Starting, scaling, and sourcing. How Esmeralda Lambert took small steps to bring her entrepreneurial dream to life.
Like many entrepreneurs, the start of Esmeralda Jewelry, Accessories, and Gifts, was part passion, part chance, part ingenuity. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Esmeralda Lambert worked with local artisans to create the jewelry she so passionately wanted to bring to life. Large statement pieces would be worked and woven into pieces of art, grabbing the attention and inquiry of women whom showed up in various ways throughout Lambert’s life. Finally, at her company holiday party, an executive level woman offered a high price to have the necklace Lambert was wearing replicated and sent to her. That’s when passion translated to product.
While she always dreamed of owning her own store, Esmeralda Lambert knew enough not to jump in without considering the risk of retail. Taking on long term leases without having a firm understanding of product market fit and financials is a recipe for failure. Instead, Lambert began building her business by incrementally gathering data as she tested and expanded the product line in order to gauge the appetite of her future customers.
Step one in mitigating her business risk? Lambert teamed up with fellow Babson alumna and TisTik store owner to bring her products into an existing retail space in the bustling area of Harvard Square, Cambridge. Lambert quickly became a featured artisan, sitting alongside of other Latina brands and designers, and saw success as she continued to sell through the retail channel. But after two years of selling, the TisTik owner decided to close her doors. Instead of packing up her pieces, Lambert pulled together a financial model to see what success would look like in that particular market and negotiated a two-year lease to test out her very own retail concept. Today, the Harvard Square store serves as the Esmeralda flagship location and has been named to Boston’s A-List for Best Accessories two years in a row.
As the Harvard Square flagship store continued to prosper, Lambert wanted to take the concept to other retail locations. But just because she had seen success in one place, didn’t mean that she would be able to keep the doors open somewhere else. As she continued to explore her options, Lambert received advice from two Babson Professors and business mentors whom she had stayed in touch with:
- Testing new product fit is vital in unknown markets. Consider using a pop-up model approach to mitigate risk while testing new locations.
- If utilizing a pop-up model, investing in extra display tables, jewelry stands, and lighting is key – both to increase current sales while reusing for future stores to generate higher ROI.
The pop-up model gave Lambert the option to soften financial risk while providing a testing ground for her products, pricing, and marketing.
Moving ahead with the pop-up strategy, Lambert made her way into Faneuil Hall with a full size store. Thanks, in part, to discussions she had started two years prior, Lambert was notified when a space was available and opened up during the historic location’s busy summer months. Soon after, the Chestnut Hill mall reached out, where higher-end stores such as TUMI, Tiffany’s, and Bloomingdale’s reside. Wanting to test the holiday months in order to understand if a high-end shopping center, and its corresponding demographics, lined up with her product offerings, she negotiated a short-term lease with the space owner.
Beautiful in their own right, Lambert’s designs pop as you enter the Chestnut Hill space, adorning jewelry displays as soon as you step foot into the carefully curated store. But in a location that big, Lambert needed more, and wanted to offer an experience where a diverse set of women with varied tastes would be able to find something they could fall in love with.
To curate the many brands that occupy her shelves, Lambert is strategic about her sourcing and relationship management. She attends up to four trade shows a year, getting access to a range of local and global designers. As the products are purchased from her varied spaces, she maintains repurchases from primary designers who have strong customer demand, while rotating in new designers to keep inventory fresh. Other store owners offer their suggestions for new products that do well in their retail channels, while customers let her know what they love and want more of.
Today, you can see each of these artists’ creations strategically placed throughout a light filled space, sprinkled with holiday décor that brings out the color of the pieces. In just a few years, Lambert has turned her passion for jewelry creation into a storefront that tells the stories of designers and creators from all over the world. This holiday season, go visit one of her shops and see how she turned small steps into the space that she always dreamed of.
You can also find Esmeralda in the Babson WIN Lab Holiday Gift Guide, here.
Can’t make it to the new Chestnut Hill location? For the month of December 2018, you can also find Esmeralda Jewelry, Accessories, and Gifts in New Hampshire at the Mall at Rockingham Park.