We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathryn Miller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathryn, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I used to think that starting a business would be like a lightbulb going off in my head! Turns out, it was a gradual progression. Looking back now, I understand that from the moment I entered the work force, all paths have led me to where I am today. I grew up in a family of jewelers – my grandfather would design and make jewelry for my grandmother. My mother learned from him. Growing up, I would go everywhere with my mother – jewelry trade shows, downtown LA to all of her manufacturers and of course, I was practically raised in her retail jewelry store in Pacific Palisades, CA. When I was 12, I got a worker’s permit to work at Fred Segal making and selling jewelry in the bead department. I loved making jewelry but I knew I wanted to find my own way. My brother is seven years older and began working for my parents early on. (He now owns and operates his own fine jewelry store with his wife, Jaimie Geller Jewelry). I decided I would take a different course and when it came time to graduate from college and find a job, I chose marketing and sales for a large beauty company – Estee Lauder. I spent 10 years in the beauty industry, ideating, marketing and selling beauty and pharmaceutical products. I’ve even worked for a cosmetics manufacturing company. There were days when I was needed to work on the assembly line if a big order was on a tight deadline! If you ever get the chance to see a lipstick machine in action, it’s amazing! My most recent position was at Allergan (the company that makes Botox). I was the senior marketing manager in charge of consumer marketing for SkinMedica, their physician brand skincare line. During my time at Allergan, I got married and started a family. I had my first daughter, Isabella, in April of 2017. My whole world changed. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I could go back to a high stress, constant deadline, corporate environment. But I wasn’t quite ready to walk away from a seasoned career. Two weeks prior to the end of my maternity leave, the company made the decision for me. They advised me that my position was eliminated. I was disappointed, disheartened but also relieved. I was given a severance and thought I would take advantage of time at home with my little one. In the end, I was never ready to go back. I decided to be a stay at home mom. “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”- Elizabeth Stone. It was that quote. The quote that inspired me to design a diamond heart bracelet that would match with my little girl and would be something her and I both wore from the time she was three months old. Naturally, my parents would help me manufacture it. But in truth, I looked elsewhere for timeless, classic mommy and me jewelry and the results came up short. I couldn’t find anything I loved (everything was religious or contained cheesy charms or was designer which was completely out of my price range). I used 18k gold and diamonds set in a domed shaped heart. Once we started wearing them, other moms would ask where I got them. It wasn’t until then that I thought our bracelets could be more than just a personal interest, but a brand that could offer moms and their babes the opportunity to forever stay connected to one another. I saw an opportunity and I began working on a concept, business plan, brand identity, name and product line. And here we are today just over 1 year later. Mama Bijoux is a full fledged business that I am so proud of!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Mama Bijoux is fine jewelry for every generation- mothers, their babies, toddlers and children as well as grandmothers, sisters and friends. I make jewelry that gives every generation the opportunity to stay connected forever – with matching mom & babe diamond heart bracelets, birthstones set in 14k gold to signify every family member or the month of an important date. and 14k solid gold heart charms that can be engraved with whatever you wish to stay close to your heart. I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been able to overcome a really hard time in my life (the sudden loss of my brother coinciding with the birth of my 2nd daughter) and create a business I am excited and passionate about. It wasn’t always easy and there is still so much to do and accomplish. I do look back at the last year and feel very proud of all that I’ve been able to make happen. The best part though, is hearing how meaningful a piece of jewelry has become to a customer that you deigned and put your heart into creating. I think that if you believe in yourself, your story and your product, you can make anything happen! All you have to do is start!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in Newport Beach now but whenever I drive up to LA to visit family, my go to spots are: West 4th & Jane in Santa Monica for wings. Sugar Fish anywhere! I miss it so much. They need to open in Orange County. Delfini in Santa Monica for the BEST Italian food. Self Realization Center in Pacific Palisades for a beautiful atmosphere to relax and meditate. Topanga State Beach. Walking along Abbot Kinney for some cocktails and shopping!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I can say with 100% certainty that I would not be where I am today without the help of my parents. They have always supported me in every possible way. As I mentioned, I went everywhere with my mother watching her source materials, draw designs, make jewelry molds and castings, merchandize and sell her jewelry. I learned just by watching her! When it came time to legitimize the business, my father taught me everything I needed to know from how to apply for a business license, set up an LLC and DBA to acquiring a seller’s permit and trademark for Mama Bijoux. I couldn’t have done it without them! I also couldn’t have done it without the love and support from my husband. He thought I had a great idea and after reviewing my business plan, agreed that we could invest in the business with personal funds. As a financial advisor, he keeps me honest with my bookkeeping and quarterly P&L reviews. And, he’s also my biggest fan!
Erica Streelman Photography (White heart dish with bracelets) Nicole Sepe (Personal Image) Christina Amidon (baby arm, mommy and me with rose)