You know those big, chunky, fabulous pieces of jewelry that are oh-so trendy these days? Elva Fields, with designer and owner Emily Maynard at its helm, has some of the brightest and most beautiful hand-crafted statement jewelry we’ve ever seen. Located in a tiny shop in downtown Taylorsville, Kentucky, Elva Fields (named after Emily’s great grandmother) is as hands-on a company as you can find.
Emily and the small yet mighty team at Elva Fields produce baubles that have graced the pages of major publications, including People, Marie Claire, Martha Stewart Weddings, and The Knot. Elva Fields has even begun to mold the look of the modern bride, with a stunning collection for blushing brides to don for the big day. Ladies be warned, this jewelry is not for the wallflower or conservative dresser. These pieces are bold and brilliant, just like the designer herself.
Emily offers us a glimpse into her quaint little workspace, hidden behind the Chamber of Commerce in Taylorsville. Below, she shares details of how she made her dream a reality after years of determination, along with honest insight into the unconventional way she balances work and family. You’ll be dying to get your hands on one of her pieces after reading this feature!
Name: Emily Maynard
Age: very soon-to-be 34
Current Title/Company: Founder/Owner/Designer, Elva Fields
Educational background: B.A. in Art History and French from Hollins University, Roanoke, VA; M.A. in Decorative Arts History from The Bard Graduate Center, New York, NY
What was your first job out of college and how long did you hold that position?
I spent most of that year in Vail, Colorado, splitting the warmer months between a fine jewelry shop and a contemporary art glass gallery, and then working for the Ralph Lauren boutique during the winter season. Once spring came, I was Big Apple bound, heading to graduate school in Manhattan! (Though, for the record, all of those very temporary, very retail jobs in a very resort community taught me so much about the kind of business I wanted to have down the road—I just didn’t know it then. I also didn’t know I’d meet my future husband, but that’s a another story.)
Please share with us about the process of starting your own business from the ground up. After you knew you wanted to design your own jewelry, what was the first step you took to make it happen?
The fun stuff came first—deciding on a name, working on the font for a logo, packaging plans, ordering business cards, and determining fun color schemes for our brand. Then there was production, following the initial round of jewelry “prototypes” I had made, which meant teaching myself additional jewelry manufacturing skills. It took lots of mistakes, a bit of research, and practice, practice, practice. Finally, Elva Fields became a legal entity, according to city, state, and federal guidelines. It was no easy task—I remember having to find some random office downtown in order to fill out several rounds of paperwork in person, because the online processing seemed so confusing. After that, the spreadsheets began.
How did you overcome the financial hurdles of starting your own company?
It was a daunting matter. I worked with an advisor at the Small Business Association to create a formal business plan and worked out some sales projections to determine what type of capital Elva Fields would require at the start. I had some small savings and a new job managing an art gallery, but I was still going to find myself in the red for the foreseeable future without additional money. It wasn’t much, but it was more than I could contribute on my own.
I decided to ask my grandmother (for whom the June line is named—Elva Fields was her mother) for a loan. I took her to brunch and worked up the courage to tell her about my plan, showing her the charts and graphs I had prepared with the SBA. I am sure she thought I was crazy and offered to give me the money—no questions asked—just to keep me from shoving more spreadsheets at her. When I explained that I preferred a loan with interest, she finally agreed, and Nana became my investor, helping Elva Fields become an official business, with a bank account and all!
I kept my art gallery job for the first four years Elva Fields was in business, and I paid my grandmother back in full for her initial investment…sometimes in jewelry, admittedly. (At ninety years old, she is a fantastic model!)
How did you manage the non-creative aspects of the business—the financial, legal, and marketing components?
Those who know me well joke that I am the most Type-A creative person they’ve ever met, and until very recently, I handled every detail of these crucial (yet not-so-creative) facets of the business. I realized, however, that my time is best spent on the creative elements of Elva Fields. After all, I set out to be a jewelry designer, not an accountant, attorney, or publicist. They are much better at their jobs than I am, though we work very much in tandem.
How were you able to successfully market Elva Fields? We often hear about struggles from entrepreneurs trying to make their products well-known. How were you able to get your designs recognized in the competitive field of jewelry design?
Everyone is a jewelry designer, it seems, so having your work stand out in a crowd is certainly a challenge. While it is my ever-present hope that our designs speak for themselves and make an immediate impression—from a creative, aesthetic, and quality standpoint—I think our amazing customers have everything to do with how the Elva Fields brand is shared and recognized. Word-of-mouth was our only form of marketing for the first six-and-a-half years in business.
What are the biggest rewards of being an entrepreneur? Biggest challenges?
The best? Each day is your own. You decide how to spend it, and you never dread going to work. The biggest challenge? Even though you never dread going to work, you’re going to work a lot. With no overtime. (But…for the record, I think it’s absolutely worth it.)
What is the most important thing you have learned over the course of starting and running your own business?
Separation between business and family is essential. And although the lines often blur (more than I care to admit), the effort must be made. Your spouse/significant other/children/mother/father/aunt/sister/cousin/dog does not want to hear about work. Unless they ask. And even then, they don’t want the whole story (apparently… but I have trouble with this one).
How has Elva Fields changed since you first started the line? In what ways would you still like to see it evolve?
At heart, we are so much the same, but we have grown quite a bit since the days of working at a wobbly, hand-painted, hand-me-down desk in a corner of our tiny guest room. We have a website. And UPS pick-up. And professional photo shoots. None of those were even remotely possible when we started the business. Even with these changes (big and small), I have such grand visions for what is possible for Elva Fields. A global brand with local love, perhaps.
Your jewelry has graced the pages of Marie Claire, The Knot, Good Housekeeping, and more. What did it take to gain the attention of such highly esteemed publications?
A lot of really hard work and our amazing PR team at Moderne Press. And hopefully, some appealing jewelry!
What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?
If you have an ORIGINAL idea, something unique to contribute to this world, go for it. Then make an appointment with a local SCORE mentor to find out what to do next. Their advice, coupled with your gut instinct, will be infinitely beneficial along the way.
What does a day-in-the-life of Emily Maynard look like? Do you try to keep a typical 9-5 schedule or do you usually work nights and weekends?
First, a disclaimer. I do not recommend this schedule for anyone. It is crazy, but it seems to work for us so far. Having two very small children (one is three-and-a-half, the other is one-and-a-half), I decided I had this great window of opportunity to spend time with our daughters at home, since they haven’t yet started school, and I am more able than the typical working parent to set my own schedule.
So, I have the girls three to four mornings each week (reading books, having dance parties, working on art projects—it’s non-stop!) through lunch time, until the sitter arrives at 12:30pm or so. Then I head in to the studio, starting at work around one o’clock in the afternoon. On those days, I rarely get home before 10:30pm or 11pm, and though it breaks my heart a little to miss bath-and-bed-time, I try to remember that we’ve had a really fun morning together and that their dad is doing a great job on the evening shift.
The other one or two days of the work week, the girls are covered, so it’s a more typical full-day schedule for me at Elva Fields. Despite trying my best to wrap things up on Friday evening, I’m inevitably back in the studio for at least an afternoon of designing on the weekend, or hitting flea markets to stock up on vintages for our materials stash.
In my experience, growing a business requires hard work—often many, many hours that others see as extreme or better spent on other things. Not only do I love to work, I know that putting in my time and energy is what will make the difference in our success down the road, so it’s something I’m more than willing to do. I love that I can divide my time with family, and, thankfully, I have lots of caring people in my life that want to help me realize my potential on all fronts.
How do you balance your career, creative passions, and family?
Truthfully, I don’t. There isn’t enough room for all of those things at once in harmony, so inevitably one takes precedence, depending entirely on the day, and I do the very best I can with whatever is most important at that time. And—full disclosure—it takes a village. I am incredibly fortunate to have a very involved (awesome) husband, a beautiful mother nearby who loves her granddaughters, and a few amazing sitters on rotation who help make it all happen.
What has been the most rewarding experience since starting Elva Fields?
Getting to know new people along the way, whether they are my assistants (who are, in short, superb), our inspiring customers, creative bloggers and editors, talented photographers and designers, incredibly kind dealers/suppliers, fun store owners, or fellow Taylorsville residents who care about our community. It has been so uplifting to bring this idea to fruition, working for, and by myself, and over the course of almost nine years (!) to now feel connected to so many wonderful people.
What advice would you give your 23 year-old self?
Get out of the library and go have some fun! You’ll finish that thesis in plenty of time.