Upon asking/suggesting why she doesn’t focus just on the design, share designs with a big jeweler, who can then mass produce and give her royalty, she retorts, “I am not in the business of selling sausages. My customers are educated, culturally-aware people, looking for exclusivity. If the product is common (mass produced), I will lose my customers. Plus, all the big companies have their own designers. Why would they buy my design? They would rather want me to work for them as a ‘slave’ just as their other designers do.” That was an emotionally charged statement. Before Paulo could translate, I could gather that from her face expressions.
She also highlighted that although her customers want exclusivity, they are very price-sensitive. “Brazilians believe that if it is an artisan’s work, it must be cheap. There are two kinds of shoppers who go for exclusivity – those who want to buy brands and show-off, and others who want to buy fashion at a reasonable price. Fortunately or unfortunately, my clientele is the latter.” She shares a recent business decision that didn’t go too well. A famous Afro-Brazilian photographer asked her to create a collection for his annual photo-shoot, wherein he captures 15 most prominent women of Afro-Brazilian community. She knew it was challenging both skill-wise and monetarily, but she wanted to prove to herself that she can create really fine jewelry too. She borrowed R$ 2500 from a friend, used all of her savings, and made the collection. After that, when she wanted to sell, she set the price at R$ 800 based on comparable prices of similar products in the market. However, she couldn’t sell. The lowest price she could charge for a piece of that jewelry was R$ 320. Even that was too much for her customers as they are used to paying R$ 50 – 100 per piece.
I was at the end of my time with her. I really enjoyed talking to her. She is a strong, hardworking woman, but needs to get more organized. I left her with a thought of thinking about a mobile application that allows her customers to choose designs, provide design suggestions, and order right away. I also asked her to think about crowd-funding.