For most families, the next few weeks are among the busiest of the year. For Henderson, NV residents Paul Miller and Elizabeth Lowery, that is an understatement.
The couple have their own business, Caracol-Inspired Jewelry. They have no permanent retail location, but participate in gift shows and fundraisers on the East Coast, California and Las Vegas. Starting this week, they will have booth locations at the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center (12/3-12/12) and a gift show at South Point Hotel Casino and Spa (12/2-12/12). Both shows are held in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo schedule of events in Las Vegas.
“We love being our own bosses,” says Lowery, “but having a business isn’t easy. We specialize in sterling silver designer jewelry, so in addition to finding shows, stocking inventory, handling the finances and recruiting help, we must carefully store, wrap, unwrap and polish each piece of our product.”
Set-up and tear-down of a show location can take from three hours to two days, say the couple. With two shows running simultaneously in December, Miller will be at one location and Lowery will be at the other. “Setup will take a couple days,” said Lowery.
Lowery and Miller not only have a somewhat unusual business, they are people who have always lived life on their own terms. The unmarried couple met while both worked in the Caribbean. Wanting to travel the U.S. and yet have an income, they bought an R.V., began importing pottery and furniture from Mexico and later determined that importing jewelry was much more practical (and fun). They lived and traveled in the RV for 10 years before spending a summer working at the Grand Canyon and then buying a home in Henderson.
The two have a nine-year-old son, Adrian, who is home schooled and will occasionally just spend a day with his parents “under the table skirts” of a jewelry display playing video games and reading. Lowery and Miller believe in what is called “unschooling”, allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences rather than through the confines of a conventional school.
“But if Adrian chooses to go to a regular school, that’s O.K., too,” Lowery explains. The couple are members of a local Yahoo group of families who believe in unschooling called LVLifelearners. “Parental involvement is key to this kind of education,” says Lowery, “and both of us are constantly learning with our son.”
During December, Adrian will be spending time with friends while Mom and Dad sell their jewelry. “We do a lot of repeat business, so not only must we have products that people want; we must have long-term customer service as well,” Miller explains. “We give out our cards with every purchase and we have a website”. If a customer has a problem with one of our pieces, we do our best to make it right even if we have come and gone from a particular location.”
Among Caracol’s local repeat locations are the employee dining rooms at a number of casinos, with a percentage of sales to employees going to the charitable foundation funded by employees.
How has business been in the down economy? “We’ve had to work harder in terms of the number of shows we’re in,” says Lowery. “We feature the work of 18 designers, including designers from Bali, Mexico and Europe. Fortunately, among some of our higher-end customers, instead of purchasing a $5000 diamond and gold necklace this year, they are spending a couple hundred dollars on a sterling silver designer bracelet. So all in all, we’re holding our own.”