In Conversation with MJ Carlson and Chantel Poynton of Electric Picks

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Describe your business in a few words?

Electric Picks is exceptional quality, locally made jewelry that is guaranteed for life.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

MJ: I was working at what I thought was my dream job, but it just didn’t light me up every day. I found myself drained, but looking forward to making jewelry. I realized that I should make what I love doing what I do every day.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

MJ: My 1st job out of school was doing PR for Ocean Drive magazine. Shortly after I launched my own event planning company in Miami. I realized that though I’m type A and love planning, planning for other people is vastly different than planning for yourself. As far as jewelry design goes, I’m completely self-taught.  

Chantel: I have a degree in fashion design and always knew I’d have a career in that industry. I learned how to make jewelry just as a fun hobby at first but it quickly exploded into a full blown obsession.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

MJ: I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I sold friendship bracelets at my daycare and homemade candles to my neighbors. There was always a hustle inside of me.

Chantel: I knew without a doubt I’d never be happy or successful with a career in a traditional work setting. Being an entrepreneur has given me the freedom to express my creativity. I totally get why they say “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

It was 2011, so marketing was quite different back then! We put a heavy focus on celebrity PR.  

There was no Instagram when we launched, but social media has certainly changed the landscape of how you can market your business now on a lean budget.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Not defining our target market initially. When we launched we were trying to be everything; we had men’s, women’s and kid’s. Once we identified our core market we pivoted and focused on women and focused on delivering exceptional quality accessible jewelry to them

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

MJ:  I’m always most proud of our community initiatives. We launched a collaboration with Madi Messer last month and donated a percentage of sales from the collaboration to Ronald McDonald House DC (where she’s based). With that percentage we were actually able to buy the entire holiday wish list of gifts for the kids there! We only have what we give.

Chantel: I’d have to say us (our jewelry) making the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2020 edition was definitely a moment I’ll never forget, like ever. It’s achievements like that when I’m so thankful to have my best friend also be my business partner. Truly having someone to share momentous achievements with is just awesome! 

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We’re fortunate we’re still able to connect with our customers through our e-commerce platform.  Wholesale has looked quite different. Normally we show at 6-8 trade shows throughout the year, but that’s taken a pause. The industry has done a wonderful job at adapting quickly, we’ll be participating in Coterie’s 2nd virtual trade show in February.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We’re launching with Nordstrom this month, and we’re incredibly excited! It’s been on the top of our goal board (literally) for 2 years. We’ve been staring at the goal every single day, and it’s so fulfilling to see it come true.

In the next couple years we want to continue to create long-lasting meaningful quality jewelry for women, at an accessible price point. We aim to continue growing our community programs and to build our brand with thoughtfulness and care.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

MJ:  You have to be adaptable. For example instead of in-person trade shows, we made the online experience more engaging with hosting one-on-one happy hours and lunches for our retailers.

Chantel: There are very few things in life that are actually “essential.” When the global pandemic turned the world upside down, we had to face a new reality; one that didn’t include happy hour with our friends or working out in a gym. ( Just to name a few non essential activities) Under the stay at home order, with just our immediate families, we quickly learned what is truly important in life: Family, Friends, Health, Happiness. Everything else is really secondary.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

MJ: I wish I’d interned with a jewelry or fashion company for a few months to learn the basics of the business. I went into this with a PR and business background and knew nothing about the fashion world. I certainly could have shortened my learning curve.  But on the other hand I also think being completely green, I have been driven so much by genuine passion for the craft and creative process, instead of being influenced by existing industry standards.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

MJ: Meditation. I started using the app ten percent happier and the beginning of the year and it’s been incredibly grounding for me!

Chantel: Staying grounded and centered is a true art and something that I’m continuing to work on each day. As the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson alluded to, I have control over what I let into my mind and which currents of thought I listen to. With that being said I find I feel much more calm and centered when I turn off the news and pay attention to what is going on in my life I do have control over. Spending time with my family and friends is always good for the soul.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

MJ:  After almost 10 years of working I feel like I’m just starting to have a semblance of a work/life balance. As an entrepreneur you have to hustle, there were nights and weekends filled with work for years. The benefit of a 9-5 is you’re off at 5pm and on the weekends, but the benefits of being an entrepreneur are endless. 

Chantel: If you asked me this ten years ago I might have had a different answer but It has been much easier for me to balance work & life now that my kids have grown up quite a bit and have needed me less. (my daughter is 16 and my son is almost 13!) With the three of us all home right now it’s been helpful to create some sort of a routine and also set some boundaries. Boundaries aren’t a negative thing; they’re a necessary thing to keep all our relationships in balance. 

I will let them know I’ll be in my ( jewelry design) studio for the next few hours working on a project and they are really great at respecting that. As a result I’m much more appreciative and present later on in the evening when we have family time if I’m not stressing out over incomplete projects. I also try to spend one on one time with each of them each day whenever possible. 

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

MJ: I taught myself how to make jewelry by watching YouTube videos!

Chantel: I have a deep interest and curiosity about anything hidden / mysterious such as the exploration of consciousness, astrology, spiritualism, the universe, psychic research, new age healing and psychedelic therapy…just to name a few. I consider myself a lifelong student and have a true passion for learning. My teachers would be so proud 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

MJ:

Time Blocking (the Skinny Confidential has a great podcast about this).

To-do lists. I’m old school and write mine on a piece of paper each morning and enjoy physically crossing things off.

Put down your phone. I try to limit social media and responding to text to certain blocks of time during the way.

Chantel:

Prioritize sleep.

Get some fresh air whenever possible. 

Never underestimate the power of your favorite music to keep you going.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

MJ: We’re grateful to be considered Enteprenistas. We put a lot of heart, hustle and a deep sense of care into our work, and we’re honored to be a part of this community.

Chantel: An Entreprenista is an ambitious woman who follows her heart to create an authentic brand. She definitely thinks outside the box and isn’t afraid to take risks. 

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