Running a Small Business

Over the weekend I interviewed my Aunt Michele Cardey who owns Cocoon Jewelry, a wholesale business. She shared with me how she started Cocoon and some tips for those who want to start their own business.


Q: Before starting your business what did you do?

MC: I graduated with a degree in Art History dcrcdcand was working at the Vancouver Art Gallery.


Q: What inspired you to start your own business?

MC: I think I’ve always wanted to run my own business. When I was in grade 6 or 7 I ran a small business after receiving a rock polisher for Christmas. My father Eric helped me with sourcing materials which I used to primarily create necklaces and keychains. We had some family friends who owned a store in Victoria who would buy the products I made and sell them in their store. When starting Cocoon, I was inspired to create a business after going to China for the first time and later seeing these shell handbags which one store was selling. After seeing those handbags the store owner told me that they were made in Hanoi, where I then travelled to and discovered that I could design and create these handbags with the help of a group of artisan women living in this region who created the bags. Pretty soon I was designing handbags and travel bags marking the start of Cocoon.


Q: How did you launch Cocoon as a business?

MC: I started by having purse parties in my apartment where I would sell my purses to some of my girlfriends and their friends. Later, one of my friends knew someone who worked at a sales agency who then contacted me which is how I ended up selling in wholesale.


Q: How has your business changed throughout the years?

MC: Cocoon started out as a home goods, purse and travel bag business but eventually transitioned into a jewelry company. Much of this was due to the changing market. At the time designer brand purses like Michael Kors started becoming really big narrowing the market for non-designer handmade purses. Additionally, stores like Homesense which sold pillows among other things became very popular increasing the competition in the home décor market. These market changes had me thinking about what my next product would be which is when I thought of jewelry. Despite the change in products being sold, one thing that has stayed constant is my vision for the company which is that the products were to be handmade and made by women.


Q: What has helped you during the time of you creating your business?

MC: I don’t think I would have been able to successfully run or start Cocoon without the support of my family members and friends. Having a strong network of people who gave me support as well as advice was one thing that helped me with my business.


Q: What has been your favourite part about running your own business?

MC: I love being my own boss, the freedom that comes with running your own business as well as interactions I have had with people. I have enjoyed the relationships I have built over time with clients and people I have met through trade shows. Some of my favourite moments included the times which I travelled to the studio where the jewelry is made and chatting with the women who create the jewelry.


Q: What advice do you have for those who are interested in starting their own small business?

MC: Have a vision of what you want your company to be and be prepared for it to change as time goes on. When I first started Cocoon I didn’t think I would go into wholesale I thought I would open a store. Another piece of advice I have is don’t overspend on unnecessary expenditures. For example, don’t go paying for an expensive website when you have no client base yet. My final piece of advice for anyone thinking of starting their own business is to just go for it.