Meet the Maker
Metal stamping continues to be a great way to incorporate that handmade touch to jewelry making. It also allows the artisan the ability to stock inventory that can be easily customized or to create on-demand finished pieces once she/he has received an order.
Brandi Light knows all about this business model and has grown a following and a successful brand as a result. I managed to catch up with Brandi in between launching a new website and helping her grandpa out with harvesting. This woman is a mover and a shaker!
Meet Brandi of Little Blue Bus
Becky: Can you give us a little background in the name of your company; Little Blue Bus Jewelry.
Brandi: Yes! We love our little blue bus! We had a larger retail store in Kearney called “All My Art & Soul” where we sold handcrafted items by local artisans. We decided it was too large of a venture for our little family to run, so we decided to make it more of a mobile boutique. We closed the brick and mortar store and I purchased a little Chevy Thomas Bus. I worked day and night – literally – to revamp this bus into something beautiful. In the end, it was an adorable little bus with wood floors and wood walls, unique shelving, and lit up like a Christmas tree inside. I painted it a sweet aqua blue color and off we went. I attended shows and events and our little blue bus attracted attention anywhere we went. More and more I was l creating jewelry to sell on the bus. It was what most people wanted to see and was selling the best. I decided to stick with that since I loved it so much, but I needed a brand. It took some time for me to decide what to call my new jewelry business, and one day it hit me. It was parked in my driveway staring at me – so obvious. I made a few little sketches for our logo and branded myself as “Little Blue Bus Jewelry”.
Becky: Besides Etsy, it looks like you have several other avenues for selling your jewelry. What are those?
Brandi: Yes, we do! I have an Etsy shop: Little Blue Bus Jewelry by Brandi Light by LittleBlueBusJewelry. I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2009 with my various hobbies including scrapbooking, painting, and coloring books. I opened a new shop in 2018 to sell jewelry – Etsy is great! I also attend art festivals and events throughout the year, primarily Spring and Fall, where I set up a booth and sell my jewelry. I attend 15 – 20 shows a year. These are by far my favorite since I get to meet new people and chat with them and see them fall in love with a piece. I enjoy seeing people young and old try on these little jewelry trinkets. Many of them are bought for gifts, and sometimes I get to hear a story about why they chose a particular necklace or bracelet for someone. It’s a rewarding thing! I also own a small brick and mortar store in our town of Holdrege, NE. We are located in the “Boardwalk” building on Burlington Street – the main road running through our town. It’s absolutely dreamy! The building has a wooden awning and wood walkway up to our rustic yellow front door. You see our large window into the shop with lights strung all around to light up the merchandise. It’s pretty cute and I love just looking at it when I drive up each day. We ALSO just launched a NEW website! My husband and I created this website and it was most definitely a labor of love. We worked nearly every night for a couple of months to get it jusssst right. We would love for everyone to check it out: Little Blue Bus Jewelry. And lastly, we use Facebook and Instagram as a way to guide our customers to our selling platforms as well as show them a glimpse into the creative process of our hand stamped jewelry.
Becky: The stamped pieces that you create are so well done. When were you first introduced to metal stamping and how did you master it.
Brandi: Thank you! I had been seeing stamped jewelry for a while and had always wanted to try it. I had a vendor who became a great friend at our store who sold stamped jewelry. She was so kind and encouraged me to try it and keep at my jewelry making. I bought a couple of inexpensive metal stamping sets at our local hobby lobby and started practicing. I was hooked! It was so difficult to line up those letters, but I just kept at it. It took so much time to find good stamping supplies – exceptional metal stamps as well as exceptional stamping blanks. I found Nunn Design to be my absolute favorite blanks – I use them 90% of the time when I create my pieces. I really love pewter – it’s soft as butter to stamp on and just looks gorgeous with my Font Fixation stamps. I only use Font Fixation, StampYours, and Beaducation stamps on my Nunn Design blanks. There you have it – all my secrets! These companies have all helped me step up my stamping game. And beyond that, it just takes practice. Practice makes progress.
Becky: Do you also do a lot of custom work?
Brandi: I do! I have been doing less lately because I need to keep my inventory counts high for our shows and events. Now that I have a little shop in Holdrege, people are able to stop in and choose their charms and chains, and I create customized pieces while they wander through the store. I can usually get a custom piece created on the spot in 10-20 minutes, depending on how much stamping is involved. I also do a lot of custom pieces before Christmas – they make really wonderful personalized gifts.
Becky: Do you have a personal favorite piece of jewelry that you have made? Could you describe it?
Brandi: I really don’t have a personal favorite; however, I do tend to keep pieces for myself that have mixed metals, lots of floral/nature-inspired elements, and loads of charms. I enjoy the unique chains for necklaces – the satellite chains or the longer drawn cable chains. I like to hang several charms on a larger open circle – usually something rustic and not quite perfect looking. And then use mixed metal charms, lots of links, a little bling, and something sweet stamped on a longer, vertical bar – with some sort of floral element. Anytime I see a new stamp with leaves or flowers, I have to have it. I stamp floral elements on everything.
Becky: What would you say your favorite platform for marketing is.
Brandi: Facebook has ALWAYS been the easiest and best way for me to display my work, advertise, and reach new people. Instagram is becoming something that I LOVE! It has more of an artistic quality to it – you really have to plan your photos and posts. I’m enjoying doing little mini photoshoots just using my phone. I’ve developed a style that is easily identifiable to Little Blue Bus jewelry, so that has been really fun. Instagram just takes a little bit longer to grow your followers. And my all-time favorite way to market is by going to shows. I have met SO many wonderful people! I’ll go to an event in Omaha and over the next months following that show, many of my customers who order online will be from that area. So I know that form of marketing works as well – and it’s the most fun.
Becky: What are your top 3 challenges of running a small jewelry business?
Brandi: I have a family – I’m a mom and wife number one. My family will always come first – and we do a lot. We really want to explore and go to new places with them, so we try to create memories rather than spending our money on lots of toys and extras. And with that, it makes it difficult to have my shop open normal 8-5 hours. We have them in all sorts of camps and sports, so I need to be able to pick them up, drop them off, go watch their events, help with events, etc. We also spend time with our families and go on little road trips. It’s important to us, so I do struggle to find a work/family balance. I often work until 3 am or 4 am, which sounds absolutely crazy, but I am able to get so much done during that time. The second challenge is that it’s “just me”. I put that in quotations because my absolutely amazing husband helps me A LOT! My kids do as well. They go help me pack for shows and will often go with me as an extra hand to wrap up and bag merchandise or run little errands. They’re ages 8 and 10, so they still enjoy going with me. But when I get several custom orders or a large wholesale order, it’s just me to make it, package it, and ship it. And we all know there’s more to it than that. Sourcing materials takes time, advertising, emails and messages, day-to-day operations and just general cleaning and organizing the store, along with creating new and fresh pieces to share and stay relevant. And lastly, probably the biggest challenge is owning that this is not just a hobby. I’m sure this will hit home with so many creators. I struggle to own the fact that this is my job and my passion. I love to create and I always have. I feel that family and friends may think I’m just “playing around” and not really working. And sometimes I feel that I work harder to create my little jewelry business than I would work at a desk in an office for someone else. There are so many elements that go into owning your own business, and it isn’t always easy. It’s absolutely rewarding, and it doesn’t “feel” like work when you love it so much, but it is. It is work and it takes a lot of time and effort to keep it running. And I give kudos to everyone else out there doing the same.
Becky: What do you love most about running a small jewelry business?
Brandi: I was given a talent. I am forever creative. God gave me this talent, and I know He did. I always have to be making, creating, upcycling, or whatever. I have to be working with my hands. Owning this small jewelry business gives me so much – it gives me peace, freedom to express my style, and a way to work with my hands. I’m able to make a living doing something that I absolutely love. Owning my little business means more to me than many will ever understand. It has its ups and downs for sure, but it is 100% worth it.
Becky: You choose to use Nunn Design Findings for your Little Blue Bus Jewelry. Thank you. Why do you trust your jewelry to use Nunn Design Findings?
Brandi: I started out using inexpensive and lower quality blanks. They were a great way to begin and to practice. Now that I have built a small business creating jewelry, I want people to keep coming back. I want them to fall in love with their pieces and wear them for a long time. In order for that to happen, I need to have exceptional quality materials. I found Nunn Design just doing a simple search online for wholesale jewelry supplies. And I was hooked. I bought my first batch of blanks from Nunn a few years ago and that was it. Nunn has unique shapes, thick blanks, and that soft buttery metal that is easy to stamp on. They offer inspiration pieces, classes on how to be creative with their findings, and the pricing is perfect. I look forward to their catalogs and seasonal launches. Becky and her staff have always been so kind, helpful when I have questions, and quick to respond. It’s easy to love Nunn Design – I’m a customer for life.
Brandi of Little Blue Bus has many beautiful pieces using Nunn Design Findings!