Designed to shine
The Vaughans didn’t start out to create a successful jewelry making business. In fact, Anne originally intended the venture to supplement husband Aaron’s income. They invested $500 from their personal savings to purchase some basic tools and gemstones. Between her children’s nap times, Anne created her first designs and exhibited them at the Roanoke City Market on a busy Black Friday in 2006. It marked the launch of a thriving business with online and wholesale customers across the country. “We have a unique product in the American handcrafted jewelry marketplace, specifically layered gemstone jewelry collections,” Aaron explains.
Creating a unique product in a rural area comes with challenges. “We had to train our staff in jewelry making, since most of them come to us with no prior experience. The upside is that most of our makers have been with us between three and nine years, so we are blessed to have a committed staff,” says Aaron.
Anne Vaughan Designs learned about business through the trainings offered by the Roanoke Region SBDC, including the GrowthWheel® program. GrowthWheel provided Anne and Aaron with a “360 view” of the business process. “It covers almost every part of a business, from customer relations to organizational operations and more,” Aaron explains. “The program was especially helpful, because we worked with other local small businesses to see their specific challenges, and then used the GrowthWheel® Framework to walk through the decision-making process and identify ways to resolve and overcome those challenges.”
Aaron and Anne worked closely with SBDC counselors Tom Tanner and Amanda Forrester. “We consult regularly with Tom on quarterly financial reviews and Amanda on networking leads, marketing, and other topics. Having their guidance has been invaluable,” Aaron says. Tom and Amanda helped Aaron and Anne develop cost-efficient systems to maximize profitability, as well as streamline operational systems and software. “Tom Tanner came to our office and spent a half day just going through our financials and making recommendations on how to track expenses differently, make changes to our books, and do an initial cleaning of our data. It was invaluable,” Aaron declares. “Since then, Tom has met with us quarterly to review our financials, ask probing questions about our profit and loss, and identify areas to look into, further based on his expertise.”
The Vaughans are proud to say that they never borrowed any capital, yet have accomplished year-over-year growth since 2006. Anne Vaughan Designs is doing so well that Anne and Aaron are set to participate in a peer advisory group where they will pass on the lessons they have learned over the past 14 years to new start-ups and other businesses in the area. “I am excited to work with other small businesses in our community to help guide them in the same ways that the SBDC has helped us,” says Aaron.