As someone who ran an online wedding marketplace for a number of years, I have seen a lot of jewelry. While each designer has a signature style, it is rare to encounter true innovation. When I saw Galya Harish's "ever re-blooming flower necklaces" -- featuring a real flower that can open and close hundreds of times on demand -- I had to learn more. It turns out, the woman behind this incredible product is as unique as the jewelry she makes.
The following is as excerpt of our conversation:
Kate L. Harrison: You took a non-traditional path in creating a jewelry company. What were some of the things you did along the way?
Galya Harish: I always loved design, but my life took me on a different and more practical path. I started out as a corporate lawyer -- a family tradition. Then I worked in management positions in high tech and venture capital before becoming a brand manager for international companies for several years.
Harrison: What changed?
Harish: When I turned 40, in 2012, I had the powerful realization that time was limited and that I needed to start making my dreams come true. I decided to bring to life a hidden dream I had to create a line of meaningful jewelry. When you have meaningful jewelry that you can carry with you, given to you by someone who loves you or on a special occasion, it serves as a constant reminder and inspiration. I wanted to create a business that would inspire customers, partners and employees alike. I also believed that running an e-commerce jewelry company would allow me the flexibility of working from my home, while reaching customers worldwide.
Harrison: How did you find the re-blooming "blessing flower"?
Harish: I was hiking in the desert not far from my house when I saw a unique flower I remembered from high school trips. I knew it had an amazing ability to bloom again and again for years. It was a very challenging time in my life, both personally and professionally, and I felt this unique ability to re-bloom despite the harsh conditions of the desert to be a metaphor for my situation -- and very inspiring. I was working on my jewelry line at the time and the ideas just clicked together. I always say I have a joint venture with nature -- because the centerpiece of my jewelry is one of nature's wondrous creations.
Harrison: I have never seen the flower before. How did you source them for your work?
Harish: I didn't want to take them from nature. In fact, desert wildflowers are free spirited and are not easily domesticated -- another metaphor! I worked with a botanical R&D center here in Israel; it took us two years of work to successfully grow the flowers in captivity. The flower grows on the plant once a year. It dries in the desert sun and the petals close so it looks like a little bud. The opening and closing of the flower is a physical reaction to getting wet. When a drop of water strikes the bud, the flower opens and releases a few tiny seeds. When the water dries up, the bloom closes again. This is a survival mechanism for the species, as it diversifies risk. Each bud can do this again and again for 30 years or more!
Harrison: What percent of the flowers do you use and how do you secure them?
Harish: At our studio we sort and prep the flowers. We use a very rigorous quality assurance, as we want the final result to be perfect, so only about 20% of the flowers become incorporated into jewelry. We attach the pods with special glue. Consumers worry that the flower will be delicate, but it is actually very sturdy and resilient. We provide a lifetime guarantee, no questions asked. We want our customers to enjoy the Blessing Flower for years. So far, of the thousands of flowers we sell ever year, we have not had a single complaint that the petals broke.
Harrison: Are you worried about competition?
Harish: Because the flower is so hard to grow, I am not worried about people sourcing a knock off from China.
Harrison: What is the next innovation for your company?
Harish: This year we created a new method of placing a cubic zirconia diamond and personalized initial in the center of the flower, which we've patented. I think this could be a really interesting product for the engagement market.
Harrison: Many companies struggle to sell online. How have you found success?
Harish: The company has been growing steadily since we began. We had a big jump last year with a presence in stores and online gift websites. Now that we have built a following and have grown enough flowers to meet increased demand, we are looking at larger accounts like shopping channels & retail chains that we have met through trade shows, sales reps and on social media.
Harrison: What is the biggest challenge for you?
Harish: Because the idea is truly unique -- something that was never seen before -- it takes some of the customers some time to understand what we're offering and how special it is. I love seeing peoples' eyes widen in awe and disbelief when they realize what the flower does.
Harrison: Are there any lessons from your experience that you can share with others?
Harish: I have found that since I decided to go after my dreams and follow my gut feeling, things have just fallen into place. I found the flower -- or the flower found me -- at the exact moment when I was searching for the right way to build my jewelry business. I have met amazing people along the way -- employees, suppliers, and customers. I'm open to new and exciting opportunities that are created all the time. The road of an entrepreneur is not easy, but I know it is the right road for me. I hope others feel the same excitement and joy when they go after their dreams.
The second thing relates to the flower. I have a business and I want it to be a solid, profitable business. But what touches my heart with joy is not a promising contract we signed, or a huge order. It is the heartfelt letters and feedback I get from customers. We're not bringing to them "more of the same" outsourced products. Ours is a gift from Nature herself. Every customer has a different interpretation of the flower. It can be a symbol of everlasting love, our ability to overcome hardship and re-bloom, the everlasting presence of a loved one, or the power of faith (religious or in ourselves). The flower is something entirely different. It makes people think and feel deeply -- and that is my greatest joy.