10 Oct VentureMom Laurie Lenfestey – Bittersweet Designs
A Bittersweet Designs necklace is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. xo
She worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and now uses historically-inspired vintage pieces in her jewelry designs. But how did she get there? Laurie Lenfestey began her career in New England where she grew up, but then moved with her family to Santa Fe. She worked in real estate, but her creativity was directed towards things for her children. “I made my son a book filled with collages around who he was. He loved it and we shared it with other moms. They wanted them for their children and I saw a need I could fill.”
Demand for Laurie’s collage books for other children grew. “At this point our family had been thrown a financial curve ball and I knew I needed to contribute. Since there was a market for something I created, I thought that starting a business around it, seemed to make sense.” When it came time to name her fledgling enterprise, she thought about the feeling of watching her own kids grow up, and documenting and saving the memories through her books. “It was somewhat bittersweet so I chose Bittersweet Designs for my company name.”
Laurie found that a natural offshoot of her custom book designs was other paper products. She created vintage journals, wedding albums, baby books, photo frames, gift tags, and cards among other things to fill out her product line. Now it was time to sell her creations.
Trunk shows were the first way Bittersweet Designs was shown and then Laurie took a big step. “I invested in a booth at a gift show. It was a huge amount of money.” Laurie’s booth was so unique and special that her business garnered the interest of Country Living in 2007. The magazine featured her and her creative use of buttons, ribbons, and hand stamps on her paper line.
Then fate stepped in. When visiting her home state of Rhode Island, the former jewelry capital of the world, Laurie loved to peruse the once active jewelry warehouses where one day on a whim, she purchased 300 pounds of milky blue rosary beading. “I thought it would be cool to make necklaces out of the beading and combine it with vintage pendants.”
This first purchase put Laurie on the path to creating jewelry. She brought several necklaces with her to the gift shows where she was showcasing her paper line. The response was amazing and she soon realized that with the high demand for her jewelry, she wanted to focus solely on that. In 2008, she opened a store showcasing her pieces just steps from her home in Santa Fe. “It was really great to be so close to home so my kids could walk over after school and help me in the shop.”
Straddling the retail and wholesale market gave Laurie a unique perspective on who her customers were. “Having a store allowed me to interact with the end user and show them how to layer my designs.” Country living says of Bittersweet Designs that the layering technique with Laurie’s creations is very special and hard to replicate. Recently the stars have taken notice, Ann Hache gifted Laurie’s best-selling necklace, the Button Violette, to Wendy Williams live on tv.
With her son and daughter now out of the house, Laurie is a recent empty nester and will have more time to grow her business. Her righthand woman, Chheng, helps Laurie with production and manages a team of production assistants. This is allowing Bittersweet Designs to grow on a larger scale.
Laurie says, “Making jewelry is very intuitive to me and I feel that this is what I was meant to do.” She also feels that she’s been a good example for her children by showing them how to start and manage a business. “I embrace the fact that you can create a life you love by doing something you love to do.”
Follow the money by focusing on the things your customers are demanding more of.