Quick Stats: Shelley Goodman of Fernella's Jools lives in Port Washington with her husband, Andrew, and 7½-year-old twins Dayna and Nathan.
Chances are, if you've come across "vintage '80s costume jewelry" on eBay, patent leather belts from Urban Outfitters, or home furnishings like throws and bedrests from Delias or Claire's, you've come across Port Washington mom Shelley Goodman's work.
Growing up in a family business, Goodman always had confidence that she could sell her own creations. With a background in surface design, besides designing T-shirts for a children's clothing store and accessories and costumes for the Santa Fe Opera Company, Goodman also created her own jewelry. Learning about trade shows helped her launch her own costume jewelry and hair accessories business. By attending six to eight per year, she made many connections and hired sales agents in all the major cities, selling to specialty stores across the country. When asked about her career highlights, she mentions making special collections for Espirit catalogs and stores, where she developed jewelry to match the clothing, and being represented by a sales rep in Japan who sold to department stores there. For 12 years, Goodman designed and manufactured costume jewelry for Nordstrom nationally, and Macy's and Bloomingdale's in New York. In 1992, she started thinking suspenders might be a hot selling item and launched into a clothing accessories and home furnishings business for the tween and teen market.
We spoke to Goodman about her career and what's next for her company, Fernella's Jools, as she juggles being a mom to twins, Dayna and Nathan.
What do you think was the key to your success selling your own costume jewelry? What made your designs unique?
I took a technique that existed and made it more funky and fun. I put stones in and found my own shapes - it was very individual. I made very big, bold, and flashy styles. It was well priced and just clicked. I still have this photo of Donna Summer wearing my earrings (in a print ad)!
How did you expand your offerings beyond costume jewelry?
I knew I wanted to do something for my soul, for me. It finally dawned on me what my gift was - I make people happy. The jewelry thing kind of died, so I started working with fabrics, hair things and belts for the tween and teen market. I sold at Urban Outfitters and Bloomingdale's, making patent leather belts and wristbands and chokers. I had a small collection of garter belts and I met this group of people who were starting a catalog named Delias. I had a great relationship with the buyer. We worked together to create a line of home goods for the tween market. I designed a faux fur patchwork throw, pillows in all shapes and sizes, as well as duvet covers, beanbag chairs, and boyfriend bedrests. I then started selling to every major catalog from Lillian Vernon to The Company Store, besides specialty stores across the country including Linens 'n Things. The highlight was in 1998 when many of my products were featured on the cover of the home section of The New York Times!
How did you start making pillows for camps?
I took a break for four years when my kids were growing up. My things are high-end, very high priced. I'm still pretty local. When I started winding down my business and when I got pregnant, the last items I was selling were autographed pillows for camp. They make a great birthday gift; my daughter took one to camp and (the kids) all signed it. I think (what makes it unique) is the interaction - that you can give someone something and they can do something with it.
What's next for the company?
For now I have a studio in my basement with a big table and sewing supplies. I feel the need to be home, but I want to grow the business, have the work done outside of the house. I'm sourcing things out of China now. I'm looking for sales reps. My goal is to focus on camps and get ideas and products for my line. I offer camp pillows - they're beautiful, they look like candy! I might add something electronic.
Four unique pillow designs are available at Lester's as well as at Bluetique in Port Washington, And That Gift Boutique in Syosset, La Toys in Cedarhurst, Mahroo in Rockville Centre as well as boutique stores around the tri-state area. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fernellasjools.com.
Shelley's Tips for Moms:
1) Network! Talk to everyone, but stay away from negativity.
2) Listen to your heart and trust your instincts!
3) Don't give up! Join a support group to meet with other people.
4) Get motivated by setting a timer! Devote one hour a day to be creative.
5) Get involved with trade shows. The Jacob Javits Center is a great start.