Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Limón Verde is an online jewelry boutique selling pieces designed and hand-picked by Kalen. All pieces are handmade exclusively by a few artisans in Colombia who specialize in Filigree. Most of the pieces in our collection are one-of-a-kind, which offers our clients a chance to own something that no one else will ever have.
When did you start the business?
We officially launched in July 2009. The idea was officially born, though, in May 2008 stemming from a trip Kalen took to her father's home country of Colombia.
We operate our business from our home in greater Atlanta. Our store is online (www.LimonVerde.com), but we also sell our jewelry at various events in and around Atlanta. The events have been great for us, because once people actually see our jewelry they fall in love with it!
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Both of us continue to work at our full time jobs, which we had prior to launching this business. Kevin is an event producer, working with over 40 events a year in Atlanta; Kalen works in a law firm, an industry she has been in for her entire professional career. This is the first business we have owned ourselves.
How did you come up with your business idea?
The idea of Limón Verde was created after a trip Kalen took with her father to his home country of Colombia. Her first time there in 16 years, she was reintroduced to Filigrana Momposina – a style of filigree specific to the city of Mompox, Colombia. She brought some pieces home and, after some discussion with her husband, decided that they could make a business by introducing this beautiful jewelry to the U.S. After finding an artisan with the help of her family in Colombia and the encouragement of her family, Kalen began sending her own designs to be handcrafted.
Who did you hire to help you? Would you suggest others do the same?
Kevin: I understood the necessity for a strong, consistent and effective marketing message – and having the proper PR to push it to the right audience. One of the biggest business decisions we have made to date was to hire a public relations firm. The result in exposure and brand awareness was almost immediate. This was an especially important hire as our time to work on Limón Verde is already limited to hours outside of our full time jobs. Having an advocate for our brand working when we can't has been an invaluable asset. Through this relationship we have met some great people in the industry, attended some amazing events and have had a LOT of fun telling people our story!
Another piece of advice I have always believed in and listened to: when your business is slow, the marketing budget should be the last thing to remove – not the first. The alternative is stagnation, or worse: termination.
What were the challenges and benefits to operating your business from your home?
By far, the benefit is the mitigated cost of overhead. And because we are a husband and wife team we are obviously able to maximize our time together on this business without worry of commute time or conflicting schedules.
One challenge was turning Kevin's office into a workable space for the both of us. We have managed to make the space work, but still can't agree on what music to play when we are there at the same time! Aside from that, Kalen enjoys the fact that she can have a glass of wine while she makes her designs and take a break when she wants one. We also love that our two Jack Russells come to see us from time to time while we sit at our desks begging us to play with them.
Besides disagreements on music selection, what are other benefits and challenges to working with your spouse?
The good news is: Yes, we get along! Kalen is a lot more creative-minded, and Kevin's more business-minded, which leaves little room for butting heads. There are debates over some important company decisions, but like any diverse team, the art of compromise and understanding leads the way to great business decisions being made.
Kalen: I'll tell you that there certainly are challenges! However, Kevin gives his opinions about my designs (though he can't draw a tree to save his life) and I give my opinions about the Web site (though I'm admittedly technologically challenged!). But my favorite benefit: when I create a design, he is always there at his desk to tell me how proud he is that we're doing this.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Kalen: Cost!!! It's like when you are 16 and you know you can drive, so getting that car (I got my parent's car) is your ticket to freedom, though it is not till you are in your 20s when you buy your own that you notice the car comes with BILLS!!! Limón Verde gives me the freedom to create designs that will translate into amazing pieces or jewelry. Although the bills are coming left and right, I cannot let go of that freedom.
Kevin: Running a company myself has certainly put me in a much different perspective than I am used to. The biggest shock for me is to watch how fast the business landscape is changing. To stay on top of how to be as effective as you possibly can in today's FAST moving environment takes a lot of attention and a lot of interaction with the environment. It's a good thing I love this stuff. I'll be perfectly honest, I'm the last person you want to talk to about jewelry – but I can talk to you for hours about the business philosophies that I strongly believe in. I love that I get to build a company based on these principles… plus, I get to do it with my best friend.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
The same advice we have been following: A company afraid to take risks will never grow; do not get paralyzed by over analysis. Treat the company as a real business, not a hobby – no matter the size of the company. Know when to ask for help. Beyond all this, Limón Verde is built with customer service front-of-mind. Nothing is more important.
It sounds like you two have a great partnership, both personally and professionally. Thanks for taking time to talk to us.