J. David’s Jewelry

Great things take time. No one knows that better than Joel Wiland, owner of J. David’s Jewely in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He made his entrance into the jewelry industry 26 years ago, at the young age of 15, and had no idea that this part-time high school job would turn into his life’s work. Work that he loves. Now, as he breaks ground on his newest location in the big city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, he can look back on the struggles that he went through and smile, as they have all lead him to this point in his life, another accomplishment, and another journey to begin. 

Joel Wiland has always been a hard worker. At 13, he beginning working 7 days a week throwing papers, every morning and every afternoon. After 2 years on the bicycle, he decided that he needed JUST ONE day off. Joel’s parents didn’t understand why such a young child wanted to work so hard, but that’s just who he was. He loved it. His older sister had been working at a local jewelry store, so Joel made it his mission to work there, too. The owner refused to hire a boy of his age; he had no interest in baby sitting.  But, at Joel’s persistence, and the fact that he showed up to work every morning regardless, he was soon given a job. This was the beginning of his life long love affair with jewelry. He soon became a bench jeweler working 80 hours a week, all while attending college, getting married and the birth of his baby boy. Joel soon realized that he was not making the money that he deserved and could not support his family. After requesting, and being denied, a well-deserved raise, he decided to quit. His wife would go into data entry while he took care of their son and worked to begin a business for himself.

One year later, in 1994, Joel and his wife opened their first jewelry store in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, an affluent area with a population of about 100,000. With a limited product offering of one case and three rings, business just wasn’t booming! Because all of the shopping opportunities were located in Tulsa, money was rarely spent in Broken Arrow, but Joel was determined to change that, regardless of how he did it. Joel and his wife had an interesting solution for this problem. They would open a tanning salon in their jewelry store as a way to build up their client base and market themselves in a unique way. This was a great decision on their part, because in the first 6 weeks, Golden Tan and Jeweler Designs was busy from morning until night! In 2 years, their jewelry selection expanded to 4 cases and $20,000 worth of inventory. When their gross sales hit $48,000 in 1997, they decided to leave the tanning salon behind and deal strictly in jewelry, so they opened Jeweler Designs by J. David. The choice wasn’t a bad one, as the next year they had grown to $128,000! Every year their store continued to double in sales, but with that came confusion on how to manage the business.

“We grew quickly, largely due to breaking all the rules on marking and spending excessive amounts of up to 50% of our gross sales between 1997-2000!” Joel says about their early development.

In 2000, Joel made the decision to join the IJO. While they weren’t sure that they could meet the $25,000 per year buying requirement, they took the chance because they needed serious help in managing their rapidly growing business.

“I knew how to be a bench jeweler,” Joel says, “I knew how to run a $125,000 business. I had no idea how to run a $300,000 business. Sometimes, rapid growth can kill you just as quick if not quicker than no growth at all. If you don’t know how to handle your cash flow, it can cause serious problems.”

Thankfully, Joel took advantage of the IJO Business College and was able to take his business by the horns with all of the tools and information that they gave him. The roundtables were instrumental. “Everyone has their own problems, but someone there has been through, and gotten through, whatever you’re dealing with.” Joel explains.

As things were starting to become manageable, they found a $750,000 location in town that they decided to buy. They set everything up for the move from the 1,200 sq. ft. location that they rented to a 3,600 sq. ft. location that they bought, increasing overhead by 300%.

In September of 2001, they sent out a postcard announcing their moving sale. The postcard, reading “9-1-1 Emergency Sale” landed in mailboxes on September 11th, 2001. Needless to say, the sale was a disaster. The Grand Opening was a disaster. Joel had no idea what to do.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Joel says, laughingly. “And it almost killed us. The next few years were tough, but we got through it.”

Joel also realized that while he loved working at the bench, he loved business more. “Anything I do, I want to do it to the best of my abilities and be great at it, not just average.” Joel said as he talks about his decision to finally hire a bench jeweler. The bench jeweler he hired turned out to be his boss from the first jewelry store he ever worked in at 15! Now Joel was free to focus on bettering his store.

While the first few years in the new store were rough, Joel caught a break in 2005, when he discovered a nice little product called Pandora. They made the decision to take the opening buy in of $3,000 to try it out. Of that first order, they made $55,000 in sales! They decided to increase their orders to hopefully increase their sales, and luckily, it worked! The following year they did $100,000 and the next, $200,000 in Pandora sales alone!

Joel’s business was growing, but he knew that he couldn’t handle it alone. He had to hire several employees and made a point to find the best people possible for the job.

“Everyone who works for me is smarter than I am.” Joel says of his hiring decisions. “I treat every employee with respect. I genuinely care about his or her life goals, which is why I hired a life coach to help every person that I employ. I invest in people because I know that whether they stay or go, they will be a better person in the end and that makes me feel great.”

In 2008, Joel decided to utilize consulting services for extra help in running the business. While many people close to him have questioned this expense, he believes that these services have been a huge component of his growth in the last 5 years.

“When I give someone an amount of money, whether it be $1 or $100,000 and I get a 500% return on my investment, I will continue to give them money until I no longer get that return. I don’t care what industry you’re in, a 500% ROI is extraordinary!”

Joel’s philosophy on employees and advice from his consulting firm has seemed to serve him well, because in 2010 he decided to open a Pandora store, in hopes of focusing more on diamonds at his original location. While he still sells the popular line at J. David’s Jewelry, he has said that the Pandora location does very well with him having to do little.

“I’ve loved being able to create something and watch it grow in someone else’s hands. I don’t want the credit, I just want to know that I was the one who helped it grow.” Says Joel, as humble as he is wise.

Aside from the groups and services that he uses to increase his profits, Joel is a firm believer in digital marketing. He has an easy to use, up to date website that Joel says he will “never be satisfied with”. He laughs as he calls it a never-ending work in progress. He also believes in having a solid social media marketing strategy.

“As far as social media goes, I think your best bet is to have someone young take control, they understand what their age group wants. You need to know your demographic! The average age of a Facebook user is 67 years old. That is not your target audience. While the hottest social media platform will probably change monthly, you have to keep up with it. Right now, Vine the latest thing. It’s hard work but someone has to pay attention. Today, 13-28 year olds are the ones communicating on Vine. Those are potential bridal buyers. You can really turn them off, and if you do, you wont have a chance of getting them back, so make sure that you have a plan before you jump in head first.” Joel says when asked about today’s changing technology. “I used to spend advertising dollars with the Yellow Pages and the Newspaper, but dropped both about 9 years ago. If people want information, they are getting it on their computer or their phone. The jewelry industry needs to accept that.”

While many in the industry are slow to change, Joel is not one of them. He knows that technology isn’t the future, it’s NOW! He has been planning the concept for his new store, opening in February of 2014, for 5 years. He plans to break all the rules of a conventional jewelry store and focus on jewelry for what it is, a form of communication. His store will be the ultimate jewelry buying experience and he couldn’t be more excited about it!

Other than digital marketing, Joel uses direct mail in his local area to promote events and reach existing customers. However, he doesn’t believe that marketing has been his ticket to continued success. Joel would attribute that to the wonderful, intelligent people that he has brought into his life, in the form of employees, organizations, consultants, and of course his amazing wife. There is no doubt that his mind-set and positive attitude have also been a key factors in helping him reach his goals.

“I believe in having a servants heart. We are there to serve the customer. Is the customer always right? NO, but you should serve them as best you can. It’s not just a business philosophy but also my life’s philosophy.” Joel explains when asked what business model he’s used throughout the years. “Don’t do your job for money. When you stop working for money, that’s when you learn how to make money work for you. All your decisions become easier because you’re not making them based on dollars and cents. I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had before!”

Joel once again showed his uplifting spirit when asked if there were any words of wisdom he could give to other independent retailers. “You cannot let yourself be discouraged by failure. Einstein was one of the biggest failures that ever lived. Abe Lincoln was another. Failure is what can make you great if you let it. If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability. Always strive to grow and search for knowledge. Never stop learning.”

Joel Wiland has grown into one of the industry’s leading jewelry retailers with hard work, dedication, a smile on his face and humility in his heart. As Joel’s newest location gets closer to opening its doors, I’m sure that he can’t help but to laugh knowing that it all started with 1 case, 3 rings, and a tanning salon. – Allie Eley


Author:Jewelry Business Advisor

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