I think what makes my company stand out is my real desire to connect. It’s one of the reasons why I love Antiques so much, they’ve been places and seen things. They carry this aura of a time long gone and create a way to connect to that past. When I witness someone else connecting to this item, a ring or pair of earrings or a brooch, it creates this chest filling high for me.
Aspart of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Elizabeth Potts, Founder of The Moonstoned.
Elizabeth Potts grew up in New Mexico where she was immersed in the culture and history of the American Southwest. As a child, Elizabeth remembers collecting pottery shards and bits of silver quartz from the Native American Ruins on her Grandparent's Ranch. She would tie them with string, collecting them as necklaces to wear close. Each held a story, a history that her Grandfather would tell her about around a campfire, making them even more special.
After high school, Elizabeth went on to study History and Silversmithing at NMSU. Here, her love for history and jewelry came together as she discovered how jewelry was made by hand. Spending her weekends treasure hunting at all the desert flea markets, she started her own collection of antique and vintage rings. She then moved to New York City to continue her education as a Gold Smith and Bench Jeweler, continuing to amass unique old jewelry along the way and discovering the history behind each piece.
Her love of sharing the story became real when she started The Moonstoned in 2016. What started as a website built clumsily in a small cafe has turned into a multi-platform business that reaches thousands of avid jewelry lovers across the world.
Elizabeth specializes in finding the perfect piece, whether to celebrate an achievement, a proposal, or just a special moment in time. Her passion is to bring life to these old objects in the hope that you’ll connect with them and fall just as deeply in love.
“These pieces…they have a purpose. They’ve seen and been with people who have experienced so much life before being rediscovered. I want to celebrate how unique and special this is, how beautifully imperfect. Something special is out there waiting just for you, to become the story that you tell when you pass it on.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ifeel as though this path is the “ugly girl” who all of a sudden takes off her glasses and has always been pretty, you know from those terrible rom-com movies we used to watch? Being in Jewelry has always been there for me, from collecting shiny rocks and putting them in my pocket as a kid, to playing with beading wire and making sculptures to going to school for Gold Smithing. But somehow along the way, I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough, talented enough or smart enough and it was this ‘hobby’ I kind of kept secret for a long time. I didn’t feel like I could say out loud “I’m in Jewelry”; what would that even mean? Finally, after years working in all kinds of different jobs, I decided I had to give it a go if I was ever going to figure out what ‘doing jewelry’ meant to me. It started with a small collection of antique rings, a head full of nerdy history, and a website built in a small beach-side cafe. Getting to share the stories, the reason why I love antiques, and the thrill of finding these treasures became a platform that others wanted to be a part of.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh boy. Thinking of this still makes my cheeks red. So there I was, with a backpack full of old jewelry sitting in the waiting room of VOGUE magazine downtown for a desk-side, where an editor looks at your product and decides whether or not to work with you. It was nothing but windows, so high up you could see down the river. Everyone in the office was whizzing around, it felt SO busy and frantic. I was waiting there for quite a while, eating a chocolate muffin that had been smooshed in my bag. When the editor came out she just asked to meet right there in the lobby, so I scrambled to get the jewelry out of my backpack and show her, telling the stories and history. She looked at me and kind of frowned, then just half-listened on her phone. She then asked that I send her line sheets (I had none) and just walked away to her next meeting. I was feeling really dejected and went to the bathroom where to my absolute horror I found chocolate muffin wedged right in between my teeth. I’ll still never know if it was the backpack, the chocolate teeth or just catching her on a bad day. But looking back, I’m so grateful for that moment because it was a laugh or die, I had to find a way to get over how awkward that experience was and own it. It also made me hyper-aware that I didn’t want to try and fit into a mold of what was considered print-worthy. Antique jewelry isn’t perfect, and quite frankly neither am I. That’s kind of the magic of it all.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes my company stand out is my real desire to connect. It’s one of the reasons why I love Antiques so much, they’ve been places and seen things. They carry this aura of a time long gone and create a way to connect to that past. When I witness someone else connecting to this item, a ring or pair of earrings or a brooch, it creates this chest filling high for me. I want to know your story, I want to know what is important to you, what you love I want to be able to see you when you are feeling down. Jewelry is a way to connect to these human emotions because they come from a time when things were made with much more emotion. My company is really transparent about embracing that feeling over desiring jewelry just because it’s pretty looking. I was at a trunk show once, and this guy comes in looking for an engagement ring. He was really quiet and kind of shy. He didn’t ask too many questions but when he saw this ring, this antique cluster ring, he got super emotional. He bought it there on the spot and all he said was “I knew it was waiting here”. When I handed it over to him, he just broke into this huge smile. His shoulders went back, he all of a sudden was so full of hope, so full of love. I asked him if I could give him a hug and he let me, which was the best ever. I wished him good luck and off he went. Those are the things that I get to share with my readers and followers. These are the stories that make us stand out.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
So many projects in my head at all times! It’s been a total readjustment since I had my daughter four months ago and a few things have fallen to the wayside, I’m still trying to be kind to myself about that. The current project is video content about all things Jewelry. I feel as though it’s a great way to get the story telling across to a broader audience and share the history, the lore, the how’s and why’s and who’s about these items. I think it will create an opportunity for others to explore in depth their own treasures, the things that they find connections to. Maybe it will help people open up conversations, go down rabbit holes of their own and discover something new.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
If I’m being really honest, I’m just figuring this out for myself. So much of my success so far has been about building a brand that’s very face forward and transparent. What you see is what you get and I think that the consumer is really hungry for that right now in a brand after so much b.s. we’ve been fed over the years. For me, Instagram Stories is a great way to do this. I utilize the stories to offer really of the moment, day to day real content. I never lay anything out or make a plan for this, which definitely is not for everyone, but it allows me to build a really direct relationship with my followers. As far as Advertising, I just started to delve into this world and holy moly, there is so much to digest. I’ll have to get back to you on that one, if I ever figure it out (ha).
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
If I can give one piece of advice it’s to invest in your CUSTOMERS first, branding second. That is where you can spend the greatest asset you have which is your time. I’ve met plenty of business owners who have raised millions of dollars, spent tons of money on getting the product just right, including the ‘right kind of people’, getting their things on the right bodies or in front of the right camera. None of it means anything if you don’t spend some damn real time with the people who are investing in YOU. I’m very proud of my relationships with my clients; some of them have been buyers from the very beginning when I was so raw and new. All of the glitz and glam and money spending can follow, will follow. Just take care of your people; without them you have nothing.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
I wish I could sit here on a high pedestal, telling you ‘do this for success, don’t do that”. I wish I could pull out five reasons and sound so savvy and slick about business. But to be honest, I’m not sure what to tell you because so much of my brand is built on figuring out things as I go. And that’s ok. Being able to tear it down and start all over again, make mistakes and eat humble pie IS a part of building a believable brand. For example, I was at an antique show looking for jewelry and doing “live selling”, where I post and story in real-time at the show for my consumers to buy and be a part of what’s happening. So much of my business is being able to source and curate exceptional, authentic antiques, and people trust me for it. There I was, and I posted this pair of diamond-encrusted charms that I had just found and was STOKED about. Two days later, it comes to my attention that they were actually fake; new production from this really shady seller. It was the worst feeling. Instead of deleting the post and just quietly pretending like it never happened, I used it as a teaching moment to eat some crow and tell everyone what had happened, what can happen even to those of us who spend years training our eyes to spot frauds like that. I was nervous it would turn a bunch of people off, but you know what? I received so much support, from my peers and from my consumers. It started a conversation and also opened a door for potential buyers to walk through knowing I wasn’t afraid to be honest, I wasn’t afraid to admit my mistakes. If you’re a business that is trying to act like an expert or that you’re better than your consumer… I don’t know my friend, that just seems a little dated to me. Building a brand people can trust isn’t rocket science, just be someone worthy of that trust and everything will fall into place as you grow.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
SAKARA Life, hands down. Whitney and Danielle have done such an excellent job at being true to who THEY are and that makes their product relatable and necessary, even. They have carved out a niche in the health and wellness field and risen quickly to the top of it because they have never tried to pretend they are anything other than their authentic selves. I get so turned off in fields, wellness especially, when everyone acts holier than thou or that they have this enlightenment that others don’t have but take this supplement or do this sound bath twice a week and maybe you’ll achieve it. Sakara Life is about eating whole foods to heal yourself from the inside out and both Whitney and Danielle are willing to share their stories on how it has changed their lives for the better. You can really see it and believe it. Plus, it’s delicious. I’m a huge fan.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
Sales are definitely important; obviously we can’t survive without it. However, for me, the brand building is completely different than the actual sales happening. It’s the stories behind the scenes; the couples who are separated during the coronavirus and wanting to send love tokens to one another. It’s the people falling in love and wanting to make a commitment. It’s the woman who has worked her ass off and wants to have something to commemorate her milestones with. It’s a connection, a story that builds a brand. We are able to measure our brand success with the growing number of people who want to reach out and start this conversation.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
My brand wouldn’t be what it is without Social Media and to be honest, I’m pretty sure many companies would have to agree. The modern consumer turns to social media to really learn about you, take a peek under the hood and get to know where they are spending their money. Big Box retailers are dropping like flies because they just don’t have the soul that most consumers crave today. Shoppers are smart; there is so much information out there all at their fingertips and they want to feel like they are making a good, conscious decision when they purchase something. My followers get to be a part of all of this. When I go on a ‘Treasure Hunt’ as I call them, I take my followers along with me for the ride. When I get a new parcel ring in, my consumers get to be there as I unwrap them and try them on. When I feel a connection to a certain item of jewelry because of its history or what it triggers in me, they get to feel it too. For me, social media is getting to let everyone be a part of what I love the most about my business and that creates a stronger, better brand.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Get real. Be honest, about your successes as much as your failures. Stop obsessively comparing yourself to other similar brands and just tell your story. Using words that are true to your brand, applying imagery that people can really relate to is important to building a relationship with your consumers and staying excited about the engagement.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
To purchase with the intent to celebrate. I want every single person who has a transaction with The Moonstoned to FEEL SOMETHING. I want a movement where jewelry brings that deep soul connection. I want a movement where instead of purchasing for the moment you purchase with the intent to pass it down, create an heirloom. I want a moment where we treat our bodies like alters, adorning them with symbols of our self love, success and adoration in gemstones and gold.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.” Yes, that’s right I said it. This quote works for me on a few levels. It reminds me to keep a little bit of humor in everything I do. Especially with the heaviness in the world right now, it’s so important to be able to laugh at myself and find joy in really silly things. I can also remember a time in my business, about 3 years ago when someone else from my industry really decided they wanted to take me down. They started this smear campaign, reaching out to some of my clients and peers. I was losing my MIND trying to understand why this person was so adamant to see me fall. I had just started to show a great leap in success, however, the feeling of this persons’ attacks was prohibiting my ability to enjoy the moment. I called my parents and they reminded me that this one person, this person filled with their own problems acting out truly didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. As soon as I was reminded that what was happening was petty, low brow weirdness I decided to change my attitude towards it. And you know what? As soon as I stopped sweating it, stopped giving my anxiety or fear to the fire it all went away. Don’t pet the sweaty stuff just pretty much speaks for itself.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Well, first it would be my Mom because I’m missing her greatly throughout the Covid Quarantine. But I know she doesn’t read this column so my next pick would be Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York. I remember moving to New York when he started his page and reading the stories of others made me feel like I was home somehow like we were all in this together. I want to know who has stuck in his heart all these years and thousands of interviews later. I want to know what he wants to do with all of these stories. I want to know which ones he hurt to walk away from. I want to know where in his travels he would go back to and why. I wonder if he still keeps in touch with anyone he’s interviewed and why. I want to know how to help. I want to know the celebrations and the heartaches of it all. If you see him, drop a line for me would you?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow my treasure hunts, my history lessons, my trials and triumphs and very cute guest appearances of my daughter at @themoonstoned
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
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