I'm so excited about this post! I had the pleasure of meeting Madison at market and loved having her out to the country where she wrote this. What an insightful, beautiful, talented and well-spoken woman. Man she wrapped up my thoughts better than I can! Enjoy this fresh and delightful look at SB...
A Gem of a Career
Sarah Briggs established herself as a jewelry designer in 2004. Briggs started making jewelry as a hobby while working as a nanny and eventually started to sell her pieces. She turned down her dream career when she had the opportunity to start her own brand called SARAH BRIGGS.
Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015
By: Madison Marchetti
DALLAS-Sarah Briggs waits with opening arms at the door on her front porch clad in her orange T-shirt and black sweats. She escorted her 10 a.m. guest into her cozy living room where her baby boy rests in a newborn lounger on the cream leather couch. He smiles at his mother, blue eyes sparkling, as she begins her workday in her home office. The bubbly designer is a mother of two living with her husband on five acres of land in the southern suburbs of Dallas.
Despite the informal, somewhat Earth Mother type environment, Briggs is a top tier jewelry designer. Her office is filled with the accoutrements of business and design while in a nearby room cases of gems, leather, and metal are stacked neatly ready for assembling.
"I've always been an artist," Briggs said. "If I'm not creating something, I'm going to explode."
Briggs sought success with 13 different jobs or attempted start-ups right out of college. These ranged from working for a mosaic tile company to designing wedding cakes. In 2004 while living in Philadelphia, she was offered her dream career, a buyer position for Neiman Marcus. This buyer position wasn't scheduled to start for another five months, so Briggs devoted her time to her job as a nanny and as a creative outlet she created jewelry.
When the start date for her job with Neiman Marcus approached, she spent an entire day in a nearby park assessing her options to create her own brand or to begin her secure job, and she came to a conclusion. The Saturday before she was supposed to begin her job, Briggs called Neiman Marcus, and turned down their offer. Within months of making this daring decision, celebrities on the red carpet were wearing her designs, and she had over 2,000 accounts around the world.
Pieces from Rock II collection dangle from Briggs' jewelry rack in her office.
Photo by: Madison Marchetti
"Twelve years ago when she was trying to decide what she should do, start a jewelry line or continue working for Neiman Marcus, I would see her hustle coming home with her little photo album in her hand that carried pictures of her pieces," Katherine Bishop, social media manager for Briggs said. "Twelve years later those buyers are coming to her, but she's still hustling and working hard."
Briggs’ first client was Cotton Island, an upscale retail store in Dallas. According to Briggs, the only reason she had the courage to ask the owner if she would sell four pairs of earrings in her store was that Briggs' father had delivered the owner’s kids. She went into the store the next day to see how the earrings looked on display, but was embarrassed when they weren't displayed anywhere. Anxious to leave, Briggs was trying to sneak out of the store, only to be stopped by the owner who informed her that the earrings had sold as soon as the store opened. The woman wanted triple orders on those earrings and also wanted new designs. Briggs was just 24 years old.
In October 2004, following her success with Cotton Island, Briggs had a temporary booth at the Dallas Market Center to showcase her SARAH BRIGGS line. Dallas Market Center approached her after hearing about her three Dallas accounts, including Cotton Island, and encouraged her to have a booth at the upcoming market. The market became a defining point—Briggs now considered herself a designer and marked the time that her career launched.
Although Briggs' business started out locally in Dallas where she was born and raised, she quickly expanded her brand internationally. One of her big accounts is for an MTV announcer in Australia. Celebrities such as Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Paris Hilton have worn her pieces. Her account on Etsy, a marketplace where people around the world connect both online and offline to buy and sell unique goods, allows her to gain more exposure. Just recently, a Canadian found her through wholesale on the site.
The sun's rays shine through the wide windows in Briggs's living room as she holds her newborn son Rock. The screened-in porch allows for the ideal spot for her family to enjoy the natural beauty rural Waxahachie has to offer.
The humble designer believes that if one is passionate about her career, then she doesn't have to force herself to work.
"I can't follow rules," Briggs said when talking about her artistry. Being a designer allows her to construct new pieces the way she envisions them. She wants something new to show the fashion industry. No one shows her how to design her jewelry; she sees her vision herself and discovers a way to make it work.
Leather tassel earrings rest on the jewelry rack.
"That's what our industry needs, new ideas," Briggs said.
Briggs's unique designs stem from her love for engineering things; this inspired her to create collections using metals and leather. Her two latest collections, Rock I and Rock II are inspired by Art Deco, and offer a minimalistic look. Both of the ideas for these two collections came to her first thing in the morning at 5 a.m. after she had attempted three or four different ideas. Once she has an idea, she typically gets right into constructing the metals, however sometimes she sketches her vision and passes it off to the designers who specialize in constructing the pieces.
Unique materials in Briggs' office wait for assembly
"I'm an artist. If anything, I want to bring something new. I don't even use jewelry as an inspiration...I'm trying to express my art through the metal," Briggs said.
Briggs' line has grown from staple pieces made with basic metal options to a full-blown line with options for everyone. She has maintained her basic product, as well as added collections that are edgy, fun and full of color. As she has grown, she has made a point to constantly introduce unexpected elements into her designs.
"The growth of her business has allowed her to hire quality employees who can do everything from run a market, to deliver pieces to stores," Megan Bullard, former marketing manager at Fashion Industry Gallery (F.I.G.), said.
Briggs has two full time designers who work with (or for) her in her home studio in Waxahachie, TX. Both Viridiana Ruvalcaba and Cyndi Carol have different strengths. Carol can copy a literal interpretation of what she is shown, whereas Ruvalcaba uses more artistry and speed when working on new designs. Briggs claims her plans for her pieces are imperfect, which is why her two designers help craft her line.
"It's like I'm working with my sister," her artisan, Ruvalcaba, said. "With her life experiences she's helped me make big changes in my life and been a good example to me."
Earrings hang on acrylic jewelry racks while being stored.
Jewelry designing and crafting is a competitive industry and often people are not a fan of every piece a designer creates. Designers are engulfed in a world of incessant criticism and opinions, and those who are quick to shoot down such critiques rarely make it to the point of success. There is no room for fear of rejection. It is hard to have faith in herself, Briggs said. Once at a market in New York, a woman told her "don't tell the designer, but I just don't get this phase" unaware that she was speaking to the designer.
Briggs considers herself 99 percent artist and 1 percent businessperson. She works among her growing family, chicken coups, and buzzing beehives. There is a crib in her office so she can work while giving attention to her 2-month-old baby boy. She isn't the most legalistic person, and she claims to be not all that professional. Nonetheless, the way she does operate her brand has proved to be successful for both her family and her business.
"Sarah has always had a great sense of work-life balance, and she is excellent at knowing when to pull her employees in for help...She is a super hero!" Bullard said. Bullard has known Briggs since 2008 when she started working at F.I.G. The two have developed a relationship since they met at market.
She and her employees laugh about the fact that they can see cows on the nearby farms as they make the jewelry. Although she was a city girl, her husband wanted some acreage when they settled down, which is how they ended up in Waxahachie.
When she was having her first child, Goldie, she sent one of her employees to a market in New York, and when it was over, the merchandise was shipped back to Texas. More than $50,000 worth of jewelry was lost in the mail. The birth of her baby gave Briggs a new perspective about what is important; she had a healthy baby girl and the lost jewelry was all replaceable.
As for future plans or ideas, Briggs said, “I've been dying to design an equestrian line and go super western with it in the most modern way...I want to take what people might see as out dated and make it really 'now.' I see it reading very Bohemian and even chic.”
Briggs cherishes both her personal and professional success. “I am so honored by the following I have after doing this for 12 years and hearing what they have to say brings me so much joy! In fact as a weird artist it makes me feel like there are people who 'get' me and isn't that all the (professional) validation we're looking for?”
As for the more important, personal success, Briggs need not say anything. Her joy at the success of her life with husband and children infuses every movement, every syllable. She has come home, and she knows it.
Name: Sarah Briggs
Title: Jewelry Designer
Name: Megan Bullard
Title: former Marketing Manager at Fashion Industry Gallery
Name: Viridiana Ruvalcaba
Name: Katherine Bishop
Title: Social Media