New Podcast: Why Every Business Needs More “Downtime”
Rick Wilson speaks with Maya Jewelry owner Corey Lolley about the intangible elements of successful business.
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Online businesses making plans for the year this January can obviously be served by reflecting on what worked in 2020 and 2021, but for most successful ecommerce stores, effective leadership requires a component which can’t be quantified on a spreadsheet. Corey Lolley, owner and founder of independent jewelry brand Maya Jewelry, joined Rick Wilson on the Dragonproof Podcast to discuss the powerful benefits of investing authenticity and humanity into every facet of a brand.
Maya Jewelry is a growing success story, with distinctive hand-crafted fine art jewelry products, a loyal fan base already at 126k Instagram followers, and a strong, compelling leader who built the business from the ground up. But after an unbroken 13-year stretch of growth and great business, the brand suddenly saw revenue drop to zero for several months in the early days of the pandemic, in a climate of total uncertainty. Temporarily closing shop in order to regroup, Corey leaned on the strength of her product, segment, and community.
“I always had faith that we were gonna be able to rebound from this because there is longevity in our industry in the sense that people are always gonna want the services that we provide. I just needed to weather this storm and hold my ground as much as possible. That felt true to myself and to the backbone of who the company is.”
Deciding to reopen and reshape the business was fueled by a form of active listening.
“I just allowed the business to dictate itself,” Corey says. “As orders started to come in, I was also watching social media, participating in the community, and taking note as shops were reopening. I just followed the cadence of what was coming at me, focusing my attention towards those people and nurtured those relationships. Slowly, it came back to where it was before.”
The social following that Corey developed from connecting with her community later had tangible benefits for her business. As many of her wholesale clients’ shops were only able to open with limited in-person shopping, consumers used Maya’s Instagram to identify products and prepare orders in advance. This created a ripple effect of trust, as store owners realized that Maya’s community presence fueled real loyalty to the brand.
Maya Jewelry is not just a seller, it’s also a manufacturer. To produce her products, Corey works closely with teams of artisans in Mexico who rely upon consistent year-round orders. So Corey knew that when Covid brought business to a halt, the livelihood of those workers had to factor into her plans. She chose to continue to pay those teams, even while all production was paused.
“That was obviously a big financial decision,” Corey says, “because I wasn't actually getting a product, but I just knew in my heart that the only responsible thing for me to do was to show up for them because they've been behind me this whole time. That was a stressful and scary part of navigating pandemic...I was not making any money, but I was still paying out a lot of money.”
One practical result of this decision was that workers did not need to find other employment during the down time, and were ready and available to work when orders picked back up...which they eventually did in a huge way. As holiday 2021 jewelry industry sales rose 32% over 2020, Maya Jewelry fared even better in 2021, to the tune of a 75% revenue increase year-over-year against 2019.
As Rick recently explored in his book Dragonproof Principles, a healthy leader inspires a healthy business in direct, observable ways. “Healthy leadership in every sense doesn't just flow to your employees,” Rick says. “It flows through your brand.”
In addition to supporting community and the production team, a key aspect of the brand’s rebound has been the ripple effect of Corey’s strong self-care priorities and practices. These include setting intentional morning time, meditating, writing, reading, or just going for a walk with her dog. These simple activities aren’t just tools for managing stress.
“You can feel the difference in the workroom and see it in the orders,” Corey says. The reverse is also true.
“When I’m not taking the time to have self-care, I can directly see the result of that in my sales,” she says. “It almost feels like magic. If I can stay centered and strong, then everything around me is gonna reflect that.”
Throughout the past two years, Corey’s community-forward leadership and holistic decision-making process have been the crucial ingredients which propelled her brand’s growth and success through a difficult period. The many crossroads of the past few years gave her the opportunity to hone those priorities and demonstrate the authenticity of her brand to a broader audience.
“Ultimately, the hardest part of being a business person is the being at peace with the uncertainty of it all,” Rick says. “Greeting that uncertainty with grace and humanity is the mark of a great leader, and the foundation of a business that thrives.”
To hear the full conversation, please visit the Dragonproof Ecommerce website.
Miva offers a flexible and adaptable ecommerce platform that evolves with businesses and allows them to drive sales, maximize average order value, cut overhead costs, and increase revenue. Miva has been helping businesses realize their ecommerce potential for over 20 years and empowering retail, wholesale, and direct-to-consumer sellers across all industries to transform their business through ecommerce.