Lauren Godfrey: Founder of Harwell Godfrey

Episode 329

Lauren Godfrey is the Founder of the stunning jewelry brand Harwell Godfrey. She has taken an idea that she was passionate about and turned it into not only a reality but a fledgling business. Each Harwell Godfrey piece is designed with references to the Four Elements and the collection essentially is modern day precious heirlooms with most pieces even featuring beautifully-rendered motifs. I can’t wait for you to hear all about her entrepreneurial journey to growing this amazing brand, her tips for other entrepreneurs and lessons learned along the way. Her story of building this incredible business is inspiring and you won’t want to miss this episode! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

Resources from
this episode:


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. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show and I am so thrilled to have my next guest here I’m such a fan. We have Lauren Godfrey here who is the founder of Harwell Godfrey and if you do not know what Harwell Godfrey is then you have been living under a rock because it is one of the hottest, hottest, beautiful stunning jewelry brands around so Lauren has taken an idea that she was passionate about and turned it into not only a reality but a fledging business. And each Harwell Godfrey piece is designed with healing energy in mind. Each gemstone is thoughtfully selected to enhance the wares experience from literal references to the four elements to figurative references to block printing and weaving and cultures from long ago, the collection brings a sense of history to modern day precious heirlooms that everybody wants to ask you about and talk to you about the story. So no detail is left unfinished in these with most pieces, even featuring delicate engravings. And then Lauren was actually in Mexico, I believe, recently, and I saw she had this amazing little tequila bottle, beautiful, beautiful necklace that I was eyeing. And it’s just every one of her pieces tell the stories and are just incredible. So she was drawn to the tactical nature of jewelry design. But she didn’t come from this industry. So we’re gonna get into that what she was doing before. I should just stop talking without further ado, and like you do all of the talking. But welcome, Lauren. Hi, thank

Lauren Godfrey 2:20
you so much for having me. I’m so excited to talk to you about all this and especially the healing nature of tequila.

Kara Goldin 2:26
Yes, the healing nature of tequila. Exactly. So is there is there a specific brand on that tequila bottle or on that necklace I couldn’t see?

Lauren Godfrey 2:36
No. So it’s actually it’s three pieces. It’s a three term set. And it’s an agave medallion. So it’s like a I drew an agave and actually do hearts into the agave because the three term set is called tequila lovers, and I’m a tequila lover. The next one is a lime mandala. And that’s really sweet and has like little Peridot, lime wedges in there. And there’s sab right on the side. And then there’s just little sweet little lime wedge representation. And then the last one, which is kind of my favorite charm is a diamond filled 18 karat gold salt shaker. So it’s actually got rock crystal sides so you can see through it and see the diamonds inside.

Kara Goldin 3:14
That’s amazing. So if somebody wanted a strawberry added to that, or something else, you can do it. You can do that as well. I

Lauren Godfrey 3:22
love to do custom work. I do custom work. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 3:24
I love it. That is so great. So how would you describe I gave a little bit of a description but how would you describe our well Godfrey to somebody who is not familiar with it?

Lauren Godfrey 3:34
You know, I use words like colorful and maximalist and geometric to describe the brand. I mean, it’s fine jewelry. And I think you know, what’s exciting about it is I came at it from a pretty naive standpoint, I started just making things that I wanted to wear. And so I like color. I like bold statement jewelry, I like things that are you know, just kind of interesting. So that that’s how I would describe it. I think it’s it’s kind of not for the faint of heart.

Kara Goldin 4:01
Well, it’s absolutely beautiful, beautiful pieces and in all of the fashion magazines as well as all over social media you see your brand so you must be really proud to think you know, back in the days when you were just starting and and trying to get it out there and today being able to see how far you’ve come.

Lauren Godfrey 4:23
Yeah, thank you I am it’s you know, it’s in the scope of the jewelry world. I guess it’s happened relatively quickly. i It’s been a bit over five years, just over five. But it is interesting. So I started making really small things because that’s what I could afford to make and then put money back into the business and was able to grow and scale to make the bigger kind of statement pieces that I get really excited about.

Kara Goldin 4:44
I love that so I understand that you had a career outside of jewelry. You weren’t doing this from the get go What were you doing prior to this?

Lauren Godfrey 4:53
A couple of things actually started my professional life and advertising so when I went to college, I studied advertising design with an emphasis in art direction. So it’s a very specific degree. And I graduated from University of San Francisco, in cooperation with the Academy of Art College. So I like jumped from that into an internship and advertising from that internship into my first, you know, job out of college. And I started, as you know, somebody who was running around making Gif animations and helping the art directors get their ideas onto the computer, because a lot of the art directors at that time when I started dating myself, didn’t really know how to use computers, which is kind of fun if you think about it, but that was my job. And then I graduated from that to becoming an art director, and then a creative director and worked doing those things for 15 years, and create a lot of ad campaigns, TV commercials, print ads, and did shoots all over the world and had a really amazing time and learned a lot.

Kara Goldin 5:56
So how did you make this jump? Then? Was there an inspiration? Did you see somebody else obviously, this was an idea that you had that you didn’t see being accomplished out there and produced out there. But I mean, to make that leap, it takes a lot of confidence. And I think, even if you’re the most confident person in the world, to actually go back to the drawing board and redo your career, and start something that is a little bit unique and different takes a lot. So how did you get the confidence to be able to do that?

Lauren Godfrey 6:33
Well, I’m gonna I’m going to complicate this a little bit further and tell you that my actually my first lead from advertising was into the culinary world. So I actually left the advertising industry and went to culinary school. And my plan was to be kind of I was thinking about, like, what would a culinary art director look like, you know, working on cookbooks, food styling, doing that sort of stuff. And I dipped my toe into it. And my toe didn’t stay there for very long. So I realized I didn’t, I didn’t come into it with a really clear point of view that was different or unique. And there are already a lot of people doing the things that I wanted to do. So breaking through is really hard. And I got frustrated, and actually started making jewelry for fun for myself as a way to kind of soothe my soul a little bit after this sort of myths of culinary school, and it not turning out to to be this clearly that I’d hoped it could be. But yes, it does take confidence. You know, I am lucky, I’ve been with my husband for a very long time. And he’s always been supportive of my ideas. And he, he knows I’m a very creative person, and that can manifest in many different ways. You know, advertising I think ended for me because it was just no longer finding a lot of creative joy in it. I think I just kind of got burnt out and felt like I had expressed myself in that industry. And I had other things I wanted to try. So you know, I was able to do it with the safety net of a husband who was supportive and and provided for the family while I was figuring out what I wanted to do.

Kara Goldin 8:00
So how have you gotten the word out about Harwell Godfrey? So you? I mean, take me back to those early days, I guess. First, you started creating your first pieces.

Lauren Godfrey 8:09
Yeah, you know, something I have to say that I think was really important about being confident to make the jump into jewelry. Because it’s an expensive industry materials are expensive, you have to kind of have some, you do have to have confidence going into it. One of my best friends, a woman named Randy Malachowski, how to how to find jewelry showroom, it’s called for future reference. And I immediately went to her and her partner at the time and said, Hey, I’m thinking about wanting to make fine jewelry. Can I join your showroom? And can you help me figure this out? And they said, Don’t do it. That was their first advice. But they ended up taking me on and so they really mentored me in terms of production, how to price the collection, how to do things that, you know, the jewelry was my idea, but they can see something and say, Hey, have you seen this thing over here that could kind of look like that and they really helped to steer me and focus me and teach me like, here are the brands you should be aware of you need to know what’s going on here. You need to like be able to, you know, have a very focused, unique voice, which luckily coming from the world of advertising, that’s another that’s a discipline that I’ve been trained in for 15 years. So figuring out a voice and how to have a brand wasn’t new to me but doing it in the world of jewelry was so I was very lucky to have those women who you know really showed me the ropes.

Kara Goldin 9:34
So you created your your jewelry at this where was the first place that you sold it

Lauren Godfrey 9:39
the first place I sold it that is a really good question. I’m trying to remember I mean I sold stuff my friends were so supportive actually still my friends I think were the first people I sold to and bless them because they you know gave me a lot of confidence to keep going and the fact that they liked it. We so we do a fine jewelry trade show every You’re called the couture show. And that’s where a lot of buyers and editors come in. So buyers from the different, you know, wholesalers. And I just remember one of the first stores that picked me up that I was so excited about, because it it to me was a signal, but I’ve made it as a store called Twist and Portland. And Paul and Lauren who run it are just really supportive of their designers. And I’d had my eye on them. And I was like, if twist picks it up, I’m you know, I’d be so like, that was the, that was the store I wanted. And when they did it, I felt like that was just like, kind of really got the ball rolling, because they’re very respected in the industry.

Kara Goldin 10:34
I think that that’s a great example of you, you had a goal, right? And I always tell people that you have a goal. And then but you’re continuing to work. And in case, you know, you hope you don’t sit there and stay complacent for that goal to happen, right? You’re figuring out how do I actually make that goal happen? But then when it did happen, you keep having new goals. Right? You’re not done, and you keep moving it. But I think that that’s just such a great example. So at that point, and then you were selling online as well. From the beginning. Yes. So I’d love to

Lauren Godfrey 11:14
know, at the very beginning, yeah, I was, I was doing a little bit online actually started selling more online when the pandemic started, because, you know, no one was sure where their revenue was going to be coming from, we didn’t know that delivery would actually end up being a success during the pandemic, no one had any idea. Sure. That’s when I really started pushing my own online sales when needed to be able to support the business and had to do what I could.

Kara Goldin 11:39
Yeah, well, and I think that diversifying, you know, how dependent and reliant you are, is a story of the pandemic for so many businesses, if you weren’t online, prior to the pandemic, it’s like, you know, you need to be able to have somebody and you need to be able to have your own online store, too. And our business hint, people have always been curious why we still sell through Amazon and still sell through retailers. And the simple answer is that the consumer controls where they buy, right? And if you’re not available, where a consumer wants to be shopping from, then they’ll move on to somebody else who is maybe not as great of a product that as yours, but they just if it’s hard, and you’re not making it convenient for somebody to actually find your product, then that’s, you know what the answer is, but so what have you enjoyed most about being an entrepreneur?

Lauren Godfrey 12:37
You know, I think just problem solving. I think I’m a problem solver by nature. I think that’s another thing that advertising taught me. And it’s funny, I was talking to a friend from that industry the other day, and I was like, I still give myself briefs, which is basically like saying, you know, for me, I released a collection of animal jewelry last year and my brief to myself at that point was like, hey, you’ve not done anything like animal jewelry, what would it look like if Harwell Godfrey made animal, you know, motifs and jewelry. And so that was my brief. And that’s a problem that I set out to sell. Because I was like, I don’t know what that’s gonna look like yet, but let’s figure it out. So that’s been really fun. It’s just being able to set my own problems. And I think also just the, the satisfaction of being the one who sets the tone creates, created an idea and seeing it flourish. There’s something just exceptionally satisfying about that, that I’d never experienced before. I love that part of being an entrepreneur. And I guess just getting to really, truly have my own voice is a wonderful thing. I did so much work for so many brands over so many years. And it was me always trying to figure out their voice and help them develop a voice. And so now I get to, you know, figure out my own voice, which is great.

Kara Goldin 13:52
What happened when you launched your company? Obviously, you’ve been supporting a lot of other companies. Did you ever feel? Or was there a moment when you felt I should say that, gosh, nobody ever told me this about entrepreneurship, in addition to getting nose from retailers and all of the things that you have to do as an entrepreneur? Was there anything that sort of caught you off guard surprised you? Obviously, you got through it, but you just didn’t really realize that that’s all part of the package.

Lauren Godfrey 14:18
I mean, I’m still surprised every day, every day is a new surprise. And to me, you know, I guess the surprises, I didn’t know that by flourishing and doing well, that would bring in so many more complications. You know, I think the more that I grow, and I’m still very small, I really have two full time employees and a lot of contractors that I work with, you know, to me, the the more success we have and the more money coming in, the more probably, you know, more money more problems. Like try I’m just seeing, you know, a lot of things coming down the pipe where I didn’t realize that growth would actually inhibit being able to like To pay myself because I’m having to pay in advance for all these new pieces that I’m making, because I’m growing, and I have so much more demand. So I’m laying out cash first, and having to wait for that cash to come back once people pay me, you know, after our terms are, you know, are met. And so, by growing, I’m actually more cash poor than I ever have been. So it’s just fascinating, you know, and I know, it’s all leading to a really good end. And I’m grateful because I am actually a profitable business. And I’m able to handle paying for growth, but it’s I just never thought about growth being an issue.

Kara Goldin 15:37
Yeah, well, and also, as you start to grow, I mean, running hint, for the past 17 years, I learned this too, there’s just different vehicles for ways to finance things that initially, I used American Express, and luckily, I had good credit, you know, and so I was maxing out my credit cards. And I think that’s a story for many, many entrepreneurs. But at some point, it’s, you don’t necessarily want to do that. And you want to be able to figure out other ways to do it. So definitely, it’s a, you’ve also got to do the research to figure it out out or run into an entrepreneur that has been through the same kind of things. And yeah, all of those ideas, do you have any words of advice for others who want to start a company, I mean, it’s a daunting task. It’s definitely in your journey. As I said, you’re, you hear a lot of nose, your there are spikes that go on and starting your own company that are not necessarily there. When you’re doing projects for a big company, you’ve got sort of this, you know, shelter behind you, maybe you’ve got hard days, but I almost think of you know, working for a large company, I felt like there were waves where things were stressful. But with entrepreneurship, you wake up and you think, okay, everything’s great. And then that store drops you or, or, or it closes, right or the pandemic. And so there’s these massive spikes that I think are heart and you’re trying to have a life and a family and all of these things that go on and you’re just like, Oh, my God, or your, your first employee quits, or, you know, whatever it happens, I mean, big, big spikes, I’d love to kind of, you know, hear from you like, what advice you would have to people who are thinking about starting given all of this?

Lauren Godfrey 17:28
Yeah, it’s funny, I was gonna say, I don’t think I’ve woken up in a long time and gone, everything’s great. Like, there’s always something, I guess my advice would be to surround yourself with really good people, I think, you know, we can’t be everything. I don’t think one person can be every single thing. And so, you know, my experience is in jewelry. But like I said, I actually started out with a showroom, because I knew that there were there was expertise that I needed, I brought expertise to this, but I had, you know, gaps. So finding those people that you can trust and surround yourself with who can add to that, I think is smart. Because otherwise, you’re having to, you know, do research on every single aspect of the thing. Or maybe there’s a way to, like, have people you know, advising you, and being strong advisors are a really big deal. And finding a good mentor, too. I think, you know, if there’s an if you’re entering an industry that you don’t know that well, I sought out people to mentor me. And I think having those relationships is really smart. And I have new people that have come in and have been great mentors. Because as I grow in this, my needs are changing. So now I feel like I have a handle on making the jewelry. But now it’s more about like business mentorship, and that’s what I need. Because I’m a Creative At Heart businesses, the thing that I’m truly learning here, if I if I really think about it, that’s where my growth is really happening as a person. So finding people who can help me in that, in that way has been really important. And I think, you know, again, filling in your own gaps. Sometimes people start a business because they’re great at business, but maybe they need help somewhere else.

Kara Goldin 18:59
Yeah, no, I think that that’s really smart. It humbles you. I think we’re capable of being able to learn a lot of things. But it’s really boils down to are you interested in learning those things, and is your time better spent and other places. But having said that, I think and being able to understand what those roles are, I always tell people that if you’re a creative, for example, and you don’t understand how to read a business plan, or you don’t understand margins, or something that is so vital, then you know, you’re going to run into problems with your company down the road at some point because you’re going to trust that somebody’s handling things and you’re not going to be able to see where the problems are, if you’re getting taken in some way. So I think it’s there are so many things that you learn being able to start it from scratch that I think are really really important lessons. So as we mentioned, it’s a super challenging thing to be able to start a company with these highs and lows. Have there been any challenges where you thought this is a biggie? This is I don’t know. I’m gonna get through this, but obviously you did. But what was kind of the lessons learned from that challenge? And what was the challenge?

Lauren Godfrey 20:07
Yeah, for me, you know, I’m making a product. And so I ran into in the beginning some issues with like, just getting the product made to the standards that I wanted. And with with opacity, you know, I feel like or transparency, I should say, actually, opacity was the issue. I was going into production, not knowing a lot about production, and hitting some walls and being like, Okay, I’m making these things, but I’m actually not really happy with how they’re being made. So do I need to start that from scratch? And it felt like if I have to start that completely over how do I keep moving forward as a business, and I think in jewelry, that can be kind of a common problem. So I’m a designer, I’m not a bench jeweler samosas and makes the jewelry on the bench themselves, designers have other people that make the jewelry for them, just to add some context around this. So for me, it was finding those people who could make the jewelry and have it really matched my vision. And I was kind of going far down a road with some people that it just wasn’t matching. And I was very lucky to actually find a production team who consult with me and helped me get things to where they needed to be. But that was a really big problem, I hit that wall where I was like, I don’t know if I can keep doing this because it’s about a product. And I’m not happy with the product that had to be corrected very quickly. And it was, it was pretty nerve racking. Because when you’re making things in gold, and you don’t like them, that’s an expensive product.

Kara Goldin 21:31
Were you nervous about switching, then on the one hand, you are getting some product produced, but I think a lot of people regret like not doing it sooner like that they really started seeing these problems. And then you know, it starts to spiral even worse than it’s like the old saying that, you know, when you see a problem, that’s actually much worse than you even are able to actually see. Was there anything like that?

Lauren Godfrey 21:56
Yeah, you know, I think I did it pretty early on, thankfully, you know, I, again, from a design standpoint, know what I like, and I have standards. So I knew that there was a problem. And I was able to suggest it, but it’s always nerve wracking to switch because then what if the next person also isn’t the right fit? So luckily, I was able to come up to speed pretty quickly and find somebody whose work I really liked. But that was that was concerning.

Kara Goldin 22:21
Yeah, definitely. So was there somebody you talked about mentorship? Was there anybody that had sort of been in your shoes, before that you really thought, Okay, I’m gonna reach out to them. And maybe they mentored you, or maybe somebody that really inspired you. We had somebody on the podcast to was talking about Estee Lauder recently, and how, you know, they never got a chance to meet them, but they sort of like knew everything about them. For me. I think Steve Jobs was always somebody that was at a very early age. I just greatly admired his vision and his ability to actually tell the story and tell the why. I’m curious if there was anybody like that, that you were just really you weren’t doing exactly what they were doing. But somebody that you really thought was kind of inspiring to you. I’m trying

Lauren Godfrey 23:09
to think so I’ve had so many people touch me in different ways. In this journey, I’m trying to think of like the one person to identify, you know, again, I joined this showroom early on, and there were other designers in the showroom who had been in the showroom longer than I had. And I really looked up to those designers. And some of them were more open than others about you know, sharing wisdom and information, but I am grateful to the ones who did because it can be a competitive industry and people can want to sort of cannot want to give you help or leg up. But then I also found so many people in the industry who do so it’s I guess it’s like any industry that they’re helpful people, people keep everything very close to their chest. There are also local jewelry stores in the Bay Area that really inspired me I’m in a store called met TA in San Francisco and I really admire kind of their curation Fiat Lux is another one locally, that’s a jewelry store that I really, they’re great, right? And I feel like those women inspired me because I saw what they were carrying and you know how they were putting the work out I really looked a lot to them to kind of help inform it. You know, before I was even making jewelry just show up at their stores and check things out. And you know, that was certainly a big inspiration.

Kara Goldin 24:21
I love it. So the best advice you ever received along the way.

Lauren Godfrey 24:26
The best advice goodness I ask these are hard questions. I think the best advice that I keep getting this advice is just keeping your voice you know that Harwell Godfrey has a voice keep finding that voice. And that’s who you want to be your you know, it’s that design language. It’s that thing. And keeping true to that I think has been something that from the very beginning, people who saw the work were like I see something in this I see something different in this. That’s what you need to do. Keep going in this vein and this thing that makes you different. So I think that’s been part of why this has been be successful is because people can look at my jewelry and know it’s me without my name being next to it. And I think that’s been something that I’m proud of and that I do keep kind of going back to.

Kara Goldin 25:11
I love that answer. That’s so great. Well thank you so much Lauren for sharing a little bit about your brand and the wisdom everyone needs to check it out. If they haven’t already. Harwell Godfrey will have everything in the show notes how to follow you and see all of your newest inspiring pieces, and also the website and where people can purchase it, etc. So anyway, thank you again, Lauren. Have a terrific rest day. We

Lauren Godfrey 25:39
you so much, Kara.

Kara Goldin 25:41
Thanks all for listening to this episode. We hope you enjoyed it. And I want to thank all of our guests and our sponsors. And finally, our listeners keep the great comments coming in. And one final plug. If you have not read or listened to my book undaunted, please do so you will hear all about my journey and including founding, scaling and building the company that I founded. Hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening, and goodbye 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