THE BIZ BUZZ (a very sparkly interview)
A Conversation With Andrew Sequeira and Lee Romano Sequeira by Christna Hamlett of The Biz Buzz|
“All that glisters is not gold.” The Merchant of Venice
Nope, “glisters” isn’t a typo; it’s what The Bard actually wrote but which is oft misquoted as “glitters.” For the purposes of this month’s interview with the Sequerias, husband and wife owners of Sparkle Plenty Designs, Inc., the combination of glitter, glitz and glam has not only served them well as a successful business enterprise but also enabled them to accomplish it all side-by-side.
Q: Let’s start out with some background on what the two of you were doing before you decided to launch Sparkle Plenty Designs.
A: (Lee): Andrew’s background was in financial management, I.T. recruiting and sales; I studied computer technology in college, but that just wasn’t suited for my personality. I needed something a bit more creative, so I began in advertising, which led into the world of book publishing (loved it!). I guess our varied life experiences – together with being “people people” – helps us in our everyday business dealings (and we both enjoy the gift of gab, too).
Q: What was the inspiration behind Sparkle Plenty Designs?
A: (Lee): I founded our “sister” site GoodtoBeYou.com, which started because I love shopping for spa items, accessories and a variety of feminine things. It all began after attending a beauty show in NYC – I came home with the idea and began hunting for things I personally loved and hoped others would as well. A few years later, I came up with an idea for what I called our Dare to Wear” line of sparkly tees with cheeky phrases on them, so I called one of my vendors, Sparkle Plenty Accents, for help since I was already buying crystal shirts from their company. One conversation led to another, and Andrew and I ended up acquiring their whole business in January of 2006, and made it our own by changing the name to Sparkle Plenty Designs.
Q: How did you initially go about promoting the business?
A: (Andrew):We worked a number of trade shows (as vendors), primarily in the beauty, spa and tanning industries. Our first few years we seemed to be traveling all the time with a dozen shows to attend — it was difficult to be away from the business, so we took a hiatus from the trade show circuit a few years back. With the recession, that decision was made easier, as the shows we attended saw a drop-off in attendee traffic while the booth fees in some cases had gone up in cost. (We miss some of the travel, but there’s plenty to keep us busy at home).
Q: Is your model primarily based on catalog sales, website orders, showroom, trade shows?
A: (Andrew): At this point, we primarily work with promotional companies, as well as corporations in different industries – you name it, we’ve probably worked with them! There are still the spas/salons – the beauty industry we started with. We also have a retail presence at our online store featuring rhinestone and crystal tees, caps, jewelry and accessories.
Q: What kind of sparkly creations are in your product line and what’s the most popular item?
A: (Lee): Custom rhinestone and crystal apparel is really the heart of our business, but our Swarovski crystal bracelets and temporary body crystals (a.k.a. “bling” body tattoos) are very popular, and we’ve sold them in over 12 countries.
Q: And your primary demographic?
A: (Lee): I have to say, that’s pretty easy — I love sparkle, women love sparkle, so anyone who loves sparkly things, which is pretty much all women!
Q: Do you do special request orders? If so, what are some of the more unusual items people have asked you to create?
A: (Andrew): Yes, as Lee mentioned, custom apparel is our specialty. We really enjoy seeing these logos come to life for our customers, and their positive feedback really makes us feel great about the quality of our work. As far as unusual, what comes to mind is the backside of bikini bottoms; we did those for a runway show promoting a woman’s cocktail brand a few years back.
Q: What’s a typical work day like for the two of you?
A: (Lee): Coffee is our morning’s best friend! We begin our day with some nice strong coffee and usually discuss any pending orders or rush custom orders, and/or run down all of the designs we either need to have artwork submitted for, provide a quote, or get made and out the door. While we have an office location a few blocks from our house where we produce our crystal apparel, we begin our days typically working on our laptops across a kitchen table from each other, and quite frequently, this is how our days play out…by evening, we’re in our living room, still on our laptops. We talk throughout the day about everything we’re working on – custom work, social media, new biz ideas, etc. – sometimes we’re still having these conversations as we’re getting into bed. We walk our dogs together most of the time, we play with them a lot (always great fun), and occasionally, we break from work to change the routine: go to a museum, work out, go shopping. We eat together for the most part, go out socially together, and spend most of our weekends together. As my sister recently commented by email, “It’s amazing you two still like each other.” We recently celebrated 13 years of marriage, 7 of which have been in this business.
Q: You’re in a unique situation in that you not only get to work from home but that you’re also around each other 24/7. What are some of the challenges in this arrangement; i.e., separating your “work” day from your “personal” day?
A: (Andrew): Luckily we do have that office/workshop space just a few blocks away, and after our morning meetings I usually head to the office and make sure all deliverables are coming along smoothly. We’re also lucky enough to have an awesome assistant, Ann Marie, who holds down the fort at that space. As with most business owners, your workday often blurs into a work evening in the house, so the one downside is that you don’t quite feel the separation of home and work.
Q: If a husband and wife approached the two of you and said, “We’re thinking of going into business together,” what are the top three pieces of advice you would give them?
A: (Lee): We both agree on this one: always keep a sense of humor, and try to delegate who should be accountable for what specific business tasks – and even household/office tasks for that matter. Think about what talents each of you bring to the table.(Andrew): Definitely agree on the humor – we’re both silly people, so that helps. For prospective husband/wife biz partnerships, make sure you’re comfortable just with the idea of working together. People may romanticize the idea of being independent and being their own bosses, but the day-to-day reality of working together is another thing entirely. You have to see your roles in a different light than what you’re accustomed to, and ….you’ll be spending a lot of time together. If a marriage is struggling in any way, working together will only amplify that, so think carefully about it.
Q: What’s the best part about having your spouse as your business partner?
A: (Lee):Andrew knows how to make me laugh even on the roughest days. Yes, we do have our “moments” but we always say if we’ve been working together for seven years and we’re still smiling, I guess we’re doing something right. Andrew is also a very sharp; he’s great with numbers and has a very good memory for details. He also knows how to keep me grounded when I get a bit overwhelmed. (Andrew): Lee is a sharp thinker and natural problem solver. I’ve learned a lot from her over the course of time, and in business, that trait is invaluable. I’m always confident that we’ll find our way through just about anything when we put our heads together. I often ask for her input for that reason. And, she can also keep it light and funny.
Q: Okay, here’s a fun and silly hypothetical. Every Christmas, Victoria’s Secret comes out with the blingiest of blingy bras that costs squillions. If money were no object to create your own bling-to-the-max holiday product, what would it look like?
A: (Lee): Wow! I would love to crystallize an entire car and drive it around the city – what fabulous advertising would that be?!(Andrew): How about a house? Just think Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, and then, multiply that 1000 times over in blinding brightness!!
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: (Lee): We’d love to offer The Biz Buzz readers a special coupon or offer . Use GTBY10 on any tee order over $36.00 and we do have a buy 2 get 1 free Swarovski bracelet sale (I was going to end it , but I can keep it going). This offer is good with any of the Swarovski crystal stretch bracelets.
To learn more, readers are invited to visit Sparkle Plenty Designs Crystal & Rhinestone Apparel. The company is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.