People questioned Pat and Lisa Schaefer when the owners of a successful jewelry store decided to sell their business to open a new one that produced jewelry made with rapid prototyping on a 3D printer. With no inventory, and no plans to invest in inventory, they had a vision for what they call the “new jewelry” movement and a name —Bespoke Jewelry Company.
A new way to create rings
Just a few months after opening, Bespoke may not be well known, but it deserves notice from soon-to-be-married couples looking for wedding rings.
While running their previous jewelry store, The Jewelry Center in Ann Arbor, the Schaefer’s realized that there was something missing. The whole experience focused on making the store and the display cases as beautiful as possible. The Schaefer’s wanted to flip that standard and make the experience more about the customer.
Pat, reading about rapid prototyping — a mold made by a 3D printer after making a computer generated, three dimensional model of the ring — understood how it could become a successful business model. His nephew called saying that his girlfriend had a bunch of rings pinned on Pinterest and asked Pat if he could take all of the rings as inspiration to create something unique. That call was the validation that Bespoke didn’t need inventory.
“We just know that we want to be different,” Pat said. “The ultimate plan is to open up guide shops in Midtown Detroit. We want to be in hip towns to try to disrupt the jewelry industry. Not in a bad way, but when it comes to your engagement or something really personal to you, with rapid prototyping, we can make it so quickly and make changes so quickly that it becomes effective.”
3D is a thing
The detail of jewelry that can be made with a 3D printer is astounding. After spending a few months getting used to the technology and troubleshooting through misshapen prototypes, Bespoke has nearly mastered the concept. If customers want to make minor tweaks, Bespoke can gladly make them. To make sure everything is exactly how customers want it, custom-made for them, Bespoke has made rings inspired by the Game of Thrones to those with several intricate weaves within a square inch.
Typically from start to finish, it takes two to three weeks to finish a project. Customers come in with an idea and a CAD (Computer Aided Design and Drafting — an image on the computer of what the ring will look like once it is forged) of their piece takes about two days to construct. The 3D printer creates, in several hours, a molded piece ready for clients to see and try on. The way the jewelry is designed and made allows Bespoke to sell jewelry for less than what someone would spend at a traditional jewelry store.
The business model is especially suited for younger generation millennials looking for personalized rings. Pat and Lisa have worked with couples who may not be taken seriously at a traditional jewelry store because of their youth or unique ideas. At Bespoke, no idea is too unique and they do their best to make payments comfortable for each couple. The Schaefer’s don’t base their success solely on how much money they’re making, but also by how their customer’s experiences are going. There aren’t any payment plans, either. And because of the opportunities to learn more about people’s lives through making jewelry, the Schaefer’s believe the relationships they’ve made in a short period of time at Bespoke have been much deeper than those they had at their old business.
“We don’t just have clients and customers, we have made really, really good friends,” Lisa said. “We’ve been invited to weddings. We never got invited to a wedding with our old jewelry store, because you don’t have that personal connection.”
A 3-D model to be forged.
An Ann Arbor connection
Just like their ties to their customers, Pat and Lisa have a special connection to Ann Arbor as well, saying that it’s a great place to have a business because the city is constantly changing and evolving. Being a college town, engaged 20-somethings should fall in love with their business.
“Ann Arbor to us is more than just a place to live,” Pat said. “We love the people that live here, our customers, the diversity.”
As the city that the Pat and Lisa call home evolves, so is their way of doing business. They traded needing a million dollar inventory and only selling and restocking 40 percent of it in a year at their old store to having zero inventory.
Bespoke puts their rings in orbs made of aircraft aluminum. Bespoke isn’t trying to meet a quota. The store isn’t an over-the-top place with well-lit cases, but an intimate setting with a room to relax in while music is playing. Bespoke is new and it is different, but it is here to stay.
“It’s really great when you wake up in the morning and you like what you’re doing,” Lisa said. “When we walk into this building, there’s no downside for us. It’s great to come to work and be able to dive into these projects and have fun doing them.”
Bespoke Jewelry Company is located at 1327 Jones Dr., Ste 202.
They can be contacted at 734-358-7095 or at [email protected].