Chrissy Weems has an inspiring story to share with young women who aspire to be entrepreneurs. She began with a vision and a small kiosk in a mall. Making lockets that could be customized to be a remembrance of special events in a person’s life, she and her daughter have built a successfully jewelry business called Origami Owl that has made over $250 million with over half a million Facebook followers on social media in its four years of operation. They have 30,000 designers. Their success story is so powerful that Chrissy and her daughter have been interviewed by The Today Show, People Magazine and Yahoo Finance, among others.
Weems recently gave a Ted Talk on how to empower more women to be entrepreneurs. The Ted Talk was given using the Tedx format and organized in the Davenport area.
How They Began
Interestingly, the business did not begin as Weems’ enterprise but as a vehicle for her daughter, Bella, to buy a vehicle when she turned 16. Bella tried babysitting but soon realized that she could not readily make enough money in two short years to purchase a car. Weems helped Bella research potential shoestring business ventures and decided to combine the former’s artistic talents with some ideas found online for glass and other types of lockets that could be personalized. Weems has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Phoenix, Arizona.
Their Unique Product
Rather than just producing lockets that have one of a few designs, Weems had the foresight to allow customers to provide their own pictures to add to their glass lockets. Clients also choose special charms and hand-stamped plates that have special emotional relevance to their own lives. As people chose their design for their customized lockets, Bella would encourage the women to share their stories with her. Her customers shared stories about fighting breast cancer, losing twin babies and of milestones and accomplishments in their lives. These products provide a powerful emotional connection, remembrance and grounding for the Weems’ customers. They also were buying lockets to make affirmation reminders and connections.
How They Expanded: From Home Parties to a Mall Kiosk
At first, they sold their wares at home parties, boutiques and crafts fairs. There began to be a buzz about these lockets, so Weems and her daughter began to sell their innovative lockets at a mall kiosk in Arizona. They started conservatively with a 60-day lease during the holiday shopping season. This was such a successful endeavor that the mall asked them to extend the lease because they were driving more customers to the mall.
Social Selling and Marketing
Weems had Bella place her phone number in each box for a locket. It was at this time that things really took off for Origami Owl. People were asking for an Origami Owl location in their area. Since it was not realistic for the Weems family to pay for a store lease at many different locations, they began selling kits to others who desired to sell the lockets in the same manner as Bella had. They saw 60,000 people begin selling Origami Owl.
With such powerful sales growth, investors came in. This is a regret of Weems’. It was at this point that the goal of profit overtook the goal of emotional connection in the business. They gave back the investment money to the investors. The Weems family wanted to go back to focusing upon the emotional connection with their designers and customers.
- Emotional connection is something so powerful and so lacking in our automated world. People are starving for it.
- The power of tenacity in the face of difficulties
- The importance of youth learning the work ethic
- Making a difference in the world and paying things forward
Chrissy Weems and her daughter, Bella, have an Owlette program that helps youth become business owners and learn the work ethic. Weems also has begun a scholarship for young entrepreneurs that is open both to high school seniors as well as to those already attending an institute of higher education. Origami Owl also partners with a national, non-profit organization named Childhelp that provides assistance in the prevention and treatment of child abuse. The Weems family wants to pay forward their great good fortune and be an example to others.