A third-generation jeweler realizes it’s a privilege, not a right, to become part of a family business
When Ryan Krasner joined the family business, San Diego’s Harold Stevens Jewelers, “it wasn’t an instant romance,” his mother, co-owner Joy Krasner, recalls. “I would say it took a good year to become passionate about it. And after around two years, it really started to gel for him and he started having great successes on the sales floor.” Ryan, who attended the University of Colorado Boulder, admits with a laugh that he “really enjoyed doing nothing after college.” He adds: “I didn’t have a game plan…but I always knew I wanted to be involved in business.” Still, he had never thought he’d work for his parents. But when Joy and her husband, store founder and second-generation jeweler Harold Krasner, found themselves looking for a new staffer in 2007, they offered Ryan the gig. “They said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come and work for us?’” Ryan recalls. “‘You’ll be doing basic data entry stuff, but your position will eventually evolve.’” And evolve it has. Now the 31-year-old, who’s taken business classes at GIA, helms all the social media and online efforts for the shop, handles the bulk of the buying for men’s wedding bands and watches, and is one of the company’s top salespeople. “I’m just so fortunate that I had this opportunity in the first place,” Ryan says. After all, “just because you have a family business doesn’t mean you have the right to join it.”
Harold: It was always a hope that Ryan would come in, and that the hard work and effort I’ve put in would be passed down to someone who’s a part of the family—who would learn to have the same commitment to understanding and knowledge as we have. As Ryan matured, I think he discovered this was a great opportunity and one that most people don’t get. He saw an opportunity for himself and to help us. There’s a benefit on both sides. I very much hope he will one day take over the store.
Joy: When Harold and I emigrated from South Africa, I was a speech therapist, but I didn’t have the qualifications to work [in my field in the United States], and I wasn’t up to going back to school. So when my kids were old enough to be out of the house, I joined Harold in the business. It’s been wonderful. And now Ryan is here, and has added so much to the business.
Joy: I think part of our success has been that Harold and I do completely different things. We don’t really cross over. I am more the administration/organization, back-end person, and he is far more successful on the sales floor. He’s also the exclusive buyer for loose diamonds—it’s his passion. It’s been a really successful relationship for a very long time.
Harold: My wife has such phenomenal organization skills that I don’t think we’d have anywhere near as efficient an organization without her. And she keeps the place absolutely immaculate. Sometimes we choose to buy together—and we have differing opinions, which I really like. You’re always going to get honest feedback from her. Ryan brings the millennial generation’s [know-how] when it comes to technology and social media. His own tastes and style add a really wonderful dimension to the store’s inventory. And, perhaps most important, he has the social connections with young people. Even though I might be very cool and with it, I think many times dealing with someone of your own age is a little easier. There is a comfort there.
Ryan: My mom has a fantastic eye for jewelry design and fashion. She’s also very stylish. Every bit of knowledge I have has come from being involved at Harold Stevens and going to trade shows. Harold is one of the top diamond guys in San Diego. He’s taught me everything.
Ryan Krasner on the sales floor
Harold: I don’t know what it’s like not to work with my family. But I think the most wonderful thing about it is the internal trust you have with a family member that’s over and above what you could expect from anyone else.
Ryan: The fact that we’re always together is the best part of working with family. We have our up and down moments, but I am so lucky to be able to see my parents every day. We’re all there to see the business grow, and I’ve learned some tremendous life lessons working with them.
Joy: I enjoy working with Ryan so much. I love to see the growth he’s experiencing personally and professionally. I think we are both in sync in the business—our personalities are similar. And his ideas for style and fashion are really good.
Harold: Before joining a family business…a good idea would be to work for another company in an area that’s noncompeting with the family store, maybe for six months or a year. See if this is something you really like and that really makes sense for you. And don’t expect to be given anything—you have to grind away like we did.
Joy: Everyone has to respect each other. Harold and Ryan sometimes have power struggles because one doesn’t listen to the other. The old has to recognize the new and respect that they have something to offer. And you have to allow them to experience failure.
Ryan: Coming into a business, you need to have patience with trying to stimulate change. It can’t happen all at once. And you need to be very open to criticism, and to learn and ask questions of those who have more experience. The more time you put in, the more confident you’ll become. You have to have patience, excitement, and drive.
(Top: Harold Stevens Jewelers’ Harold and Joy Krasner and son Ryan)
Photographs by Chris Giles