Somebody called me a name on this past Saturday … and I liked it. I was in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood at an adorable storefront makers’ spot called The Honeycomb Network.
That’s where global nonprofit Nest and its Makers United Chicago assembled a team from the luxury brand Hermès of Paris, who flew in from New York just for this occasion, to teach an eclectic gathering of 12 local makers some of the historic company’s branding secrets and strategies. Jean Williams Studio was one of the 12.
Jean Williams at The Honeycomb Network September 10 in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood for a Makers United Chicago session, “Grow Your Craft Business.”
In the intimate interactions we got to have with their marketing, PR and e-commerce executives, I explained to one how some well-meaning people keep advising me to stay in one lane (jewelry) and how I shrug and essentially say, “That’s not how I roll. I like designing and making it all — jewelry, homewares, accessories, wall art and more.” And that’s when the lady said to me, “Yes, that’s right. You are a lifestyle brand.”
Bells tolled. I felt seen! I wanted to hug her. “Yes, yes!” I said. “You get it. Thank you for that nugget! I now have a neater way to say what I am and do.” I’m so going to lead with that moving forward: “Jean Williams Studio is a handcrafted lifestyle brand.”
I was one of 12 local makers, culled from potential thousands no doubt, who served as a sort of inaugural class for the launch of Makers United Chicago, which is part of Nest (www.buildanest.org), a global nonprofit that champions the concerns of makers and artisans, especially women and diverse crafters.
Leather bags designer/maker Alexz Sandoval of Bird Trouble (left) and leather goods designer/maker Yohance Lacour (center) with Jean Williams.
The 12 lucky makers blessedly got to have our voices heard by sharing our concerns with local organizers of Makers United Chicago; participate in a free photo shoot with professional photographers and finishers featuring some of our key products; and, HUGELY, engage with the marketing, public relations and e-commerce team at Hermès of Paris on ways we can each improve in those arenas in our businesses.
I couldn’t help but wonder how Jean Williams Studio had been included in that number. So, I asked the person responsible for recruiting us. I found out that no one had referred me, which I’d suspected, but that I was found organically through basic research by the organizers. That’s huge to me! It means that, although it may not always feel like it, JWS’ marketing efforts are indeed getting traction in a lot of important ways.￼ So, now it’s time to use what I’ve learned to double down. ￼Woo hoo!
Nicole Franklin, New York-based director of Makers United, and designer/maker Jean Williams.
If you’re a maker, or wish to support makers, do yourself a favor and learn more about Nest and Makers United (they are in several other cities in addition to now Chicago).