There is no doubt that mama Anna Swonetz has a creative eye. After meeting her now husband on a photoshoot in the Yucatan, the blonde-haired Brit from Nottingham, England moved to California and started her own business out of her San Diego garage. In 2009, AnnaBee Jewelry was born and Anna spent the early years trading her jewelry to get the business off the ground, can you say #HUSTLER? Read on to learn more about Anna’s #STARTUPSTORY.
Tell us your startup story, how’d this all start?
I was born in Nottingham England, which is where I grew up. I went to university in Manchester and while I was living there, I met my now photographer husband on a photoshoot in the Yucatan. I know, it totally sounds like I am making it up! After a year and a half of not seeing him, I got a text saying “when are you moving to L.A.?” I moved to San Diego 6 months later and we got married 6 months after that. For the first 3 years, I helped him build his photography business and I then decided I needed to do my own thing. I just didn’t know what that was. I had always wanted to own my own business and I had been making jewelry since I was a child, but never thought I would be able to make a living out of it. In 2009 I went to a jewelry party, where I couldn’t find any jewelry that fit my personal aesthetic. That night, I went home and told my husband that I was going to start a jewelry company. I started it the next day.
Well, as I mentioned, I started AnnaBee Jewelry in my garage in San Diego in 2009 while I was a manager/producer/CFO of my husband’s photography business. I didn’t go to school for any of this, but as a very determined and passionate person, I figured it out as I went along. I believe that you can do anything you set your sights on as long as you believe you can achieve it. I bought books, googled a lot, and learned as I went along. There was a lot of trial and error and with no cash injection into the business, I exchanged a lot of jewelry to get the business going. You have to be resourceful if you don’t have a bunch of money initially to get off the ground. I have exchanged jewelry for graphic design, website development, PR, getting my hair done (not business related, but just as important). 🙂
I bought books, googled a lot, and learned as I went along. There was a lot of trial and error and with no cash injection into the business, I exchanged a lot of jewelry to get the business going.
What was one of the biggest risks you took along the way?
After a while I realized I needed help, so got my first 250 square feet studio and my first employee—who I adore and am still friends with today. After knocking into each other every time we moved our chairs, I realized I needed to get a bigger space. I then moved to a 1,000 square foot studio, a block from the beach, which was pretty amazing. We then had the opportunity move to Las Vegas and be part on the amazing entrepreneurial community that has become part of the revitalization of downtown. It was a big move. We had to build a whole new studio, find a whole new team and then run two studios at the same time for a while. It was terrifying, but my instincts told me it was the right thing to do. You have to take risks if you want to grow and I am so glad we did.
Any particular pinch-me or milestone moments that stand out to you?
My first meeting was at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. I left there with an order and I realized that I was actually going to be able to make this a real business. It was a pretty overwhelming feeling. But really, it was when Pottery barn kids started selling my pieces; that was a major benchmark for the growth of the business.
What have you learned from starting your own business?
Finding a great in house team is probably the most important thing that I have learned! They have such a huge positive (and negative) impact on your business. Over the years, I have experienced both, but mostly had amazing teams in both in San Diego and Las Vegas. Having your own business is real tough at times and so it is really important to have great relationships the people you work with so closely. Also, it is important that you have a good laugh at least once a day! 🙂
Any tips for business owners?
I’d recommend “The E-Myth Revisited” to every business owner; it literally changed the way I ran my business. I am all about instructions and lists.
Can you speak to some of the principles you live by as a business owner? Does your company have any particular mission in time?
Right at the beginning of starting the business, I thought about the things that were most important to me and have stuck to them ever since. I think that’s essential to any business.
- I wanted everything I made to have a meaning or purpose and I wanted the customer to have an emotional response upon opening.
- I wanted to operate in a socially conscious way wherever possible by using sustainable materials. I use organic cotton for my onesies and an eco-trebled for my tees and sweatshirts. We have a responsibility to our planet and children to look after it, so I want to do what I can.
- I also believe that is worth paying that extra few dollars to know exactly where your pieces are being made. All the jewelry and apparel are made in the USA.
- One of the most important things that I have learned is how important it is to find great people to work with that you can trust and rely on. I have incredible long standing relationships with our amazing manufacturers and have worked with many of them for years and we have got to know each other pretty well—they are family. My manufacturer in LA sent my daughter Sia a dress for her birthday and I did the same for him when he had a baby. We respect each other professionally and personally.
- It was really important to me to create an atmosphere at the studio, where my staff enjoys their jobs, each other and love coming to work. If you are happy and love what you do, you work harder and you do a better job. It’s better for everyone.
Tips to balancing work + mom life?
Whenever possible, I get up an hour earlier than everyone else to either make my to do list, meditate, or just have that quiet time to myself. I put my phone out of reach when I am playing or just hanging out with my daughter, Sia. I try to be present wherever I am, whether that be at home or with Sia. I am working on all three at the moment!
Any words to live by + quotes you love?
I really related to Tina Fey when she said, “say yes and then figure it out afterwards,” because that’s exactly what I did. But other than that my favorite quotes are:
- The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.
- Two things will define you. Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.
- “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel ” – Maya Angelou