A Pandemic Success Story from a Local Artisan Business

StoreKatie Poterala and Danielle Miller Gilliam opened MAKE MADE Jewelry, located in the heart of downtown Greenville, in late November of 2019 -- just a couple of months before the Pandemic hit. They operated without signage for four months, well into the Pandemic, with very few folks even knowing they existed.

MAKE MADE pivoted from the start, and survived despite limited to no foot traffic or tourism. They trudged on through a tough time when no one was thinking about their next jewelry purchase and fear of the future kept personal spending to a minimum for many. The artists took all the new sanitary precautions, and rearranged their appointment schedule to include online options.

Katie and Danielle managed to find sustainability by narrowing their focus more intently on re-designing and re-working clients’ precious heirlooms and assisting a number of young couples looking for the perfect ring to solidify a pandemic-driven long engagement or elopement. Local clients would discreetly visit their storefront by private appointment to drop off heirloom diamonds and gold. Instead of entertaining shoppers, tourists, and passers-by at their Main St facing location, Danielle and Katie spent most of 2020 secluded in their studio re-imagining these baubles into more contemporary or stylish pieces that still honored the memory of the family member(s) that the jewels came from. The owners/artists ZOOM-ed with clients both near and far to look at sketches, make stone selections, and discuss computer designs and prototypes.

In addition to a sharp focus on custom design and re-design, Katie and Danielle had to completely re-think their class offerings throughout 2020. Originally expected to be one of their most consistent income streams, classes halted entirely in March. Eventually -- with heightened safety measures, additional student seating, spaced out work areas, limited class sizes, and more individual tools -- the artists experimented with a limited class offering in the last quarter of 2020.

Despite a tumultuous first year, MAKE MADE has not only survived, but has actually surpassed any goals the artist/owners set for themselves. In addition, they’ve managed to make a mark on the industry at large – being named one of ‘America’s coolest (jewelry) stores’ and garnering national attention and press by Instore Magazine during their first year. Even better – MAKE MADE was able to make good on a commitment the owners made in 2018 when they incorporated: to support and give back to their local community. In early 2020, in response to the onset of the Pandemic, MAKE MADE created a special line of jewelry, practically overnight, that would benefit the United Way of Greenville County’s COVID-19 fund. The line is called the Liberty Collection, and no proceeds from these pieces are used to pay the artists for the creation of the pieces. 50% of sales is directly donated to UWGC. The remaining 50% of sales covers the gold or silver material costs incurred in fabricating the pieces themselves.

MAKE MADE attributes their fortunate Pandemic success to meeting clients where they are comfortable – both from a personal and budgetary perspective, understanding and appreciating the value and sentimentality of treasures passed down from one generation to the next, and a healthy dose of perseverance.

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