it through the downturn in the economy without their support and mentorship.”
Jennifer and Bret are quick to recognize EDC staff member, Craig Frahm, as their true supporter, even if, as Jennifer tells it, he wouldn’t let her paint her office pink many years ago.
Congratulation to Jennifer and her staff at jBloom for growing a gem of a business.