Starting a Jewelry Business

Interview with Shenoa & Co. Diamonds Founder Leon Bitelman

Interested in starting an online retail business? Leon Bitelman provides us with some helpful tips on how to get rolling.

Faina and Leon Bitelman have been running their New York Diamond retail business since 1980. However how it got started is a very interesting story, thanks for stopping by to share it with us, Leon.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

Founded in 1980, SHENOA & CO. is one of the fastest growing online retailers of certified diamonds and fine jewelry. SHENOA & CO. Online is built on a simple idea: purchasing quality diamond jewelry does not have to be an expensive event.

When did you start the business?

I started nearly 30 years ago, in July 1980.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

It was 1 July 1980 when we arrived in New York City to follow our dream of success to the United States, armed with larger than life hopes, our diamond trade knowledge, and only a quarter in our pocket. Originally from Russia, Faina and I knew we would have to leave our country in order to become successful, packing what little belongings we owned and heading west to the land of opportunity. After a short stay toiling vineyards and picking grapes in Italy, Faina and I determined our future was best suited in the United States of America. Our humble beginnings lead us down the path from weekday factory work to a weekend peanut vendor in midtown Manhattan. Our nights were filled with the creation of private label jewelry and mastering our diamond trade skills while days were spent learning the business of people. From rags to riches to outgrowing our first retail store, we implemented our diamond skill set and opened Shenoa & Co. located at 1 West 47th Street.

Did you have a partner when you started your business?

After being in business for one year I took on a partner on a deal to deal basis. This went on for about another year until we decided to go our separate ways. From this experience, I decided it is better to have Managers and employees than a partner.

With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?

I reccommend being hands on delegating, but keeping a close watch over all aspects of business.

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?

At different times we outsourced i.e. (production,technology.inventory needs) , but came to realize that it was more cost effective and controllable to do so in house so now all facets of Shenoa & CO are run from store and office.

Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?

Absolutely. What started out small has gained slow, but steady traction. We have a growing Facebook page where we regularly blog and introduce new product and sale specials. I lean on my employees to keep up emails as a marketing tool and connection to our customer base.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

Delegate obligations to employees (while still maintaining overall responsibility) and promote our growth expect results. By doing so I've held costs low by getting more from less.

Its always great to hear from entrepreneurs who get up and running from scratch. Thank you very much, Leon.

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