If you've ever eaten a Maine lobster, there's a good chance it was caught off Vinalhaven Island.  Made up of just over 1,100 people, the island is home to a large lobstering community.

Native Mainer Kylie Watts loves anything that represents the rugged yet romanticized island life of Vinalhaven, where her husband grew up.

As a fan of nautical accessories, she says, "I wanted to create a piece of jewelry that captured the essence of Maine and that told a story." 

Turning a Lobstering Tool Into Jewelry

She considered a few different options, and one day it occurred to her that a lobster gauge--the measuring tool used to determine if a lobster is big enough to keep--could make a beautiful bracelet.

Initially, she wasn't sure if it was possible to bend the brass measures into wearable jewelry. She purchased a few from a marine store and gave it a shot.

With help from her husband, Watts spent months working on her potential product. Turning a crude piece of brass into a beautiful piece of jewelry wasn't an easy process.

Eventually, their hard work paid off and the Perfect Catch cuff was born.

Selling the Perfect Catch Cuff

Now that she had a product, she needed a way to sell it. But Watts is an office manager for a dental practice--not an entrepreneur. She knew she needed help turning her creation into a viable business.

She reached out to a childhood friend who had expertise as a brand strategist. "She was the person who gave me the confidence to move forward with my idea," Watts says.

With guidance, she launched the Watts in Maine website and began building an audience on social media. She started posting content and connecting with like-minded businesses.

Then she found the courage to approach some of her favorite local stores. She pitched her product to them and they agreed to start selling the Perfect Catch cuff.

Watts's product began attracting social media attention. Soon retailers began approaching her and asking to sell her bracelets.

Keeping Up With Production

The increase in demand led to some production problems. Watts makes her bracelets by hand and they're labor intensive. With help from her husband, she moved production from inside their home to a garden shed outside.

Each evening, after returning home from her job as an office manager, she devotes several hours to creating more cuffs. She also spends a few hours building her brand. 

But she knows she could easily get burned out from working too many hours. "I leave free time on the weekends and sometimes during the weekdays, as putting all your energy into working two jobs is exhausting," Watts says.

Clearly, her process is paying off. The demand for the Perfect Catch cuff remains high, and it's given Watts the confidence to expand her brand. She recently launched Maine necklaces, which are also made from lobster gauges, and plans to expand into rings.

Tips for Turning an Idea Into a Business

Watts offers these tips for anyone who has a good idea but isn't sure how to turn it into a business:

  • Connect with like-minded small-business owners. Learn as much as you can from small businesses in your area.
  • Research social media marketing ideas. Scope out some of your favorite brands on social media and take notes. When it comes to branding on social media, you have to have great content, sharp pictures, and relevant hashtags to keep your followers engaged.
  • Know your target audience. Familiarize yourself with similar products in the marketplace and create strategies that will attract your target consumer to your products.
  • Seek support. There will be times when you'll need a boost in motivation and positivity. Make sure you have people who can give you support on the hardest days.

Watts isn't sure yet if she'll take on the jewelry business full time. Her decision to keep her full-time job while launching her entrepreneurial pursuits is a smart one--research shows entrepreneurs who keep a day job are 33 percent less likely to fail.

For now, she manages to balance her time wisely. "There's always time if you have a true passion for what you are doing and if you believe in it. Put into it what you want out of it," she says.

 

Published on: Mar 11, 2016