WJA’s West Coast Conference Looks ‘Outside the Box’

More than 100 jewelry professionals from around the country attended the Women’s Jewelry Association’s first Women in the Know West Coast Conference on Sept. 8 in Anaheim, Calif., learning about entrepreneurship, networking, taking over the family business, and even the healing properties of gemstones.

Opening keynote speaker Dr. Margeaux Cvar, CEO of The Cvar Von Habsburg Group, discussed how to recognize and identify growth opportunities for jewelry businesses by thinking unconventionally. She emphasized the importance of creating a unique and sustainable competitive position in the jewelry industry. “Differentiation is key,” she explained. “You have to make yourself the niche, not compete the same way the big boys do. Take a different route.”

She recommended finding successful strategies implemented by companies that are very different in scope but similar in structure to your business. “Your performance relative to competitors is irrelevant,” said Cvar. “It just means that you’re all making the same mistakes. Compare yourself to successful companies similar to your own in other industries, and see how they do business.”

Marie Bodman, president of Breitling USA, spoke about her rise from an administrative assistant to leader of the third-largest watch brand in the world. She attributed her success to persistence, luck, knowing when to ask for help, and choosing valuable employees.

She also stressed the importance of building a jewelry company to be distinct and unique. “In the beginning, Breitling tried to grab every niche possible—from the product to the way we did business,” said Bodman, who transformed the company from a one-person operation to one of the top brands in the industry in just 15 years. “If you’re an independent business, what can you do that big companies can’t do?” She gave an example that she uses herself: sending personal letters to very important customers.

The conference took an introspective turn when Pamela Mitchell, CEO of The Reinvention Institute, explained that in today’s rapidly changing global economy, the ability to recombine your skill set to move between different job functions—and even different industries—is essential. “Reinventing yourself is the new form of job security,” she explained. “The business landscape turns over every 15 years. You have to see where things are going and be prepared to respond in the moment.”