Ashley Berman: Designer & Owner of Ashley Morgan

Episode 466

How do you build a business in a very competitive, very personal consumer space that stands the test of time? Ashley Berman, the brilliant designer and owner of Ashley Morgan Designs joins us to share all of this. Her stunning and unique pieces, inspired from her clients’ stories, traditions and cultures, will give you just the motivation you need to just go out and do what you love and make it happen! You are going to love this episode and I can’t wait for you to hear it. Now on the #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. And welcome back to the Kara Goldin show. I’m so thrilled to have my next guest, a friend and a local friend, who was also an incredible designer and owner of her own brand. It’s called Ashley Morgan designs. And if you are not familiar with it, you must get familiar with it. Ashley Berman is my guest today. And she is the creative vision, who has had an unwavering commitment to craftsmanship, and is a true force in the world of jewelry design, not only in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is based, but all over the world. And many of the pieces that she has created, you may be familiar with, maybe you don’t know what the designs are. But you must must, must go to her site and check it out. It’s such great eye candy that you could look at forever and say, Oh my God, I need that it’s so great. They’re stunning and unique in that she draws a lot of her inspiration from clients stories and traditions and cultures. She actually started out as a jewelry brand and then started going into more custom things. But she does, she does both. She’s a trained Goldsmith that has truly challenged the status quo in a very, very competitive industry. And she’s forced, and I’m so excited to have her here with us today to talk about her journey and all of the lessons and overall the brand. So welcome, Ashley.

Ashley Berman 2:19
Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for that introduction. And it’s so such an honor to be on your show. I am reading your book. And it’s such an amazing story. So it’s exciting to be with you today.

Kara Goldin 2:32
Well, you are a great example of being undaunted so I think anybody who walks into an industry that is a crowded industry and tries to build something as you have, you are a testament to a you know, great entrepreneur that can actually create something based on your passion and your vision and your ideas. So really, really thrilled to have you here. So, okay, so I really want to get into you’re a trained Goldsmith, I did not know this about you. So how did you decide to go into the jewelry business?

Ashley Berman 3:11
Well, so when I was 18 years old, I started my first jewelry design brands, I was at the University of Colorado, going to school for international business and started taking up beadwork, and continued to create a line and sell to local stores and jewelry too. That was my passion. But I knew I needed to go to college and finish the business plan first. And then after that, I moved to San Francisco and attended the Revere Academy. And that’s an academy that you can get your Masters symposium course and goldsmithing isolated diamond grading and topology and those courses as well. So there is access to education and training in the industry of jewelry, not only design, but actually the craftsmanship behind it.

Kara Goldin 4:02
That’s awesome. So did you know any jewelers or what was it sort of that? Got it? How did you get the button to actually go and say, This is what I’m ultimately going to do? Well, my

Ashley Berman 4:16
deed, Ashley Morgan, like that bead business, I started in college, but ended up doing very well we sold to 20 or 30, boutiques, and along building that brand and scaling that when I was 18 years old, there was all these different frustrating points where the class wasn’t pretty enough or there were just small things like couldn’t get to the details of what I wanted to be creating in my designs. And instead of just designing it i My My brain is always one of curiosity and needing to be educated behind it. So my mom’s a painter and I love the idea of working with the torch and But, you know, hammer isn’t actually building jewelry myself. So it was just fun. So it’s kind of out of curiosity and play that I went back to school to really learn the techniques and what can be made and created as an artist through an art form system or to my mom is a painter kind of knowing the that, you know how how it all gets made was really important to me.

Kara Goldin 5:27
I love it. My mom was always doing some kind of crafts, like I still laugh I wish I actually had, she had an oven for all of her stained glass projects in our house like me was just, yeah, like constantly doing all these different projects. She was a big quilter. So in her later years, she like hung her hat on, on quilting. And she had she’d hand stitched and did all kinds of things that was all about, you know, the quality not, she’d be working on them for like years and put them down for a while and come back to them. And yeah, I mean, I just have all these memories of her doing it. And she had a lot of patience. That’s what I remember. Like, I was just like, why aren’t you done with that? And she’s like, oh, I need to be inspired. Later. I’ve got another project that I’m working on. So it’s it was it was fun to watch her for sure. So what was the point when you decided to actually start? Ashley Morgan, then I mean, what was the because you were doing different? You know, projects you were going to school, then when was it that you decided to start the Ashley Morgan business.

Ashley Berman 6:44
So we my husband and I moved to San Francisco so I could go to the Revere Academy. He was getting his MBA in San Francisco as well. And we started the business, Ashley Morgan. So Morgan’s my husband’s first name. He was the business side of our company, Ashley was the design and Goldsmith’s side of the company. And we started that in 2004. He was working at a law firm and getting his MBA at the same time, we both quit our jobs, I was a goldsmith, I had accumulated, accumulated, accumulated 100 designs from just sort of my own knowing on different spiritual practices, or different cultures or traditions and, and tapping a lens or a 25 year old person of how I went to see the world and how I thought and creating amulets that look like so once I developed this line, my husband and I, we were very grassroots we, we went to the best boutiques in America, we drove across America and gotten to 60 stores, we ended up getting into fragments, which at the time had a showroom in New York, and LA was the, you know, the best showroom that I could think of we met with VO We were written up in styles, we kind of had a little bit of a beginner’s luck and just the naivety to believe in our dreams and kind of pursue relentlessly. I gave up having a salary so I could just do what I loved and sort of create beauty and, and actually create that was what I continued to live for. It’s just being able to have the gift of creating and, and being an artist, and hopefully making things have a lot of meaning behind them for individuals. So that’s how it started. And it’s been a wild ride ever since.

Kara Goldin 8:45
That’s awesome. So your journey as a jewelry designer started at a young age, and you obviously had this business in the beating business at 18. But what did you learn from that business? If you had to maybe tell somebody who was thinking of starting their business like what you learned in that business that you wanted to do differently in your next business? What was it?

Ashley Berman 9:14
So I think, over you know, the span of 12 years where we had Ashley Morgan, the the brands that we sold to retailers like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s and Lux Bashford, we had incredible stories behind us. One of the things is having a goal in mind is very important. So my goal was to be in major retailers develop a brand be in certain magazines and on the right celebrities. So we kind of went through that that circuit and the bigger we got, the further away I started getting from what I actually liked and that was creating the pieces. So I would be, you know, in these gorgeous retail stores standing behind the counter feeling so kind of disconnected to the reason I was really there. And so I remember my 30th birthday, I, you know, all of those checkpoints of success had been met and had been achieved. And I remember feeling like, this doesn’t feel quite the way I want it to feel, and really honing into what works for you as an individual and also your company. I did not take outside funding, which really gave me the opportunity to be able to pivot when it didn’t work for me, and to kind of find a different business model around my skill set and what I wanted to achieve in order to not only have a thriving business, but really have a life and a career that meant something to me. So from that point where we had expanded and grown and had this great brand, we kind of started re doing sort of a self check in like, where am I what do I want to be doing is this what will guide me forward for the next 20 years as a sustainable for me as a as an owner, those hard questions kind of helped us pivot into a different business plan, which looked more like creating custom bespoke jewelry that meant something to the individual were using heirlooms, creating and curating stones for each individual, and really having jewelry be part of their story and their traditions, and my clients. heirlooms, and, and working with people individually, that is where I am fueled. I love using my skills to help people create something that can be passed down to generations, because it belongs to them. It’s their story, their stones, it’s really quite meaningful. So I’m really grateful that I listen to that instinct, because I don’t necessarily think that I personally am a good, you know, advertising isn’t my, my fuel so it’s more about making the jewelry and yeah, moving forward. And so yeah,

Kara Goldin 12:22
so it wasn’t the sales that were sometimes people entrepreneurs think, okay, my business needs a pivot, but it really was about your own passion. Right. And your interests, I mean, was that kind of where, what

Ashley Berman 12:36
fueled me, I think the more I expanded the more I was on an airplane going away from, you know, my family or creating, I was never at the bench anymore. I wasn’t like curating my own stones, things were made being made further away from me, so I wasn’t able to really check in on the process connect with the people I work with. Now, we are a true sort of mom and pop, Goldsmith store. So it’s, um, Justin time, local, creating more in more in the sort of alignment with a true artists and Atelier A, versus sort of a bigger brand company, which both are beautiful, and they look amazing layer together. But I just wanted to take the direction of more personalized customization in my work,

Kara Goldin 13:24
but you still have the jewelry that you’re known for on there. Just the your focus is more on the custom. Exactly,

Ashley Berman 13:32
yes. And so we have our first which is exciting. And we do appointment only we have ready to buy pieces available as well. So I have you know, my staples are the hammered kiss ring in there that was designed around my daughter’s you know, small kisses as a baby. So this is the ring. And so that’s one of my staple pieces that has a cute story behind it. We also have like the amulet. I and a few. I think there’s like 60 pieces in the collection right now.

Kara Goldin 14:06
Yeah, that are so beautiful. So it’s the I think is right on isn’t on the front of the website.

Ashley Berman 14:12
It is yes.

Kara Goldin 14:14
Yeah, that’s what I that’s what I thought it’s so great. So So can you share with us the creative process like So somebody has a piece? And how do you ensure that each piece kind of captures the essence of that person as you’re meeting with them? And how long does that process take?

Ashley Berman 14:34
Well, because I’ve done this for so long, the process is pretty. It’s pretty efficient. And when clients come in they usually I usually ask them a few questions. It’s a really personal kind of storyline either have like just their paper color and what stone they’re looking at. Or they’ll bring in heritage pieces heritage stones, and from there we kind of develop the overall All spirit the piece are like what they want to emulate or create out of this piece. It could just be as simple as I recently made a 20 year anniversary gift and the husband came in and we I showed him three different beautiful Colombian emeralds that he created for him he chose his favorite one. And then we went back to her history of her being Irish and using just a few Celtic knots within the back of the piece along with having a few baguette diamonds that were symbolic of for children, their lives together. So it could just be really creating individual stories and finding out what is meaningful to people and how we can use stones and metal to create things that are kind of the ultimate gift for parentage peace.

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Ashley Berman 22:16
Um, well, I mean, just in general, this line of work, especially on Bispo is I work with people every day to celebrate lives and celebrate different things that have meaning to them. So I feel like that in itself is such a awesome job, I get to go to work every day and just hear how people want to celebrate their lives, or they have this moment that they want to create something really beautiful together. And it’s just such an amazing opportunity. One of my clients just recently came to me because she had four children and one of her children passed away. And she, we use their birth stones to make a series of four rings. And the fourth ring was in honor of Jackson, her son. And she said when you lose a child, he was 20. It’s very hard because people don’t know how to bring it up, or they might have just met you not know that you have four children. So these rings, it’s just a stack of two different shades of blue sapphires, and two different shades of pink sapphires. But these rings, she wears them. And when people talk to her, it gives her way of honoring her child and being able to say something about him. And so it gives her the voice of saying like, Oh, and this is my son Jackson who has passed, but this is him. So he or she always gets to wear him or his memory like on her hand. And so seeing her reaction when she was able to get these ring and then send an email back just saying what a gift. These pieces have had been, you know, able to kind of give her back the voice to talk about him in a different way. So you know that or I’ve had a client who had a diamond brooch that her great grandmother brought from Eastern, you know, the Eastern European Jones, which she had to flee. And their family was then moved to Brazil and the only thing she had on her or these two diamond brooches. And so for for three or four generations, she has kept these diamond brooches and those were her sort of hope of freedom. And so when she came to Meridian to meet with me, she lives in DC now. She brought them with such honor and held them like this is my family story. This is like four generations of you know, the pianists. She was her great grandma I used to play a piano, then she survived because we play the piano. And she also had these diamond brooches. And so really, we sat and she cried, and she told her story. And then we, we were able to take these pieces apart. And then on the chain, we use the baguette diamonds as the piano keys around her neck to activate the voice of what her great grandmother would always want for her is to live a life, to speak her truth, to have a voice and to wear it proudly around her neck, because that is the gift of her ancestors. So there’s a lot of healing from trauma from what we hold to how we move forward. And how we can use that to shine our light. So to me, this has been like, such a gift over and over every day, I get to see how people want to celebrate or shine their light, or give back to something that is really dramatic. So, I mean, I have like hours of stories. And people, you know, just recently, they’re young couples getting engaged, and they’ll send me pictures and things now like videographers, and you know, all these things all around them to show in Captivate. So great marketing material for me, but just, there’s so exciting and excited about being in love. And most of the women when it comes in design the ring with me, so it’s fun, you know, we usually have like champagne and like serious and diamonds laid out and they get to kind of choose the end create their engagement ring together. So I mean, my job is still this joy, and I’m everyday so grateful for it. And the clients I have right now, you know, I don’t market it don’t advertise, it’s only word of mouth. And we have a waiting list. That’s pretty, pretty big right now, thank goodness. So is saying, oh, and keeping it really meaningful. And going back to the basics of you know, art and artists and telling people stories or having in creating meaningful pieces for them. So

Kara Goldin 27:08
you’ve created your own company and have built such an amazing name for yourself. And like you said, you don’t advertise, it’s all been very much word of mouth. So many designers would love to be in your shoes, and what advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their journey? In design, whether it’s jewelry or, you know, creating something else that wants to really make a mark? Like you have? I mean, what is kind of the, I guess you pivoted also in the midst of of a thriving business and went another way, because you just really felt like that wasn’t exactly what you wanted to do. I think that’s hard. It’s easier said than done, right? Because it’s, I think sometimes people just get going and they think they’re successful. So maybe I shouldn’t do that. But it’s pretty. It’s a bold move to do that for sure. But what advice would you give to people sort of knowing what you know, today about journey and building a business?

Ashley Berman 28:16
I think building a business, you have to have grit, you have to have a an ability to know your vision, see what is meaningful to you. Figure out and ask questions of how you can actually be in the industry and what the industry wants for you from you. I also think that you have to have a different value system than just making money in order for it to be sustainable. Because in businesses, I think money will come and go. You have to be not afraid to use your voice and to have people criticize you. And you also have to be okay with being successful. I think so many people know how to fail and have it but I think when you are successful, especially for women will how how do you own that? And what does that look like? And then how can you, you know, be in the community and give back once you’ve established something that’s going well, I think there’s I I love being an entrepreneur because I think it’s a challenging way of just actually having a practice for yourself. Because you’re going to have to have on many levels. So many challenges come up and you’re always testing your character, your values, what to do next. You know, I think I love problem solving in that sense. And also, yeah, just being creative working with a great team surrounding yourself with good people. There’s so many lessons in this. It’s amazing. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 29:49
definitely. So if you could go back and change one thing about building your company what what would you do differently?

Ashley Berman 29:58
Well, one thing I am I have learned and I’m trying to become a little bit more of a practice or, or like in practice of this is that when something doesn’t work, be okay with saying no. Or if there’s an opportunity that comes in instead of pleasing, just say no. And really have once you walk away, find your path when it’s working, let it go in that path. And when things come out, and are not working, be okay to disappoint. And let people know it doesn’t follow because at the end of their the day, your business line does, you know, your business does count, and you have to hold that entity with its truth and not sacrifice things.

Kara Goldin 30:47
Definitely. I think that that’s a big piece for I think any entrepreneur, as well, because you’re not going to be able to please everybody. Right, I think is is also the point and people will ask you to do certain things. And and you have to understand and I think that the more you establish your business and really understand what you do, I think that you have to put stakes in the ground around that for, for consumers so that they know that because I think that that’s really, really a key piece for sure. So what’s next for Ashley Morgan designs? Is there anything beyond what we’ve talked about that you want to share? That is pretty exciting?

Ashley Berman 31:35
Well, the store opening my first store, it’s been very exciting. I am very cool. Yeah. And I think that it’s not necessarily what’s next, as far as like, in a bigger picture for the business. But in the next three years, I, I keep getting these incredible projects and these incredible clients. So I hope to just cultivate a really great clientele and continue to work with them and continue to create beautiful designs. So just staying in truth of what’s working right now. And then in the future, there’s always opportunity, but right now, I’m just staying pretty focused.

Kara Goldin 32:17
I love it. So best advice that you received while you’re building your business that you think about, especially during those hard days. I mean, you talked about, you know, really being able to say no, and kind of putting those stakes in the ground. But is there anything else that you think about as an entrepreneur that are that maybe somebody told you along the way that you want to pass on.

Ashley Berman 32:44
But one of the best advice that I recently got was to continue being passionate. So I think passion fuels passion. And sometimes as an entrepreneur, it’s my jewelry or at the store or things like that are maybe you know, if there’s some things arising that are hard, find patterns that you can go into release, like I just, I’m love surfing, I love hiking, I have been, you know, starting to do like flower arrangements and painting and things like that. And so find other passions that can fuel you, because that will only inspire you to go back to the main reason of what you were kind of in, in the business for or for why you first started your company having different eras areas that you can tap into to remind you of that passion of creating and exploring and being curious, when you’ve been doing something for 25 years. That seems sort of like you understand how it’s working. That’s been really important for me as I get older, is to continue to find my passion and then put it back into the business. So it continues to thrive. So

Kara Goldin 34:04
I love that. That’s great. Well, it was such a pleasure talking to you and getting to know your business a little bit more and everyone needs to check out Ashley Morgan designs, go to her website and definitely reach out it should you be interested in designing a custom bespoke piece too. So they’re absolutely gorgeous. So Ashley Berman, thank you again, and definitely excited that you now have a score close by two but these your pieces are just absolutely gorgeous. So thank you again.

Ashley Berman 34:42
Thank you have a great day.

Kara Goldin 34:44
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen. Or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening