Shelia Bayes knows firsthand: Never underestimate a customer or a businesswoman
1. Which advertisement or promotion elicited the biggest response and why do you think it worked?
We spend a lot of time—usually over drinks—coming up with creative ideas for advertising. We try to be fun and creative and not always so serious. We did a whole series of ads in local magazines with different brides where we told the story of the ring. We have pictures of the bride with me, a picture of the ring, and a little blurb telling the bride’s engagement story. It’s something people have asked to be put on a waiting list to be a part of.
2. What has been your most memorable sale?
Last year, a client I had become friends with invited me down for her 60th birthday. It was on a yacht and House Speaker John Boehner was there. The client had always wanted a canary diamond. I told that to her husband, and he said, “Let’s make it happen.” She always bought her own jewelry, so it was really something that he bought her this 3 ct. diamond ring. He almost cried when he gave it to her and she definitely cried. It was just perfect.
3. What’s the best idea you’ve ever come up with for your store?
We went into the gold-buying business in a high-fashion, classy way. It used to be that pawnshops were the only places you went to sell gold. Our advertising [for gold buying] kept evolving and it resulted in a real shift in people’s perceptions. It’s been a fabulous business for us. For a few years, not only did it allow us to pay bills, we paid off bills through gold buying. At one point I had six different gold-buying operations in six different cities.
4. What nightmare scenario did you turn around to save the day?
This man came in some years ago and he wanted to fill up this 14k gold slide bracelet with charms for his wife for their anniversary. It ended up being really ugly. The wife eventually came into the store and said, “I don’t want to tell my husband, but this bracelet is really awful.” She wanted to return it and when we said it was custom-made and couldn’t be returned, she got angry. So I came up to her and said, “I want you to know that your husband loved putting this bracelet together and giving you a present that means something to the both of you. He wanted to be able to convey to you what he couldn’t put into words.” By the time I was finished, she was crying and saying, “Oh, I would never return it.”
5. What has been your biggest challenge and what have you done to resolve it?
The biggest challenge was funding as the business grew in the early years. I’m 47 and started my business at 27 with $80,000. Luckily, I had vendors who were willing to give me an opportunity. You have to be a good communicator. When I started out, I was too young and too dumb to know that what I was doing was scary. And there were a lot of men in the business who really didn’t want to talk to me. Now it’s kind of like that Pretty Woman thing where Julia Roberts comes back into the store with all the shopping bags and tells the snotty salespeople, “big mistake.” There are definitely still a few men out there I have that attitude with.