Who are you? & can you tell us a little about yourself?
Wow! That’s an open question! (said with a big smile.) Even though I spend a lot of time running my fair trade jewelry business, I identify with being an artist. I love designing everything. When I’m not at the office working, I might be rearranging furniture at home, planting in the garden or playing with my two Doberman rescues. Did you know they’re officially Dunitz & Company’s mascots? Other tidbits? I adore traveling and exploring far away destinations. And I always try to live by the golden rule. (Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.)
What exactly is Dunitz?
For many years, Dunitz & Company exclusively wholesaled fair trade seed bead and fused glass jewelry which is made for us in Guatemala. We call our fused glass collection “Joanie M” named this to honor my mom. You’ll find our designs selling in museum shops and specialty boutiques all over the US. We also have a small Judaica collection; embroidered & beaded kippot. The world and the way people shop has been changing so quickly, that recently we launched a retail website and an Etsy shop so we can reach more customers.
What inspired you to start Dunitz?
After I completed college and grad school, I was involved with financial planning in the entertainment industry. That was back in the 80’s. Can you believe I was the first employee at Warner Brothers to have a PC? My career path was promising. But I longed to be more artistic on a day to day basis. I was still working a corporate gig at MGM/UA when a vacation took me to Guatemala. I fell in love with the people and their crafts. While there, it dawned on me that I could work with artisans to create designs that people in the USA would like to purchase.
How did you come up with the name?
The short answer is, it’s my name. My longer answer is more amusing. When I first started my business, I was primarily focused on home décor. About a year or so into starting my business, I met two women, one American, one German living in Guatemala. Both made stunning beadwork and had recently shown some Mayan women how to replicate their designs. We all collaborated and built what is now an amazing business. I always joke it was a good thing I didn’t call my business “Pillows Plus”! It wasn’t long after I started collaborating with these women that I redefined my business to only offer jewelry and fashion accessories.
You’re a fair trade verified member of Fair Trade Federation. Can you tell us about that?
Sure. I started my business before Fair Trade Federation even existed. I’ve always intuitively operated with the principles set forth by FTF. It’s already many years ago, but I noticed that a lot of vendors at the wholesale shows started using buzz words, such as “fair trade” and “sustainability” because they thought these words would help them sell their products. I realized that membership in Fair Trade Federation would differentiate Dunitz & Company from the crowd. The screening process is thorough and we knew it was important to open ourselves up to the scrutiny. Many companies that apply for membership are rejected. Customers need to know that you are what you say you are. Dunitz & Company is also a gold-certified business member of Green America.
Do you have a favorite design?
I’m pretty passionate about all of my designs, so that’s a tough one. Believe it or not, I don’t wear earrings. I never had my ears pierced. (And yes, I hear about that from my artisans and colleagues all the time!) I love wearing bracelets. I’m particularly crazy for our bracelets that combine embroidery with beading. You’ll also often find me wearing one of our big fused glass and suede cuffs.
What is your favorite part about running Dunitz?
There are many things I really enjoy. First off, what’s best about running a small business is you get your hands dirty doing many types of things. You don’t work every day fulfilling one narrow function. And you’re always learning new things. One day, I can be focused on learning new tricks in Photoshop. Other days, I’m answering interview questions such as yours. Favorite things? I really enjoy working with my customers, particularly in person. Trade shows and conferences provide me so much opportunity for this. Another favorite thing. I really enjoy studying color and creating color combinations for my jewelry collection. And I think I’m really good at it.
What is your least favorite part about running Dunitz?
Gee. I hate packing and re-packing trade show crates. Counting inventory is a drag. And filing. Yes, I sometimes file.
How do you spread the word about your company?
I’ve always exhibited at a lot of trade shows. I’m active on social media. I even blog about the business. I don’t always know how effective it is, but I sure do get an A for effort. You’ll find Dunitz & Company in all the usual places. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Fortunately, we’ve been lucky in obtaining placement in several retail and trade magazines. And with bloggers too.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
I think the best advice is to always try new things. Don’t operate with tunnel vision. The world is constantly changing and you need to change with it. If you try something, and it doesn’t work, pick yourself up and try something else. I’m certain my business has survived all these years because I’m always reinventing myself.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me. It’s been fun.
www.shopdunitz.com (retail site)
www.dunitz.com (wholesale site)
www.dunitzfairtrade.com (blog, attached to sites)
www.dunitz.etsy.com – (etsy shop)