Mendocino SBDCFort Bragg California

“As an artist, it’s easy to have vision, but without brickwork, without a solid foundation, you can’t build anything.” 


Laura Buckner

Laura Buckner first became a West Company client in 2002, and she returned in 2010.  She is an artist who designs and makes beautiful one-of-a-kind gemstone jewelry.  Over the years she has built up a loyal customer base of approximately forty retail stores in Mendocino county and surrounding areas.

To sell her jewelry, Laura has traveled to visit her customers personally at their retail stores; she has also participated in several local gift shows and community events throughout the year. Her personal touch and word-of-mouth marketing has served well to gradually grow her business and has provided a consistent, modest annual income through small orders.

Although Laura has enjoyed the pace of her business, she recently shifted her thinking to “work less and earn more” and turned to West Company for assistance. She faced several challenges including business planning, accounting, designing a marketing plan and marketing materials, and using the computer to connect with customers. Her goal was to reduce travel and grow her business through larger orders and to sell to clients outside of her local region.

With West Company’s assistance, Laura identified a niche market of natural history museums for her jewelry. She attended West Company’s social media workshops in Ukiah and learned about using the internet for marketing. She also learned to utilize computer software which helped her get organized, create marketing materials, and implement a standard ordering process. Although setting up this new business system initially required extra work, Laura persevered and can now run her business efficiently and manage larger orders.

In 2011, Laura drew on her extensive knowledge of natural history and her newly-acquired business preparedness in order to serve an important museum customer and fill a large order for $4,000. In working with this customer, she learned there is a demand for her indigenous gemstone jewelry in museum gift shops. The museum expressed interest in working with Laura to sell her jewelry not only in their two gift shops but also within the museum network across the country. In May, 2011, Laura received another $4,000 order plus other smaller orders from the museum. 

These two larger orders alone represent 66% of Laura’s past gross annual income.  She anticipates additional orders before December, 2011, and expects this year’s income to be higher.

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.