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In today’s world, the word Entrepreneur is one that we are hearing more and more. From tech startups, to new service companies, e-commerce sites, and fashion designers, the global population of entrepreneurs rising has increased quite a bit. Blame it on the unemployment rate, or whatever you will. The fact is, young adults are taking risks and are going for their dreams to become their own boss and steer away from the corporate masses.
Why is this? If you look around, most of your friends are probably juggling a million things outside of their regular nine-to-five jobs, and most of the time this is probably because they can’t stand their full-time positions. I’m pretty sure a lot of you can relate. And that’s okay – many others are with you. In the recent Forbes article “70 Percent of Your Employees Hate Their Jobs,” Carmine Gallo highlights that “more people are voluntarily leaving their jobs than they did a year ago.” Why? “Nobody is inspired to get up Monday morning because their job offers free soda in the vending machine. People want to be inspired. They want to work toward a higher purpose and feel good about themselves and their leader. It requires better communication, not more perks.”
A great example of this is charity event planner turned modern-rock jewelry designer MJ Barton. If you haven’t heard of MJ or Electric Picks by now, you should remember her name as we predict her jewelry will be one of the newest hot trends in 2012. MJ is originally from Lemont, IL (a little suburb in Chicago).
Just like many others, MJ had a stable day job as an event planner in the fun city of South Beach, Miami, where she helped organize charity galas, fundraisers, and luncheons (though this was not a corporate gig, it still required her to answer to someone else). But even in a place where people barely sleep and party ’til sunrise, this young lady found that something was missing, and that something involved her passion for music and designing. So MJ packed up her bags, and to reach her dreams decided to move to the fashion center of the USA – New York City, naturally.
Though she gave her charity event planner job up to pursue her passion, MJ is still very much involved in the community and continues to be heavily involved in charity as a committee member for the Little Lighthouse Foundation- Miami based non-profit organization, that focuses on helping children facing medical, financial, and educational challenges. ”I’ve been volunteering with different charities since I was 13 and believe giving back is incredibly important” the designer stated.
MALAN: How did you come up with the Electric Picks concept?
MB: The concept literally came to me in a dream. I’ve made jewelry for years, but I’ve never really tried to sell it before. I had a dream to put a guitar pick into jewelry and knew it was something I had to do. I couldn’t fall back asleep; I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was lying there already coming up with the name of the company and the designs. I played classical piano for almost 12 years and guitar for 4 so I’m sure my musical background influenced me having this dream as well. I know it’s corny, but I guess follow your dreams!
MALAN: Background of the brand?
MB: The brand is about eight months old and started out of my house. I wanted it to be modern jewelry, but with a rock-and-roll attitude. I wanted to make something for the renegades and romantics, something that was different from the mundane jewelry you see repeatedly on every jewelry shelf, something that was cutting edge.
I started making pieces for friends and just got such a great reaction. I’ve been so lucky because my network of amazing and talented people is what really helped me launch this company. A friend of mine in PR showed me how to make professional press kits, a friend’s brother helped me build my website, my amazing lawyer set up the company, a friend in fashion showed me how linebooks were created, my good friend who is a model starred in my campaign shot by my friend who is a photographer, my teacher from FIT helped me find production… I just had this amazing support system of people who really believed in me to help my brand come together.
Once I had some structure built, I started giving up my weekends to do markets with my jewelry in New York City and in Brooklyn. Every Saturday and Sunday I did the markets from 8:30am to 7:00pm. This was an amazing way to get feedback from people. It really helped to get the word-of-mouth going about my brand.
MALAN: Where are your pieces produced?
MB: They are produced in NYC.
MALAN: What’s the coolest thing that has happened since the launch?
MB: The coolest thing is people who tell me they never take their bracelets off. I love hearing that, it’s kind of like I’m influencing something somehow in my little way.
MALAN: How many people in your team thus far?
MB: I think I’ve recruited everyone I know to be on my team
MALAN: What differentiates Electric Picks from other jewelry?
MB: We do a lot of custom pieces. People can send in guitar picks and we turn them into one-of-a-kind pieces. We get picks people caught at concerts, their parents’ picks, their own picks. We’ve even gotten some celebrity picks from tours and we’ve turned them into pieces for [the artists]. We just did two bracelets for Willie Nelson with his tour picks. We’ve also done pieces for Billy Duffy from the Cult, Rapper Flo Rida, Cuba Gooding Jr, and Celebrity Chef Todd English.
MALAN: How long has the brand been on the market?
MB: I started Electric Picks in May and have been working 20 hour days on it since! But I’d say it’s really taken off in the last two to three months. Especially after Fab.com featured us on their website.
MALAN: Did you find it hard to leave your job to take on the entrepreneurial journey?
MB: I had just moved from Miami to New York City when I decided to start Electric. I would have had to look for a new job here in New York, so I decided to create one instead. It was the perfect timing to try something on my own.
MALAN: Do you have recommendations for anyone trying to go the entrepreneurial route?
MB: If you have an idea or a dream, follow it. Everywhere you look there’s business, chain, restaurant, innovation – somebody somewhere once had the idea for that and now it exists because of them. It’s so gratifying to grow something on your own.
MALAN: What was the toughest time you faced when going on your own and developing this business?
MB: The toughest thing is to know what steps to take if you’ve never started a business before. I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it until I had the idea for Electric Picks. I knew I had this great idea, but what next? So I went and bought every book I could find about starting a business and fashion accessory businesses. I figured they best thing to do was learn from people who’ve been there before. But I think the hardest thing is the first step, stepping over the ledge and actually making your dream into a reality.
MALAN: You mentioned your recent feature on Fab.com. That’s a pretty big site to be featured on for being so new to the market. How did you handle the demand? Did you find it difficult?
MB: Lots of preparation! Fab gave us almost a month to prep for the sale. They were just so helpful and the people there were so great. They’re a startup too still, and I think they really support entrepreneurs and innovators. I love the uniqueness to Fab!
MALAN: How were you able to connect with Fab.com?
MB: The buyer for Fab.com also found me at the market in Brooklyn. They have almost a million members and did a three-day feature sale with Electric Picks. This just launched us into a different level of exposure and was so great for our brand (we’re doing another sale with them January 29th because it went so well).
MALAN: Where do you see Electric Picks in the next year?
MB: In the next year I see Electric running for President! Just kidding, but I really hope we can expand our reach. I’d love to get some legendary rock stars and musicians to donate picks to us and auction them off for charity. I’d also love to get involved in some cool concerts and festivals and have our pieces there – maybe Coachella or Lollapalooza, and selling in stores like Scoop, Kitson or Barneys; basically everywhere! ;)
MALAN: Anyone in particular you would to see wearing your pieces?
MB: I’d love to see it on some amazing guitarists like Jimmy Page, Carlos Santa, and Keith Richards! Taylor Swift and Kelly Osbourne are very rock-and-roll gals as well, but young and fun; I’d love to get them one!
MALAN: Currently, where can consumers find Electric Picks?
MB: Electricpicks.com, Therapy Boutique in the W Miami, and Urban Outfitters (online for now).
MALAN: What inspires you?
MB: My pieces are inspired by music. The decadence of the glam rock of the ’80s, some heavy metal, and classic rock-and-roll all play a big part in my line. I really aspire to make jewelry that’s as timeless as music is. Music lasts forever.
MALAN: In three words describe, Electric Picks
MB: Rebellious, Bold, and Fun.
For more information visit www.electricpicks.com