Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone. Welcome to the agile entrepreneur podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is for entrepreneurs who want to start and build their own business with passion, purpose, perseverance, and possibilities. Today I'm very excited to introduce a guest I know quite well and who started very, very young Adrian Blanco. Adrian, welcome.
Adrian: I liked that. The four PS. That's my jam.
Ramesh: That's right.
Adrian: That's what I yell when they wake up in the morning. You know, passion and perseverance. I love it. Thanks for having me.
Ramesh: Yeah, you're welcome, man. So, what's your business? What's the current business that you have?
Adrian: I own Adrian Blonc with jewelry. It's located in Folsom, California. And we've been in business for a, heading into three years now. I recently celebrated my 20th year in the industry. I know 20 years. I'm not even 40 yet.
Ramesh: Yeah, you don't even look 25.
Adrian: I know it's been an awesome journey, but you know, finally three years ago decided to do it. You know, now's the time. Open up your own business. And here we are.
Ramesh: So, Adrian so one thing that comes to my mind whenever I look at you, you're a bundle of energy, [01:15 inaudible] if there is a one word. So, tell me a little bit about why you decided to start your own business.
Adrian: Well, so going into the jewelry business I would say was kind of an accident. So, most people that have been in business as long as I have and as young as I am, they are probably your family members. And in high school I literally was just looking for an afterschool job that was not in the food industry. A typical high school job, delivering paper and all that stuff. And I was very, I’ve always liked the idea of business being in, I don't think I knew that word entrepreneur then, but I was part of a club called the future business leaders of America.
Ramesh: How young were you at the time? Where we talked about.
Adrian: We are talking about junior year in high school, 17. So, it's always been in the back of my mind. I liked the idea of going to a job, dressing up, looking good. In my early days I thought maybe I'd go to law school, but my senior year I turned 18. I was wrestling, I got injured and I really, I definitely need to do something to earn some money because you know, as an 18-year-old, you want to have cars, you know, you want everything. And I stumbled upon a job in a jewelry store locally in Davis. That's I would say my third job. But my first I would say real, real job and it was just an afterschool job and I was doing the cleanup, but eventually I grew in it. After graduating high school, I told my boss that this is an industry I want to get into. I want to learn more. So, he took me on as an apprentice. So, I went to school to learn benchwork actually making jewelry. I went the school to learn gemology. Eventually I ended up managing his firm, his business.
Ramesh: So, you accidentally stumbled into the jewelry business. It's not that something that you worked in it for some time and then just right after high school just tumbled into a jewelry business.
Adrian: No, so literally made the way through senior year, I applied for a job there. I got the job out of like over 50 applicants. I got the job and I thought, I talked to my boss later on, like, what was it? And he said, it’s the way you carried yourself and I think I was the only one that showed up in the suit. And I didn't show with my girlfriend or a friend with my skateboard, you know, so when I talk to young folks nowadays when I go to a junior highs and high school, I talk about my journey. I tell them that first impression is very important. You put your best foot forward. And I’ve tried to live that you know, till this day.
Ramesh: So how long did you work for this jeweler?
Adrian: 15 years. So, I worked for them for 15 years. And, you know, it was a point where I thought maybe there will be a, some kind of a succession, but he wasn't ready to go there yet, to pass the business on. So, I just made the decision that, you know, maybe it's time for me to pursue other things and I went the opposite way of going the corporate side of jewelry, which is night and day between the mom and pop style and with the corporation. Well there's so much more training as you know, and a lot more rules and I came in as a manager. So not only did I have to really learn a new style of being a jeweler, I had to implement it. I had to do the same thing, which I'm happy to say excelled my first year I made their president's club, but my heart wasn't in it. I feel like there's a difference when you, when someone calls you as a jeweler versus a jewelry salesman. As a jeweler you are, it's more than just the transaction. It's a building the relationship, I feel like it's going deeper, caring about why are they there. See the thing with jewelry, and this is I think what drew me into it, it's not just, it's not like go in the grocery store and buying something. You buy food because you have to eat. You don't need jewelry. So, it's, you know, the purchase is all around celebration. And I think that's something special to be in the middle of it, to be that person making that happen for these folks.
Ramesh: So, you are saying basically it's all about the people in terms of their relationships, their celebrations about...
Adrian: It is all about that. Cause you know what? That piece of jewelry I'm selling, Guess what? You can buy it in the next jewelry store. The diamond I'm selling you, you can buy it at Costco for crying out loud, but you know what they don't get? This guy. So, I'm all about building the relationship and I think throughout my jewelry career, that's what I’ve learned through develop. That's what it's been instilled in me by all my mentors and not just my, the boss, the boss I worked for, but people in the industry in itself, the jewelry business is a, the industry is very, it's a large, small industry if that makes sense.
Ramesh: What does that mean?
Adrian: Well, let's say you're a diamond dealer and you want to work with me, but you don't know me. You can call another diamond dealer and say, Hey Adrian Blanco and fulsome, is he reputable? I mean it could be your relationship with that time dealers ever met you is hanging by what another jeweler; another diamond dealer would say about you.
Because if you do good, if you do well, everyone will spread that and say, yeah, go check out Adrian. He's good, he's solid. If you do something bad, boy...
Ramesh: it spreads pretty fast.
Adrian: Yeah. You could end up not having any reputable or good dealers.
Ramesh: Okay, so you worked for the large jeweler, but you could have continued either there even though you're not happy you could have gone to some other jeweler. So, going from there was the next step was starting your own business.
Adrian: I think when I worked for corporate, I came to the realization that who am I, what kind of a person or jeweler do I want to be? How do I want to be coming home to my family? I'm realizing, you know, because on the corporate end it's all about numbers. It's all about, you know, it's all about moving product. And if you don't hit the mark, a lot of pressure. You don't make the money. And I just didn't like that feeling. I was a different person. Even my wife told me that, you know, you've changed. You're taking on a lot more stress. And it's not healthy. And I’ve always had, I knew my capabilities. I also know how much resources I have. I opened up the business with no money.
Ramesh: So, it's a huge jump going, working for somebody for 18 odd years and suddenly wanting to start your own business. How did that transition happen?
Adrian: Well I’ve always thought, I’ve always thought that I was going to take over the mom and pop that I worked for 15 years and that didn't happen.
Ramesh: So, you were preparing yourself.
Adrian: I’ve always prepared myself. So, in my mind, if this doesn't work, I'm going to open up my own business. But my wife told me, and this is how I ended up working for the corporate, on the corporate side, and my wife has her master's in management. So, whenever she says, I listened because she's the smart one in the relationship. And she said, you know, why don't you try working for another family or another business maybe. And I did, I gave it a try. And that's what led me to opening up my own store because I realize through and through, I am a small business. My heart is meant for a small business. Everything about me is all about the community. And giving back. And there are so many restrictions when you work for a big corporation. You know, and my heart just wasn't in it.
Ramesh: Okay. So, then you suddenly said, I’ll find this location and the brick and mortar. And is that how you started or was there a [09:19 inaudible].
Adrian: No, you know what it was tough because I didn't know anything about leasing. You know, I’ve owned homes, but on the commercial side I didn't do anything. So, I reached out to people that I know. I did work out of my home for a while for a couple months. And, I think for my wife, that was kind of like my way of, it's funny, my wife would tell me, you know, we'll put together a business plan. And like it's all in here. Somehow, I had a hard time putting it into paper. And I wish I had your book to guide me and, but I did the best I could do between the hours of 12 and four in the morning. And I came up with something, something concrete to get me started to kind of say, what are my goals? What am I envisioning? What am I looking at? How much money do I truly have to make this happen? And that was like the biggest hurdle, the money part. Cause I know am I going to get a personal loan? And you know, the only thing that, it's funny, the only thing that my wife said, I don't care how you do it. You just have to be the mortgage. I'll take care of the rest. Having a good partner like I did with my wife was very important.
Ramesh: Actually, you know what, I got to tell you one story here. When I was doing my MBA, so we had this CEO who came for keynote speech, the very first sentence she said, right, she was the CEO of the Maxwell coffee, said the most important thing is to marry the right person. So, I mean, she didn't talk about business. You have to do this, find the customer nothing. She said you have to, you know, marry the right person.
Adrian: I know I married the right person. I don't know if my wife feels she married the right person.
Ramesh: That's awesome.
Adrian: That's not true. She did marry the right person.
Ramesh: So, then you started this...
Adrian: I was working outside of my house and basically, I just showed the numbers. Yeah. I sort of sole proprietorship. I went down to Sacramento County and filled for a business and the business was coming and I was doing all this through social media. No website, no media.
Ramesh: Welcome to social media. You are the social media maverick in a second. Because there is going to be a segment on that one.
Adrian: But that's basically what I did. And I just said, Hey, look at these four deals. And it was double what I was making in the corporate world. Well, because I have no overhead. I have no overhead. So, basically the decision was if I can do this here in our living room, what else can I do Brick and mortar? When I opened up my business in 2017. I didn't know what to expect. I found 800 square foot office space next to, you know, it's kind of like a, it's like a rundown strip mall because it's not even a strip mall or whatever office Plaza and it's kind of an odd place to find a jeweler. But it worked. Because I feel like I set the expectation kind of low, but when they come in it's like, Oh wow. I wowed them. Right.
Ramesh: So, the location was not that critical for you, but your presence, your social presence and other things were important.
Adrian: So, in Folsom we have the historic district, which is great. We get a lot of tourists, we have the Bellagio, super expensive. And then you have your shopping, your strip malts with anchored by a grocery store. They're all great, but the rent was just so expensive. I found a place with the rent that I could manage. And I was working alone, so none of those other places were work because I could not handle a walk-in traffic because I was already busy. I'm opening up a business, with an existing clientele that I'm already servicing. And at that time really, I was doing more of a concierge style. I'll go to the house, bring it back to my shop. But within a month or two, I'm realizing, oh boy, like the words out there where you know, we're in town and people are coming in to check us out. So, within a month or two I'm having to hire people and I didn't expect that at all for my business to grow that fast.
Ramesh: That's awesome. So, the next segment, Adrian, so this is about the book, the 60-minute startup. So, something that...
Adrian: Congratulations by the way.
Ramesh: Oh, thank you. So, this book I selected about 30 entrepreneurs from the US right out of 700 plus that be shortlisted. And we are very, I am very honored to have you as one.
Adrian: I am very honored to be on the short list.
Ramesh: And then your chapter in the book starts with this title, if Energizer bunny were [13:48 inaudible] because the moment I look at you, it's like Energizer bunny. How does he get the energy right? And then we go into the details are especially about how you acquire customers through social media. So, this is the segment where, I mean, of all the people that I’ve known, you are a Maverick of social media, how you use, but the interesting thing is it doesn't seem like you are really promoting yourself. You're selling yourself. Okay. So, let's talk a little bit about what do you do on the social media first and then how you do it next.
Adrian: You know, so it's funny, I mean, I follow a few influencers, right? And I am not even close to what an influencer is. I may try to emulate some of them, but I think at the end of the day, so when I opened up the business with no money, I knew I wasn't going to be able to afford the big brands to help me to draw people in. So that's out. I know I can't afford to do big billboards.
Ramesh: Did you have a following when you started your business, or you built it afterwards?
Adrian: Well, at this point it's like I'm 17 years in the business. I have people following me from Davis, from Yellow County. And then when I worked for that corporate jewelry store, I developed a clientele there as well. So, the word went out that, you know, Adrian's not here anymore, but he went out on his own.
Ramesh: But this all like in person, like one-on-one. Social media was not there. But how did the social media happen?
Adrian: I’ve been doing social media for, whenever Facebook was coming about. At this point I haven't really embraced Instagram quite yet, but I knew in the beginning the brand was not going to be some big-name diamond jewelry brand. It's going to be Adrian Blanco. Who is Adrian Blanco? Everything you say about me, it's like what you see is what you get. And I just have to put it out there in the world you know, and hopefully people will like me enough that or find me interesting enough that they're going to say, I want to see that guy. But truthfully, the business comes from word of mouth. When you come meet, when you come to our store, you're going to get a different feeling, a non-pushy environment, a very, a little bit more, I want to say calm because I am this energetic in the store. And you know, I think it's like a, you know, people have told me you are like a breath of fresh air, you know, it's kind of nice coming in to a place like this, but we're not pushy. I don't have to sell anything. I hate the word sell or being called a salesman. When someone says, Oh, you're such a salesman. I actually took a little bit offense to that. Cause I don't know, I have an idea of what a salesman is and that's not who I am. You know, I like to be, that you were saying about being passionate, you know.
Ramesh: So, what are the things that you told me, which I still remember when somebody comes to you, you're not talking to them about selling anything. You're talking to them about their family. What are the events that are coming in their life and then that evolves into why they're buying? And so, talk a little bit about that.
Adrian: And I think it's not just in the jewelry industry, I think, I think in sales in general, whatever it is, it's good to know who you're working with and when you kind of break that barrier, when people come into a store or whatever, they are defensive. People are just naturally like that. And they teach this in sales training. It is true and it works. But I think sometimes we get so caught up in the numbers, making your numbers, make our quota. That's why in the shop I changed that. I'm trying to change the environment of a typical jewelry store where there's quotas where you have to sell something where you have to turn it over. I hate that word. Turnover. In my former job, they were big on that. So, let's say you come to my store. We build a rapport. Okay. These are sales terms I am using. And you say, Adrian, I really appreciate working with you, but I do need to take some time. I just started looking, this is the first shop I started looking at. It should be just a shake hand. Thank you so much. No, I have to turn you over to another salesperson. I have to come up with some saying, Oh, Ramesh, let me introduce you to someone.
Ramesh: I see. I saw that happened to myself. I did not realize that's what it is happening.
Adrian: people don't realize it because it's done so smoothly, and we train on this. We train people on this. It felt so unnatural. I literally have to go home and take a cold shower because now I feel like the 30 minutes, I spent getting to know you, I'm thinking gosh, does he think now that's all a fake. And it felt fake. It didn't feel genuine. In my store, the first person tell someone you don't have to buy anything. I want you to know it's about you and what you want. If you go somewhere else, I wish that I just hold that I say something enough to help you decide what you want to buy. At the end of the day, it's about what you want. And that's all I can give.
Ramesh: You're in a relationship business. You're not in the sales business.
Adrian: Absolutely, I'm in the relationship business and that's what sales should be. I don't care if you're selling cars and that's what's great. I tried to surround myself with likeminded people that are in the relationship business, you know? And I think business will last longer. Yeah. When that's your focus.
Ramesh: Yeah. And the second thing you said some time ago, I still remember if you take care of the community, the community will take care of you. I mean, you're very much in the community. So how do you balance how much time you have to spend on your business versus how much time you spend on your community?
Adrian: Ooh, boy. It's a juggling act. It's a juggling act. Well when I opened up a store in 2017, I kind of, and there's videos out there when I gave a speech, I think it's very you know, a lot of businesses will come into a town, they choose a specific town because they heard that it's a good place to open up a business. But just opening your doors is not enough, reaching out. And that's always been me in nature. I mean, I did this in Davis, my mentor kind of instilled that in me to give back. And also, it has to do with my upbringing too. I grew up, I went through, I received Jesuit education before high school and our motto was being a man for others. By the time I was in high school, I was or after high school I was involved, that's when I got involved in rotary. I was in Rotaract, which is, as you know, our motto is service above self. And I really live by those words and I believe in karma. I feel like the more you give out, the more you get back. Not that that's the reason you should be doing it, but that's just what happens. And I feel so blessed for the abundance of accolades I’ve received in the short tenure of my business that I just, that's where the feeling of like giving back comes from.
Ramesh: You want to talk about the awards that you got already in the last few years.
Adrian: So, I opened February 201, by October we were voted best jeweler by style magazine. The following year 2018, 2018 was crazy. We won style magazine again. Our local paper, Folsom demography in Eldorado Hills voted us best jeweler. And then we were voted emerging business of the year by the Folsom greater partnership. And that was just great man.
Ramesh: So, let me ask you this. These awards, do they translate into business?
Adrian: Absolutely. Because people, well, if you've never been through an establishment and you look up the wall and you see, you see, you know, pictures or sorry plaques, doesn't that give you a feeling of
Ramesh: Some authenticity?
Adrian: Well, tell me this, what would give you confidence in dealing with a business, a picture of that person with famous actors or models or whatever, or a plaque stating this guy's the best jeweler. So, I had those too, but I keep that in my wallet. No. It is, it's funny, I look at my wall sometimes and it's like an embarrassment of riches and I'm very humbled by it. I look at it as really as a humbling tool to remind me that people believed that me, people support me, and people want to see me succeed. That's why when people come in, it's, I make it a one on one thing. I don't care if you're here for a cleaning, a watch battery or buying a $30,000 diamond. I treat you the same and I don't change my demeanor. I'm the same energetic guy you'll see.
Ramesh: Yeah. So, Adrian on that thing, another thing that comes to my mind when I look at you, not just energetic confidence. I mean you're full of confidence in terms of how you present yourself. And I think you said you went to a high school reunion, then you met with lawyers and doctors and then so tell about, I mean like how do you feel so confident? How do you get there?
Adrian: Well, I spent a year in city college and that was kind of the turning point that I decided to really go all in this business and pursue it. So, I went a different route. I went to the Gemological Institute of America and I think my confidence comes from experience, comes from the amount of knowledge I know about my product, about my business, about the jewelry industry. And I think so we thought about getting to know someone, having that knowledge of who you're working with, how to adjust yourself. Maybe my energy is too much for someone. Maybe I'm working with someone that's a little bit more chill and I got to tone it down a little bit. So, I mean I guess you call that confidence. It's just, that's who I am. You know, I think when you, I call it passion. When you're passionate about something, it really shows. And I think the client builds a confidence in you when you do that.
Ramesh: So last couple of questions. One is what are the tips that you can give to aspiring entrepreneurs of the social media? Like based on your experience, what are the things that they should be doing? What are the things that should not be doing?
Adrian: First, I'm going to say I appreciate the fact that you think I am good at social media. Because I really don't think so. I just [24:16 inaudible] what I want to put up. I don't think about it.
Ramesh: I look at your posts and they never feels like you're selling something. But I love that is going on there.
Adrian: I guess in a way selling myself, like I said, you know, if you see me on social media and you think, you know what, that guy's funny enough or whatever, I want to meet him. That's enough. That's cool. I think, I think on social media I took advantage of it because it was free, and It was affordable. I mean, you can put, I mean, I don’t know if you look at the insights, I don't know how true it is that for 100 bucks you can reach, I don’t know, 14,000 people within your area. It's all cool. But I like the fact that actually I embrace Yelp. People hate Yelp. But I'm not going to [24:59 inaudible] fact that if you put jeweler in my area, I rank number one.
Ramesh: But how do you do it? Like what are the tips that you could give?
Adrian: Well, I think for Yelp you need to respond right away. I don't know anything about algorithms or anything like that, but if you respond right away to inquiries, I think that increases your chances of being on top. In two and a half years we've reached well over 105-star reviews.
Ramesh: But tell me something of the time management. It seems too...
Adrian: Time management.
Ramesh: How do you manage it?
Adrian: I have three kids. I recently have an infant, a four-month-old daughter. Thank you. It's tough man. When you're at home, your home, you got to be dad. When you are at work, you got to be that super boss.
You have to, and when you're out in the community, you have to, you can be a salesman, you can be a dad. You have to be that community-oriented person. And its funny people say, yeah, man, you're at all these events. I know, it looks like it. There's a joke in my town, you know, when I arrive at an event, people are you here or is this an Adrian drive by? 5 minute or less you make an impact. You know, and on social media you can make it look like you've been there, or you can even make it look like you started the event. Those are the events.
Ramesh: Yeah, you know you are there for a few minutes. But it seems as if they'd been there all along, that kind of stuff. Okay. So, the last question for aspiring entrepreneurs, based on your journey, what are the things that you would say?
Adrian: I think you really have to follow your heart. But you also have to be practical and you have to be realistic. You know, sometimes we get so passionate about something and at some point, you need to have a stopping point, I think. Being true to yourself. And that's what it was for me. I did it step by step by step. I, instead of, I could have gotten a loan if I wanted to and opened up a nice real store. But I said don't want to be in debt when I first opened up a business. So, I think having those conversations with yourself, you have to come into terms of what you're capable of. And I'm all about following your dreams. I did it. But I’ve also been in the business for 20, for almost 20 years. So, I paid my dues.
I was able to do it because people know me in my industry. When I needed product, I was able to get good terms. I was able to get a memo. Meaning I didn't have to pay for it upfront. Not everyone can do that. Nobody can wake up tomorrow. And say I'm going to open up a jewelry store with zero money. Impossible.
Ramesh: Adrian, thank you very much on being in the 60 minutes startup. You are the energetic bunny that starts companies. Thank you very much.
Adrian: I appreciate you. Thank you so much. All right.