Every Thursday, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt to glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and living as well as possible—during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today we hear from Wendy Wagner, founder of online vintage jewelry shop the Sacred Order, which specializes in talismanic jewels that feel so right for our current moment.
JCK: Where are you based, and when did you found the Sacred Order?
Wendy Wagner: I’m based in Petaluma, Calif., and I founded my business in 2014.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your life?
The pandemic has changed my life in many ways, but the most profound way has been my [shift in] perception of what is essential and truly important.
In the beginning, being at home and trying to get a multitude of tasks done (helping educate my child, cooking three meals a day, and working on my business) felt like a free-for-all with no structure. My mind didn’t know where to settle, and it was maddening. My scattershot approach with my attention made it so I couldn’t succeed at anything. I learned quickly that I needed to streamline, and I needed a schedule. It’s a constant learning and fine-tuning of discovering what’s important and what to let go. I already feel that this has made me a more efficient and effective business owner.
Another major change that came with the pandemic is my ability to source antique jewelry, especially abroad. I have purchased things through photographs and Zoom calls, but it’s just not the same as holding something in my hands to assess its value to my brand and vision.
We’re at what feels like the beginning of the end of the pandemic—what issues are occupying your thoughts?
My family’s physical safety with the virus, civil injustice, rampant disinformation, polarization, and extremism…you name it. There’s so much to spin out on and keep yourself up at night about. I’m attempting to focus on what I know to be true and what I can control. I’m staying informed, but not obsessing, which is easier said than done!
Have there been any silver linings of COVID-19 for you?
All the extra time with my family has been a total blessing. I’ve had a chance to witness my child, who’s a first-grader, grow leaps and bounds in more intimate ways than I ever thought possible. I have a front-row seat to that every day.
I’ve also felt more creative and have designed more during this season than in previous seasons. I’ve found the outlet of creation soothing to my anxious mind. I’ve taken classes online to learn new skills and feel a sense of community with other designers. If these classes had been in person I likely would have thought I couldn’t fit them into my schedule. Because my social life came to a halt and they were through Zoom, I was able to just quickly drop in from the comfort of my home in the evenings.
Your jewelry lines would seem to be ideally suited to these times—what kinds of looks and styles are your shoppers drawn to right now?
During the pandemic I saw an increase in sales specifically in charms—easy little pick-me-up items. Lately, I’ve been getting more requests for bigger, customized pieces that feel deeply personal. I think people have a desire to commemorate the time we’ve just come through, and to get that bigger piece that will remind them of their strength, even in the darkest times.
Has the pandemic changed how you’ll be moving forward in your business?
I’ve recommitted to the importance of a solid, functional, and informative website. I’m working behind the scenes to make the process even smoother, and fully integrated with my social media platforms. What I can’t offer my customers in the way of in-person attention, I can offer in a seamless buying experience. I see this as one of the greatest forms of customer service I can provide.
What are your priorities right now as a small retailer?
Right now I’m working on a new collection that will be launching this fall. I’ve been diving deep into specific icons/symbols that I’ve found to be empowering and transformative in my own life.
The meaning of these symbols can be infinite and shift with the observer, but that’s where their magic lies. It just seems right for the time we’re in. I can’t wait to share this work!
My next priority is to get back to sourcing antique and vintage jewelry in person. I miss these treasure hunts deeply. Connecting my customers with those special pieces that have been passed down through time is exhilarating and important.
My final priority right now is to create more video content of the jewelry I’m featuring. Static images are beautiful, but people can get a better sense of an item with a moving clip. More to come on that…
How do you spread the word about your business—what marketing endeavors work for you?
My greatest marketing vehicle is Instagram. I’ve been doing more on-camera interviews and events, which have been surprisingly fun and successful in reaching more customers. Additionally, I can’t discount word-of-mouth marketing from my loyal customers—they are often better ambassadors of my brand than I am!
What have you been doing to relax and have fun during this time?
I take a daily walk first thing in the morning. It’s been the single greatest addition to my schedule. I listen to books, podcasts, music, or the birds overhead. It clears my mind, I get some exercise, and it offers bits of nature for inspiration. I also love to garden. I feel so incredibly blessed to have a backyard with flowers, fruit trees, and a garden plot. When the world gets too intense, putting my hands in the dirt and caring for plants is hugely rewarding.
Have any book/podcast/TV/movie recommendations?
Yes! Podcasts: The Daily Stoic; Feel Better, Live More (episode 169 blew my mind); You’re Welcome!; and, it’s not new, but I recently relistened to S-Town, which I love on so many levels.
Books for some deep contemplation and self-improvement: Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Lost Connections by Johann Hari, Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey.
Books to get lost in: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (this one (pleasantly) surprised me—I strongly recommend the audiobook version), M Train by Patti Smith (really anything by Patti Smith), and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (I’m currently giving this one a second read because I love it!).
TV/Movies: I binged the entire series of Schitt’s Creek at the height of the pandemic and it was my nightly stress reliever. I also find The Repair Shop deeply inspiring. And Nomadland was amazing.
Top: Wendy Wagner finding some inspiration in nature (all photos courtesy of Wendy Wagner)
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