JEC focuses on education and networking

Approximately 150 jewelers from 14 Midwestern states converged on the Doubletree Hotel in Overland Park, Kan., for two days of educational seminars, networking, and viewing products and services from about 50 vendors during the Jewelry Executives Conference.

The fifth biennial regional conference for owners and managers of independent jewelry stores, held April 1 and 2, is the product of four Jewelers of America state associations (Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska/South Dakota). Founded in 1998, the conference receives the bulk of its support from JA. The success of this conference is leading JA to look at supporting other similar regional conferences. One such conference was held for the first time in Memphis last year and will be held again in 2007.

“It’s the best example of getting together to learn,” says David Lafleur, JA vice president, who attended the event. “The feedback from attendees is always positive. I haven’t run into one person who has anything negative to say. As JA looks ahead we want to encourage and launch similar conferences in other parts of the country based on this successful model.”

Five speakers gave presentations in 90-minute sessions, covering how to measure financial success, marketing and advertising, ways to attract repeat customers, salesmanship, and security. In addition, there were sessions held during meals that focused on personal achievement, creative marketing, and diamond marketing.

There were plenty of industry veterans at the event, but there were also a few people who either are new to the jewelry business or new at being business owners. Joe and Stephanie Baharian took over Diamond’s 1st Jewelers in Grand Island, Neb. Joe has been in the jewelry business for 21 years, but Stephanie is a newcomer.

“I’ve never been a jeweler, so this has been a great opportunity to research and learn about the industry,” Stephanie said.

They also said that they met a goal by signing up at least one jewelry vendor at the conference.

Larry and David McCoy, of McCoy Jewelers, Bartlesville, Okla., have attended several conferences and say they can always find something new to learn, even when enjoying a beer in the JEC hospitality suite.

“Networking is certainly part of it,” David says. “I got a really great tip from another jeweler in the hospitality room.”

Leo Anglo, manager of Vincent’s Jewelers, Creve Coeur, Mo., who is a JEC committee member, said the regional nature of the event makes it easier for jewelers to network.

“People who don’t want to talk to competitors can have a relationship with jewelers outside their general area.”