Jet lag as defined by Miriam Webster: “a condition that is characterized by various psychological and physiological effects (such as fatigue and iterability) occurs following a long flight through several times zones, and probably results from disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body”.
Jet lag can be rough if not managed properly when traveling for work. I have been in this predicament many times during my travels visiting various jewelry factories abroad.
When faced with that upside-down feeling that jet lag will give you upon arrival to Asia from the US it is certainly a mental and physical challenge. In the jewelry industry, International travel has evolved from a fun team building experience to a must do chore. It is critical to get in front of your suppliers and break bread or in the case of Chinese business culture, drink tea! Nothing solidifies trust and affirms partnership like visiting your vendors manufacturing facility to see things form their perspective, get your hands dirty and solve the problems that might take weeks to uncover remotely. But it can be an awfully expensive, stressful, and time-consuming endeavor.
Having said that there is still an initial investment of 18-24 hours of travel to arrive to your destination and then the onslaught of the gravitational pull of jet lag. My strategy which I believe has worked for many years is to depart on the latest flight possible from the United States locked and loaded with a full charge on the laptop and plenty of jewelry industry related reading materials for the journey. Prior to my trip I usually plan out to the minute and confirm all my initial vendor meetings and jewelry factory visits so that my supplier community is on the ready and then proceed from my morning arrival in Hong Kong directly to my first meeting.
Most arrival days will consist of two or three meetings and a dinner just to break the seal with the vendor. By doing this I get a jump on my sourcing and product development agenda as well as force myself to be accountable to the individuals I have booked time with. Usually there is a window in the early evening where my jet lag kicks in, and it is touch and go for a little while but if I persevere and push through and make it through the evening.
A natural byproduct of jet lag is early rising which is best dealt with a combination of things. Firstly, early morning project review and development instructions prior to upcoming meetings gives the vendor partners a clear picture of what I will be expecting in terms of design and development requirements or discussion points regarding purchasing negotiations. Secondly is some much needed me time. A little exercise in the form of the hotel gym pool for a few laps or a brisk walk in a nearby square to get the blood pumping. Thirdly is of course a solid balanced breakfast inclusive of fruits grain and proteins. The hotels usually have the familiar continental breakfast menu. Many times, I will invite a local supplier to breakfast with me which gives us time to catch up in a relaxed environment. Breakfast is important because there are many days during my trip when there just is not time in the itinerary for a traditional sit-down Chinese lunch and then next meal is not seen until dinner time.
Inevitably after repeating this process on or about day three the crash occurs, and I will sleep until nine or ten in the morning, usually occurring on a Sunday. This breakthrough makes for smooth sailing the rest of the time during my product development trip. Finally, my circadian rhythm has acclimated to the local time zone. Unfortunately, this means the worst is to come upon arrival home. But that is another story for another time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed so much they way we now lives ours lives young and old. It has changed the way our children are educated and the way we now approach work day to day. I think perhaps the biggest thing that has changed is that it forced people to get over their fear of the internet and technology. I never would have thought my parents would be on a zoom call or sending money by Venmo to their grand kids for their birthdays eight months ago. My mom who was always reluctant to bank online, who still writes checks in stores and who refused to use an ATM machine now does all her banking online as well as all her shopping even for groceries. I really believe the pandemic has changed many people’s shopping habits, across all generations and has solidified people’s confidence in eCommerce. After witnessing my parents own digital reformation first hand into becoming tech savvy shoppers I really think the pandemic has at the very least ushered a generation of leery online users into the digital age.
The pandemic has made it now more clear than ever, for any “brick and mortar” stores or “mom and pop” jewelry stores to conduct sales as normal they will need a website and a social media presence. The need to capitalize on social media and online sales quickly, if they aren’t already in order to continue to survive is paramount. However the struggle is real for the average mom and pop competing against big-box stores for those online clicks.
But I truly don’t think the situation is not as dire as one would think. Mom and pop store owners have grit and tenacity. They treasured neighborhood gems and offer a level of sincerity that big-box stores can’t. These great little, family-owned or independent businesses are often staples in their communities and loved by the local clientele. Independent shops tend to also offer a stellar level of customer service with respects to things like customization, flexibility of price and trustworthiness. The key, I believe is for them to replicate this personable approach to customer service and perceived extra value in their online business. They used to say make sure to answer your store phone, now I’m telling you to check your emails frequently.
While online shopping seems to booming during the pandemic due to store closures and reduced occupancy, selling online still has it draw backs. The customer in just a few clicks can at astonishing speeds quickly price your products out elsewhere to see if they are getting the best deal. Potential shoppers are scouring the internet daily for items they are interested in purchasing making competition with big-box stores prices near to impossible. So how can the average mom-and-popjewelry store compete? I think the solution is to offer a unique selection of product exclusive to the store. I a line of jewelry that they can’t comparison shop or purchase elsewhere.
Basically I think every independent jeweler should have their own website and social media presence. Independent jewelers should work on designing an exclusive brand of jewelry with a look and price point unique to their store. A good product development plan and a strong marketing plan is a must. But if the concept is well thought out, and marketed locally and online through social media and the store has really honed in on their customers needs it should be successful.
Fortunately or unfortunately during this crazy time we are living in, most of us now work from home more often. For me, actually my entire family is working from home more frequently these days especially with college going remote. This creates a multitude of other issues that go beyond the WiFi struggle. When remote college is in session it’s like living in a library being Shh-ed constantly by some young adult. As a result of the pandemic I now spend more and more time at home doing everything from designing new jewelry collection, writing website, and blog content, working on social media campaigns to preparing business taxes. Admittedly sometimes more home work desk is in my yard among my garden to avoid the college student lecture on silence. I guess things could be much worse. Because of this, my workspace has to be portable because it is constantly changing and probably a little chaotic at times. Holding the clutter at bay is challenging, so I prefer to keep nearby only a few quality items that serve multiple purposes over a stockpile of things I might never need.
I keep a ruler and small pencil case with a few pens, high lighters, mechanical pencils, and eraser. I also have my planner and and a small note book. My kindle is always charged and near by encase I need to download a book for research. I also started using an external portable hard drive for all my image files. My most favorite thing has to be my lined sticky note pad. I think I’d be lost without my sticky notes.
Aside from the basic cell phone and charger I have learned the extremely hard way to have a securely cover beverage container. Even my coffee cup has a lid. I’m constantly multi tasking and always knocking things over. Just because I’m working from doesn’t mean I stop being mom. I’m still the head house keeper, chauffeur and cook.
Working from home isn’t always easy. Just be flexibly and mobile so carry light.
Planning a new collection it a bit time consuming and can be very over whelming. Its important to set goals and expectations from the start.
When I start a jewelry collection idea I usually try to plan out every detail. My project planner is a pretty simple ring binder journal you can pick up from any stationery store. White paper for sketches and doodles. Ruled lines jot down my copious notes and ideas in my lees than perfect handwriting. I love to fill the pages to do lists, reminders, rough sketches, and ideas for blog posts. I also like to have a calendar. I usually go through one planner every month.
Get a calendar and a pencil because your dates will change. Then you should decide on a launch date. Are you aiming for a holiday debut like Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Is this direct to market or are you selling wholesale because those Christmas orders get paced early. When do you need your samples for your buyer or photography? Don’t forget to get your marketing plan in order. Back out the time for product development and add a few weeks because it doesn’t happen over night and there are always problems. Know your target market and customer. Then there is a design process that requires committing to a key concept and building out a collection from it. Decide on price points and material quantity and quality. Then you have to get models and samples. Source your packaging and manufacture. Be sure to leave plenty of time for any unforeseen issues.
If it’s planned properly, given enough time for development and marked well you should end up with a great collection terrific collection of jewelry designed for your customer.
LuoHu the Gateway to Jewelry Factories in China. LuoHu, one of the southernmost routes from Guangdong Provence mainland China to Hong Kong is the place where you pass through when you come to visit your China factories. A frenetic transportation hub, eclectic and somewhat questionable district in the ever-growing Shenzen city. Make sure you get on the right train going to the right place. LuoHu is the place where the Hong Kong MTR in the new territories meets the Shenzen Metro with the PRC checkpoint in between. When traveling by mass transit into mainland
China I would take the MTR to the Lo Wu station on the Hong Kong side and then begin my trek through the customs checkpoint. It is a surreal experience for sure especially after a long flight. Almost 100 million people pass through this hyper busy checkpoint annually, or at least pre-pandemic times. The sheer volume of the crowd is intense. It is competition for your personal space and its important to stand your ground without being confrontational.
Upon exiting the customs hall, you are thrust into an all-out assault on the senses with the intense noise volume, robust smells and smoke from a blend of burning cigarettes and street food carts that hit you all at once. The immediate onslaught of your senses, while not necessarily bad can feel extremely overwhelming and confusing. Almost intoxicating at times. It is all further exasperated by the constant calls and shouts from local unlicensed livery drives, the chatter of locals waiting for their loved one or international travelers asking directions to the nearest copy mall.
Most of my Asia trips are planned around jewelry and consumer product trade shows on the mainland like the Shenzen jewelry and manufacturing show or the Canton fair in Guangzhou as well as the Hong Kong Jewelry and watch fair so that I could get the most out my time on the ground. I usually would arrive in HK airport early morning call my wife to say good night and then make my way to mainland China to start working the same day. To normalize and “push through” the jetlag I would plan factory visits and meetings right off the bat. In order to maximize my days in China as much as possible I would move from district to district traveling in a circular flow starting in Shenzen, making my way up through Dongguan then circling west towards Panyu the gold district of the region then back to Shenzen before returning to Hong Kong again.
Generally, after all my travel to Asia I find China is a safe country to travel around for business. Most of the Chinese people you meet are pleasant, straightforward, and basically dependable. However, China like Europe and areas in popular tourist cities in the US is far is from being immune to crime. So, take the usual traveling precautions and enjoy your factory tours and the local cuisine.
Who me? Organized? My husband might tell you otherwise, but I do find it hard to keep track of our weekly schedule. You know: school, swimming, grocery shopping, tidying up, paying bills, remembering appointments and so on. Fortunately, in our house we all pitch in. No one person does everything. But we do have a little secret that helps our day run more smoothly.