What exactly is your business?
I own and operate Liza Michelle Jewelry – a handmade jewelry brand featuring nature-,inspired, environmentally friendly fine jewels. LMJ offers an ever changing readymade collection of limited edition pieces, as well as a fine jewelry + bridal line. LMJ also loves to collaborate with clients on custom jewelry for every occasion. In addition to my jewelry company, in 2017 I started LMJ Foundry – a boutique precious metal casting company providing production casting, mold making, and finishing services to other jewelry companies.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I have a bachelor’s of fines arts in jewelry + metalsmithing from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and have always been making things with my hands. When I was laid off from a toxic corporate jewelry gig in 2012, I knew it was the perfect time to strike out on my own. As for LMJ Foundry, after 4 years in business, I had been approached numerous times from other jewelry companies looking for production casting services. I saw a need, and decided to fill it. It’s my goal with both businesses to provide meaningful and fulfilling employment opportunities for our growing jewelry and metalsmith community here in Cleveland.
How did you find out about Aviatra?
I have several friends who went through the Aviatra program successfully and I decided it was a good time to build up my business skills to propel my businesses higher!
What is your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from the strong women in my life. I am blessed with a mother that has a huge heart and a brilliant mind. She taught me my humility, compassion, kindness and work ethic. I am surrounded by strong female business owners that move through their lives and work with strength, integrity, and a huge willingness to collaborate and share.
What has been your biggest accomplishment with your business so far?
The work I’ve done with my clients. I love working collaboratively with my clients to create meaningful, one of kind pieces to commemorate just about any life milestone. When I hear a client has recently gotten engaged with a ring we designed together, or when a client surprises a friend with an incredibly meaningful piece to mark a huge accomplishment, I am immensely proud of the work I’ve done, and the ability to realize my clients vision.
What was the most valuable thing you gained from your experience with Aviatra?
The theory and practical knowledge I gained from my Aviatra courses will always stick with me, but the biggest thing I learned is to trust myself, and to have confidence in the decisions and moves that I make. You can know so much about your industry and how to be successful, but if you don’t trust yourself to make those decisions you won’t go anywhere.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting your business?
Money! I scraped together what I could and took a small loan from a family member to get up and running. There’s a high overhead to creating fine jewelry, but I reinvested everything I made the first year to really set up an infrastructure that continues to serve me.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
I hope to get LMJ to the national jewelry brand level in the next 5 years, as well as provide growing employment opportunities. With LMJ Foundry, I hope to have that business grown to a national level and operated by a business partner, so I can focus on the design business.
Any advice for future Aviatras?
If you can’t do something as well as what you do your best at – hire someone who can. You can’t do everything, nor should you ever think you have to. Have a trusted team and it will be worth the money and time saved.
portrait photo by Tom Sawyer & modeled jewelry photos by Kyle Kresge