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How This Self-Taught Jewelry Designer Scaled Way Up
Self-taught designer Cara Cotter started creating jewelry in her home in 2005, but these days she does her designing above her own Edmonton storefront, So Pretty. The brand uses semi-precious stones for a unique feel aimed at the stylish professional woman. “We want everything from start to finish to be a really luxurious experience,” says Cara. And from their seasonal collections, to their signature packaging, the brand delivers. But starting a business didn’t always feel luxurious. “I started it at home online while my kids were young,” says Cara. “I made every piece for the first 10 years myself. As soon as they were in school full time, I scaled it.”
That scaling lead to a wholesale business, but with the cost of materials going up and down, Cara decided to diversify. “That’s when we started doing pop ups. We realized we were so busy. I hadn’t even thought about doing an actual store until we saw the potential.” Now, along with a team of four, Cara sells statement pieces that are meant to empower women with names like “Courage,” “Harmony,” and “Balance.” “Because our shop is right below our design studio, having a retail store has actually been the perfect incubator for this whole project.”
The products enable small businesses to pull the weight of a much larger company.
A design studio above, a storefront below, and the tech to keep it all running smoothly
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without Shaw Business,” she adds. So Pretty uses SmartWiFi to keep the business running, from the website, to the POS system, to communicating between staff members. And anyone with a bricks and mortar establishment knows reliable internet is the key to successful customer relationships. “Even in our pop ups we used Shaw Business WiFi,” she says, mentioning that if the internet in the store went out, her staff would need to rely on their own data to run the app-based POS. And a luxury customer experience certainly doesn’t include a spotty connection.
Staying connected across the world
As CEO and head designer, Cara spends her day juggling the design studio upstairs, the storefront downstairs, and liaising with her producers in Jaipur, a special economic zone in the Indian Pavilion where she employs silversmiths and gemstone experts to handcraft the pieces she envisions.
That’s where SmartVoice Collaborative comes in to save her time. The product enables small businesses to pull the weight of a much larger company, with tools like voicemail to email, video conferencing, and on-hold messaging—when the CEO can’t get to every call on the first ring. “I firmly believe in working smarter, not harder,” says Cara. “If I can send a voicemail straight to an email, I’m happy to do that.”
Making people happy is why Cara got into her business in the first place, after all. “It’s so satisfying. It’s really surreal because I don’t think I really envisioned that when I first started the company.” From her own kitchen table, to a boutique in Edmonton—soon to be two—the entire journey has been one giant evolution. “And the whole evolution of every project—that’s what drives me.”