Editor’s note: This is the third of four stories on small businesses running in our Sunday Business section.
KINGSTON — Weathering the recession and ready to celebrate 10 years in business, Randy Knappman, owner of Studio M Designs, said the journey to this point was not always easy. He still is learning different business aspects such as advertising.
Knappman and his mother, Marlene Knappman, seized the opportunity to start the business in 2004 after his grandfather closed up his antique shop in the same building off Division Street.
Basing their business on his mother’s love of making jewelry and interest in the healing properties of natural stones, Knappman admits it was a risk worth taking.
“We took a risk and ran with it,” Knappman said.
Being able to take and manage risks is a key ingredient to entrepreneurship, said Mark Leffler, assistant professor of management and chairman of the McGowan School of Business at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre.
“You need to know what things you can control and what things you cannot,” Leffler said. ” A fine balance is needed to allow a business to grow.”
Knappman always wanted to be in business. He was taking business courses in college when the opportunity arose to start Studio M Designs. He dropped out to pursue this path instead.
“I learned more in two days in business than I did in college,” he said.
The recession did not seem to slow them down either. When most people limited spending on niceties, Studio M Designs persevered. Knappman attributes this to providing quality jewelry at a responsible price and great customer service.
When dealing with a national economic downturn, Leffler said it takes the right attitude and “lots of patience to ride out the difficult times.”
Proud to note their decade in business, Knappman is working to conquer advertising. He noted their website is in need of updating but said their Facebook page is very active.
“It is great way to interact with customers and bring in new customers,” Knappman said.
Recently, he paid for a billboard advertisement off Interstate 81 North near the casino.
“People still do not know about us,” he said.
Reflecting back on building the business foundation of Studio M Designs, Knappman said he and his mother “used to butt heads” regarding some business decisions and jewelry designs, but now with the business firmly established, that is a thing of the past.
With jewelry designer Kristin Van Tuyle on board, the selections of their custom jewelry reflects three different styles. Knappman said they are equipped to create one-of-a-kind pieces for weddings, or customize a piece to meet a customer’s needs.
“Kristin started here when she was 16,” Knappman said. “She is part of the family.”
Knappman employs three full-time and a “couple” part-time employees.
Knappman also offers a variety of other jewelry lines including Chamilia, Firefly, Moonglow and Mariana, along with thousands of other pieces. Knappman describes his inventory as a step between fine jewelry and costume jewelry.
“We do not like to label ourselves,” he said. “We call it fun.”
Opening the door of the shop, one sees the glimmer of silver, which is just as eye-catching as the Swarovski crystals, beads and stones. Overhead, various colors of witch balls hang glinting random colors around the store.
A witch ball is a colored glass sphere, which according to legend is used to ward off ill fortune, witches’ spells and evil spirits, Knappman said.
“People do not expect to see what they see when they come in,” he said.
All the hard work and long hours to create a sustainable business has paid off for Knappman. What he enjoys most of being self-employed is not having to answer to anyone, the flexibility to bring his child to work and the ability to wear flip-flops all year long.