Welcome back to our two-part interview with Valerie.A while back, we discussed Val’s past, her influences, and her successes. This week, she talks about what she knows best: the future. Whether it’s the future of the business or the future of the fine jewelry her clients buy, Valerie is always looking at the long-term, so we sat down with her to ask about her philosophy, what matters to her, and what she has in store for Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry.
In three words, what would you say is the Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry philosophy?
Quality, elegance, and vibrance.
What tool, object, or ritual could you not live without in your workday?
I really love my morning tea. I drink a simple sweet and spicy tea that you can get at any grocery store and I enjoy it because it signals the start of the day and warms me up. I begin each day with writing my to-do list in my planner to help me get organized and ready to run this business.
What’s your favorite design you’ve made?
My favorite design is my Astrid setting. It can be made with various shapes to create different silhouettes and every ring I’ve made in this style has made me happy. I currently have two Astrid rings in my personal collection, one is a rose cut salt and pepper pear-shaped diamond and the other is the original Astrid which was made from a slice of meteorite (Astrid-Asteroid, get it?) that had fallen in Sweden.
What’s your favorite thing to come home to after a long day of work?
A hug and kiss from my husband, Joel. He is my true love and I am so lucky to have him. He is my biggest supporter. My dogs and cats also bombard me for attention so I feel loved by them.
How much does customer input factor into the designs that you choose?
Customer input is indeed a significant factor in my designs for a couple of reasons. Trends are important to pay attention to because you want customers to find and appreciate your work. I do pay attention to current trends but more importantly I aim to design pieces that have style and silhouettes that will be appreciated as my creations are passed down as heirloom pieces. Customer input is also important when designing because I need to pay attention to functionality, quality, and comfort. If a piece looks amazing but doesn’t feel good or strong then it’s not a good style to make.
Is there a specific kind of customer who loves your pieces?
I find that we attract customers who are looking for a great experience from beginning to end. Some of our customers who are investing in their first fine jewelry piece or an heirloom engagement ring are, understandably, not looking for something to feel only transactional. We wholeheartedly understand that desire. That’s why it's important to me to connect our customers to our staff who are passionate about all aspects of the jewelry we sell, from the way we create our pieces with quality and attention to detail, the ways we market and share our pieces on social media and relate with individual customers there, to the no-pressure atmosphere we maintain in our showroom. Everyone can come browse and shop for jewelry in a comfortable setting.
Do your customers come back for more?
Customers are so kind to reach out when they are ready to add more VM pieces to their collection whether it be for an anniversary, a new baby, or to find a special piece of jewelry for someone else since they had such a great experience with us. I love being available to help customers as big events happen in their lives.
What is your role in the design process? What is that process like?
I am the only designer. Every piece that everyone wears begins with an idea that has lived in the Art Department of my brain. I have a special ability to create beautiful and unique combinations of gemstones and metals and I strive to create unique pieces that will be beautiful forever.
What’s the most popular Valerie Madison style?
We have a few but I would say our Zara settings are the most popular because of the hundreds of options that can be created with so many variables like the shape, size, and color of the center stone as well as the shape of the diamonds we choose to set next to it.
What’s your favorite part about being a business owner?
I love the independence and ability to steer my business towards my goals of creating meaningful, well-made products that are not ever thrown away. Being a business owner can be difficult sometimes but there can be many validating moments to remind you that you are on the right track and creating a real impact.
You occupy a unique position as a Black-Latina business owner in the fine jewelry space. Do you have any advice for other women business owners?
We have to support and encourage one another but we must also individually be prepared to do the work. If you have questions or get stumped in some area of your business, you have to be able to figure things out on your own and not wait for others to do it for you. Every stage of business presents new challenges and problems to solve. Even as my business grows, it doesn’t suddenly get easier but the types of problems I have are changing and evolving, and my problem-solving skills are becoming sharper and solutions are usually found more quickly. If you are starting your own business, my best advice is to hang in there and don’t be afraid to do things on your own until you are ready to hire help.
What are some of your dreams for the business?
I dream of continued growth for my business on both the ecommerce and retail storefront side. The store I have now is my very first retail adventure and while it has been difficult at times (we've experienced two renovations, construction delays, and a flood, just to name a few things), I am enjoying being available to existing and new customers to come look at our pieces in person. I would love to have a bigger storefront someday and maybe even an additional store, who knows?! For now we are enjoying connecting with the Madrona neighborhood and being a destination shop for our customers to visit.