Feature Friday: Evan Silbert
Fifteen years ago, while completing my bachelor’s degree in television production, I worked a number of sales jobs. I always took a lot of pride in what I did and had a hard time when coworkers fell short of my expectations. Maybe I just liked things done my way!
An opportunity came for me to buy the small cell phone store next to where I worked, and start my own business. It was a crazy idea at the time, but the business grew and grew, and I enjoyed calling the shots.
Like any small business, there were good times and bad. Before long, it became very stressful! I wanted things to feel simple again, but I was juggling too many things. It was time for a change. I packed everything I needed and moved to the Caribbean. What better way to de-stress than to go where the weather is nice, and work for someone else while making an honest paycheck?
In the seven years I lived in St. John, I wore many hats, and had lots of interesting work. I met a lot of people from all over the world. I learned to pour a mean rum punch! I discovered myself and focused on my passions. I learned and grew, but before long I had outgrown my little island. It was time to come back.
I shipped my Jeep to Florida and drove across the country ending up in Minnesota. Erik Thurber, the best stateside friend I’d made in St. John, lived there and owned Thurber Jewelers. I arrived in early August and had no intention of being there once the first leaves fell and the weather got cold.
As things turned out, I was wrong. Minnesota introduced me to the love of my life, my wife, Jessica. And Erik needed someone to take the reins handling the day to day at the jewelry store. Minnesota needed me as much as I needed a home. I knew how to organize and manage a retail store, but I had no idea what I was doing with jewelry!
Thankfully, I’m a quick learner and was thrown into the fire right away. I tried to absorb everything Erik and the other guys at the store said and did and kept practicing until I sounded like an expert. As my responsibilities increased, my knowledge grew.
Before I knew it, I spent my downtime, even at home, reading about diamonds and discovering everything I could about what made each unique and different. My fierce independence drove me to keep learning so I could do everything by myself. That’s not possible, but I want my customers to feel confident that I’m their expert.
Being younger than most jewelry store managers and decision makers, I take a different approach than most in the industry. In a business that is often run by an older generation, I raise eyebrows when I use things like computers and social media to conduct our everyday work and stay in touch with our clients. Some of our vendors seem surprised or put off when I ask for online catalogs, videos for our big screen, or artwork for our Facebook page. Stuller gets a lot of my business by having the solutions I want.
We have Stuller Showcase™ on our big screen TV to help customers find and visualize items we don’t keep in stock. People love the honest feeling of seeing the product we’re discussing and the available options, with the price displayed clearly in the corner of the screen. In an instant information age, this makes a huge difference.
Things moved forward for my knowledge, our store, and our relationship with Stuller, after Sheila, our local Stuller representative, came to visit the shop. She showed me new solutions that helped us grow. Once I saw Countersketch®, I knew we had to have it. Now, most large sales take place with me standing by the computer, and our customers following along on the screen. We’re showing people that they can update their look by re-mounting their stones in new settings and different metals. We rarely lose sales to competitors. We can make a custom ring tailored to their specific desires.
Almost every day, I refer to our visit to Stuller this past October. Seeing the entire process, from raw materials to finished goods, and the pride of the staff that completes each step gives me a personal stake in selling Stuller to our clients.
I believe people connect with the story of their custom jewelry, knowing that real people pay close attention to every detail, and I’ve stood beside them. It’s a small thing, but I believe adding a personal story is important. It brings the customer back to the reason they are buying the jewelry in the first place: love. Our passion for what we do is an extension of our customers’ passion. I live to exceed their expectations and change the way they look at jewelry.
I’m still learning every day, and I’m constantly looking for new ways to do things a little better, like emailing pictures to customers when promised and sending a thank-you note after a purchase. What seems like small details make a huge difference. The knowledge and personal stories I share with my customers build their confidence in our family business. Jewelry stores are one of the last small businesses people depend on in a world dominated by big boxes. And it’s up to us to keep our customers (and their children!) coming back.
Missed last week’s Feature Friday post? No worries, catch up on it here.