Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in jewelry but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kelly Bit, founder of Sublima Jewelry, located in New York, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Sublima Jewelry is my brand of artful and sustainable jewelry that I hand make in New York. I create the jewelry by carving wax prototypes, which are molded and cast into recycled brass and sterling silver pieces. The jewelry draws inspiration from well-loved objects in our every day to visceral memories, and many celebrate Asian heritage and culture. Also, at the heart of the brand is giving back since the onset of the pandemic in 2020; Sublima has donated more than $50,000 to nonprofits supporting NYC's Chinatowns, criminal justice reform, racial justice, food insecurity, and LGBTQ+ youth.
The Sublima community is diverse and dynamic. I aim to create timeless yet striking designs, and they tend to draw people across demographics. One commonality among the community is an appreciation for visual design, eye-catching forms, and artful objects. Many have supported specific causes and nonprofits through our fundraising campaigns.
Tell us about yourself
Art imitating life has always enraptured me. As a child, if I wasn't drawing, then I was crafting, and I made jewelry using basic beading techniques. However, it wouldn't become my favorite medium for some time. I love writing, too, which is why I spent eight years of my career as a journalist. It was exciting and challenging, but I missed the creative arts as a major part of my life. I started spending my free time making, and the intentional lifestyle switch brought me a lot of fulfillment, so much that I wanted to transform my pastimes into something more.
I pursued more technical skills and learned metalsmithing and wax carving, which is how I handcrafted the pieces in this collection. Jewelry helped me discover my creative conviction. I cherish having an idea that I can't wait to create and how rewarding it is to transform concepts into beautiful, tangible forms that communicate the intangible: One's tastes and intentions for self-expression.
I also love growing my skills as an artist and maker. It's really rewarding to conceptualize designs and hand-carve wax to bring them to life. I love that jewelry can communicate on multiple planes—I want the forms viewed with almost zero context to be pleasing and interesting. Then I also love communicating the concepts and symbolism, which can drive a deeper connection. Orchestrating all of that is something I never seem to tire of.
Sublima references subliminal messages that produce hidden feelings. I love that interesting, artful objects can move us in mysterious ways. The chance that my jewelry sparks that in anyone makes me supremely happy.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There are certain pieces I made that I feel were sort of feats to create. Some inspire me to remember the process of making them. Sometimes, I feel really proud of how I conceptualized the jewelry and the end result, especially having made them by hand. The Tofu Skin Hoops are one of those pieces—I feel they're really wearable (lightweight for a medium to large hoop earring) with a unique and strange texture, one that celebrates Asian food and, by extension, Asian heritage and culture. Choosing how to translate tofu skin into a wearable jewelry form and capturing the organic shape were challenges. It gives me confidence as an artist and creator to feel I made it work and that I'm happy with the result.
It's also been really rewarding to tie my passion for jewelry making to giving back by raising awareness for charitable organizations and nonprofits that I really respect. Sublima has pushed me to identify and communicate social issues I care about. Especially in the last few years, seeing neediness in so many forms, it feels good to help in ways that I feel are meaningful, even if they are limited.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I'm mainly running the business by myself (so far, I've hired one regular freelancer). There are so many growth strategies to try, and I often feel I have so many goals that I want to reach. I've learned through the years to focus on a few at a time, and I've tried to be mindful about testing new strategies vs. being stuck in the same ways of working. I'm slowly growing into trusting others and leaning on them for help. So far, it's been really rewarding to explore and try hiring for help. As a single person, it gets me out of my vacuum of ideas and work processes. And specialists are much more knowledgeable than me about certain marketing channels.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- For those looking to start a business: Don't let perfection be the enemy of progress. You have to start somewhere, and getting your product or service out there as a public presence can be relatively simple if you identify certain elements that you want to have in place to launch. I tried to set a hard deadline and timeline for launching Sublima, and I feel that really helped me get out there. Slowly building your following and gaining exposure will open more doors, gradually.
- For businesses that have physical products, where the person making the products is also marketing the products, one of the earliest fundamental tips I heard about running a business is to know the right balance of designing/making vs. marketing. Around 75% of your time should be spent marketing, which can be hard for some people, especially those who enjoy artistry more than the business side. But I find marketing to be really intellectually interesting, so it's been great to feel that I'm growing my skills as an artist/creator and marketer too.
- I'm still practicing this myself, but to grow a business, be proactive about trying new strategies and reaching out to creators and brands that you want to collaborate with. There's so much to learn from other business owners. Some of my most rewarding projects have been with other brand owners or organization leaders. It's so cool to gain insight into their ideas and processes, and you can tap into each other's audiences if it's the right fit.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.