How to Create a Cult Following According to Canadian Jewellery Designer, Jenny Bird
HOW TO CREATE A CULT FOLLOWING
Jenny Bird is a darling of the fashion world. With a growing base of fans (Celine Dion, Kylie Jenner, and Serena Williams counted among them), the award-winning Canadian jewellery designer has spent the last 11 years making women feel powerful and beautiful. But all that hasn’t been without its challenges. Like any other entrepreneur, Bird has learned a few hard lessons along the way that have tested her faith in her business, talent, and vision. Here’s how she built her eponymous brand and became a regular fixture on leading women around the world.
IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, WHAT DEFINES AN EXCEPTIONAL BRAND?
Specialization is very important. We see this with smaller brands now more and more, but being really good at one thing is more important to consumers than trying to be in multiple product classes. It’s about finding a niche. I’ve had lots of opportunities to go into different categories, but I’ve decided to be dedicated to my category and be the best for its price point. What makes a good brand is if you can still hold that artisanal, special quality of a niche brand, even if it’s commercially successful.
I also design with the market guiding me. I look at what women are naturally pulling off the shelves and the ways they want to wear jewellery in their wardrobes today, what it means to them, and what they are willing to pay. It’s really about being alive and part of the world as an observer. For us, it’s not a design-down approach but rather, market-up.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF GROWING YOUR BRAND?
The back end of a brand and making sure it runs smoothly is so critical to scale. We just spent two years putting that into place. You can’t scale without it. It’s hard because you get these exciting partnerships and growth opportunities that you want to run with on the front end, but if you activate them all on a base of operational chaos, you’ll just implode. You have to be disciplined and just know that it’s worth it.
FROM MICHELLE OBAMA TO BELLA HADID, YOU HAVE A DIVERSE RANGE OF CLIENTS. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT CULTIVATING A COMMUNITY?
Don’t define your demographic upfront, let it be community-led. I would always be asked who I was targeting. Was it a 25-year-old? A 35-year-old? I started to see that it wasn’t either, but rather a woman with an attitude towards personal style and wanting to be modern—a woman of style, no matter what age. What I’ve learned about building community is to establish connectivity to the brand and encourage conversation. What has been really key to our success is that we are a very human brand. You want to create a welcoming environment.
HOW HAVE YOU DEALTH WITH OBSTACLES ALONG THE WAY?
There are a lot of times where it looks like the perfect growth path, but what you don’t see is the number of times when you’re actually sitting there on the floor or crying in a cab. There are many moments like that along the way—ten or 12 in the first few years—where you have to decide if you’re going to accept defeat. You have to dig deep and decide whether you’re committed to making it work. There was this book I read that said, in the experience of building a company, you seal your own fate. If you throw in the towel, that’s your choice. No one else is going to do it but you.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THESE CHALLENGES?
I came to the realization that my brand might not be a jewellery company tomorrow. It could look totally different. Your first ideas are sometimes not where you end up. Pursuing the path of that idea will guide you in the right direction. You have to take steps towards something but not be so dedicated to the end goal. Let the market guide you and try things out. You might find a path that will lead you to where you need to go.
HOW CAN OTHER ENTREPRENEURS DISCOVER THEIR PATH?
I hear people and want to relieve them of this sense of urgency to have the end state totally figured out as a company or an idea. I always just say, stop and take a step towards what you think the company will look like. You’ll find out so much along that path that it’s going to shape and change what your business becomes.