Branded orange image featuring Libby Langley in lovely floral top and Myrna Halpern wearing a light blue shirt with text on the right that reads 'Going Live is just like a video call' on the right

Libby: Today I am talking to Myrna Halpern, who is joining me all the way from the U.S. of A. Hello, how are you? What time is it then?

Myrna: Six thirty.

Libby: Oh, that’s not quite as bad as I thought.

Myrna: Thank you. I’m faking it.

Libby: A lipstick always helps. Right.

Myrna: Right. For sure.

Libby: Thank you so much for joining me today. I know we chatted a bit on Instagram, but now face to face and obviously never met face to face.

Myrna: Maybe one day.

Libby: Maybe one day. Who knows well when international travel is allowed again! Where abouts are you actually?

Myrna: in Memphis, Tennessee?

Libby: Somewhere I’d like to visit. Today we’re going to be talking in our live chat, a little bit about your business, how things have been kind of over the last year or so for you. If they’ve been different over in the States than they have been here in the UK, because we’re just at the stage now of coming out of our third lock down, three and a half months locked down.

Myrna: Wow.

Libby: Yeah. It was only Monday this week that places like hairdressers and beauty salons were able to open and you can have pubs opened, but only for outside.

Myrna: Right.

Libby: It’s all been pretty strict. We’ve been doing a lot of vaccinations and stuff and it seems as if, fingers crossed, this will be the last time we have to go through this. But total lockdown for three and half months has been tough.

Myrna: It’s so tough.

Libby: Yeah, no, it has been tough. So how have things been over there? What’s the difference?

Myrna: Well, it’s a little different because we are beginning now because we have really since our new president has taken over, the vaccination process has gone so much quicker and so much more smoothly. We are beginning to see the light. My husband and I, about three weeks ago went to our first restaurant in a year. We sat outside with another couple and it was it was a very odd experience, but we are making progress probably a little bit ahead of what you’re doing in England, but we have not been on an aeroplane.

We’re supposed to go in June. And our CDC says that if we’re fully vaccinated and wear masks, that it is safe for travel within the United States – we’ll see.

Libby: Have you had your vaccine?

Myrna: Oh, yes.

Libby: I haven’t yet, because I’m still just slightly too young. My husband had his and my parents have got their second one on Friday. But I haven’t had any yet. I don’t know if international travel is going to be possible for this summer for people. It’s illegal at the minute for us. So, yeah, domestic holidays are the way forward, I think.

It’s good that progress is being made. You must feel like things are kind of coming back to normal.

Myrna: It’s going to take a while to get adjusted to whatever this new normal is going to be.

Libby: Confidence, if nothing else. Like you say about eating out with some friends – it’s kind of a weird experience. I think we all feel a bit like that. We haven’t been anywhere or done anything for over a year now so it is going to be strange when we start to do that again.

Myrna: But it feels good.

Libby: Yeah, I guess so. I kind of like being on my own at home, so I’m not going back. I’ve worked from home on my own for well over nine years now. So that’s kind of been normal for me. I think it’d be nice to be able to have the choice to do stuff if you want to.

Myrna: That’s the difference. Exactly.

Libby: So has this last year or so changed or affected your business? What’s happening business wise?

Myrna: I would say it is so different. It has been so different, but not necessarily negatively, for me. I felt like I was in a better position than some. Before Covid my main employee who does all of the fabrication of my jewellery. Back in January 2020, when she was a full-time employee, she told me that she was going to be moving about two hours outside of Memphis. Of course, that was before Covid, so my immediate thought was, OK, we can also work remotely when she moves, but in the meantime, we were just so busy making product and once, covid hit, she worked from home to continue to make product because she actually didn’t move until May.

In a way that was good for me because I would have probably been faced with what do I do? I know I would not have had the heart if she were still living in Memphis to lay her off, she’s all about empowering women and she is a single mom. I would have really been in a pickle.

Libby: This has been a really common theme in the conversations that I’ve been having with people over the last few months. Some of the changes that you’ve made or you’ve been forced to make because of Covid have actually been really positive steps forward for the business that otherwise you might not have had the courage or thought process to do?

Myrna: In a way, it worked out well for her. She found a full-time job in her new hometown and I had products so I could carry on. Obviously, people don’t buy a lot of jewellery when they’re wearing their pyjamas all day so I used it to my advantage and it gave me time to sort of regroup. I’ve been wanting for a long time to kind of pivot anyway. I love my customers and I love having more direct contact with them.

I was beginning to pivot away from selling to as many little boutiques as I had over the years. I had left my showroom in New York this September before Covid, and I was changing gears anyway. I can’t complain. It really all worked out. It gave me an opportunity to get some coaching on some different things that would help me build my online business. It really worked in my favour and I really learnt so much during Covid – I’ve really taken that time to educate myself.

Libby: I think that’s great. I would completely agree with that myself. Even though my business hasn’t changed much because I’ve always done a lot of online delivery and that kind of thing, the fact that you’ve had a bit more time and space because there was nothing else to do. We’ve all been able to think, well, you know what do I want to do? How is it going to work for me right now? How do I want to shape my business? I think that’s been a really positive and useful period of time. It has been rubbish but actually there’s a lot of positives that we’ve all been able to take from it.

Myrna: I think it’s the quintessential case of making lemonade out of lemons.

Libby: Absolutely. The learning is so important because so often business owners, don’t take the time to step back and have like a CEO day where we just properly invest in ourselves and our business – that’s wrong. That should be a real priority. If were not nurtured and nourished and growing and developing – how are we going to do that for our business?

That’s fabulous that you’ve been you’ve been doing that and you’ve had that kind of attitude.

Myrna: You have to. It’s all about attitude.

Libby: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. What changes have you made to the business? You say that you you’ve pulled out the boutiques anyway.

Myrna: Not totally, but more so.

Libby: You’re selling more to more direct to people then?

Myrna: Exactly. Sort of exploring, really identifying the essence of my business, really getting to understand my ideal client, all the things that are really critical that maybe before, as you say, I might have not had the knowledge or the time to do. It’s been valuable.

Libby: Perhaps you didn’t really see the importance of it because, we’re doing the day job and assuming that it’s all fine. But only when you take a step back you think just hang on a minute. Who am I actually wanting to sell my stuff to? Exactly what do they want to hear and see? You make big use of social media to connect with this group.

Myrna: Yes, I have found that to be so effective. I found new customers on social media, which has been fun. I’ve always had a bit of a global community behind my jewellery, but I think this is expanded it even more so.

Libby: What’s the furthest afield customer that you’ve got?

Myrna: Amman, Jordan.

Libby: Wow, that’s not bad. It’s exciting when things like that happen, isn’t it? When you start up a conversation with someone on social media and you want to become friends with them or they become a customer or you become a customer of theirs. It’s still all these years. I mean, 11, 12 years since I started working in social media and I will never stop being amazed at the things we can achieve just with a smartphone. I think it’s absolutely mind blowing-ly incredible. I have to say.

Myrna: You know, it’s funny because I was writing a caption and I said something about all of mankind. It hit me that how I used to think that was like outer space or something, but how we have become a global community and all of mankind is everybody on Earth – it’s not as big as I used to think!

Libby: No, I would agree with you completely. I think actually that’s one thing about Covid, is the physical world has become much smaller because we’ve been told to stay at home and not be able to go anywhere and do anything. Actually, that’s allowed people to turn more to the Internet and to social media, video conferencing, those kind of things and lives like this and actually talk to people that they wouldn’t normally talk to and wouldn’t normally engage with. They strike up these friendships that would never have happened before.

Myrna: I now know that it’s fun.

Libby: It is. It’s really interesting. Even the fact that we’re here today – we would never bump into each other.

Myrna: Well, our paths probably would never have crossed.

Libby: Absolutely not. What do you think’s been the biggest change to the way that you have marketed your business in your jewellery over the last 12 months?

Myrna: I think the fact that I’m totally using online – I’ve really totally focussed online and it’s been a change, but some people just really want to touch and feel that jewellery. I think that women are getting more and more used to buying online and doing things online. That has worked to my benefit. There’s still a lot of things that are limiting but I think it’s just it’s a process we’re getting used to. I’m constantly trying to think of things that make that process easier for my customers.

That’s something I’m really delving into, trying to figure out how can I make this easy? Of course, you know, everything’s returnable, but people are still a little trepidatious about buying jewellery online.

Libby: Yeah, it’s such a personal thing, isn’t it? You’re right – seeing how something catches the light if you hold it up in a shop is very different to seeing photos or videos that the maker or seller is sharing. Although, funnily enough, I bought these earrings online from somebody that I’ve met on Instagram. You get used to seeing the picture. I think, again, this last 12 months we’ve been so reliant on online purchases and perhaps less suspicious. Would you say?

Myrna: Actually, if I decide to go live and do a little online sale, would you come?

Libby: Sure! As long as it’s not the middle of the night.

Myrna: Oh, I forgot about that. It’s hard to find just the right time.

Libby: You don’t do many lives at all, do you?

Myrna: I’ve never done a live but it’s on my bucket list

Libby: Well, you’re doing one now.

Myrna: I did do one with another Instagram friend. I’ve enjoyed it.

Libby: How do you find it as an experience? I would always say to people that it’s basically just the same as Facetiming or Zooming a friend of yours – you forget that actually there are people watching because the intimacy of the conversation is what matters. All you can see on your screen is me and I could see you, and that’s it.

It’s something that we have a fear of almost needlessly. It’s just like broadcasting your Facetime, isn’t it?

Myrna: Well, I have to admit that I am a perfectionist. My hang-up was that I was going to be so worried that I was going to be talking to nobody I guess I was worried I’d be a flop.

Libby: The thing is, probably there will be one where no one’s watching, but that doesn’t matter, particularly if it’s your first one, because you have to practise. You need to do it to get comfortable with which buttons to press and how to sit or how to present. If you’re doing it as a showcase to present your products. the more you do them, the more your followers will know that you do them and the more people will watch and the better you get.

It really doesn’t matter if nobody watches your first few. I know psychologically that goes against what we what we think we want to do. We want to sell hundreds of things, but they just don’t happen that way. It really doesn’t matter. If you only do ten minutes, that’s just ten minutes out of your day which has been a really useful learning experience.

Myrna: I agree. I’m going to do one.

Libby: What are you going to sell a product demonstration? What you thinking of?

Myrna: I’m not exactly sure, but I was thinking of maybe just doing a just a small sale, maybe something very specific, maybe just showing a few pair of earrings and then build up – see how it goes.

Libby: Well, that’s it you have to see what the reactions are. Also it’s about how comfortable you feel doing it, because if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of doing it as a sale you could do it as a product demonstration? It might start like that.

It’s reframing it in your in your mind. It’s only through trial and error and practise. You will actually work out which one suits you best.

Myrna: I mean I could actually do it like that and then just maybe pop up the little text bubbles when you’re doing live.

Libby: You can type in the comments. You got to get good at multitasking there. I’m not very good at doing that. I prefer just sit here and, and talk and then do it when I save it to an IGTV. I’ll put the comments and stuff in there – it’s all perfectly possible to do.

Myrna: I could go old school and hold up a sign with the name of the product.

Libby: You know, that’s how I would do it, because it’s more memorable as well, isn’t it? Because if it’s all on the screen, then all people do is have to look at the screen Rather than you saying, look at your comments and do this and do that because you don’t want to end up losing people.

Why not. What’s been your kind of assessment of this last year then all the changes that you’ve been through with your business and also personally, has it been kind of stressful? Has it been fun? Has it been both?

Myrna: I would say both, yeah. Personally I’m one of these people that just tries to make things fun. It’s all about is the glass half empty or half full? Sometimes it’s hard, but we are a product of all of our experiences in life. If we’ve had major stresses in our life, we’ve had to learn to pivot and we’ve had to learn to reframe it. It’s like anything else in life, you’ve got to learn to continue on and make the best of it.

It hadn’t been fun – I’ll be honest with you, but I’ve learnt a lot and I feel like it’s really shown me so much about my business and myself. If you’re a lifelong learner, then you just make it a learning experience. I was very dedicated not to continue buying tons and tons of jewellery components like I normally would and it’s given me an opportunity to do what I love most, and that’s making one of a kinds.

Yes, it’s all been good. I’ve used the materials that I’ve had on hand. Yes, I’ve bought some things, too, because I want everything to look fresh and wonderful. But I think it’s more good than bad for me.

Libby: That’s good to hear. Certainly what you’ve said about what’s happened to you this last year has come across as a very positive period. There’s no doubt that there’s been stress within that – making any big changes in your business, whether your own decision or enforced by a pandemic is pretty stressful. It’s pretty scary because you’re used to a routine and structure but once you’re through the worst of it, you forget about the worst of it and actually there’s almost a sense of relief, of now having this business that this is actually a business that I like.

Myrna: I love. Yes, really my passion. There’s no doubt about it.

Libby: Which is super to hear. That’s really good, because I think sometimes that that can get lost and it really shouldn’t. If you’re not passionate about what you do, it’s quite hard to make the sales because everybody knows you’re not passionate about what you do.

Myrna: It comes through, doesn’t it?

Libby: Yeah.

Myrna: I consider myself very fortunate to have something in my life to keep me busy that I love.

Libby: No, that is good. That should stick, I think. What’s the one thing you would say that you’ve learnt this year either about the way you use social media or how you operate your business that you think could really help another business owner out?

Myrna: I really think I’ve learnt that you have to put yourself out there. Your customers really have to have confidence in you, they have to like you, trust you before they’re going to buy from you, and that if you can really put yourself out on social media, speak from your heart, speak your truth and not be afraid, then I think you’re going to have better results. You know, I was very hesitant at first, but once I started, I realised that, yes, that’s what the people out there are looking for.

I found myself doing it. If I’m going on somebody’s Instagram and I look at their whole feed together, chances are I’m probably going to respond to the little square that has their picture in it.

Libby: Yes, absolutely. Letting people into your life a little bit – that’s what makes the difference, that’s what builds the trust and that’s what will help you grow your business.

Myrna: I think so, yes.

Libby: It’s about relationship building. I think that’s a really excellent and solid piece of advice to give to people, because we can all hide behind the quotes and the off the shelf memes and all of that.

But actually, what will make the difference is us, right?

Myrna: I totally think so. I’m just a big believer in women. I was raised by a single mom who just was the best. I just think that I want to pay it forward. I believe in empowering women to be the best they can be, whether it’s by wearing my jewellery or just by supporting them in what they’re trying to do. I’ve had a lot of great women that I have worked with in my business. I always tell them family first.

We try to put things in perspective. The sweet girl that I was talking to you about, who’s a single mom who’s worked for me now for nine years, at the beginning she would have never told me if her child had won at an honours assembly. But now over time, I’ve always said, yes, you can have time off. This week I sent her a text and I said, Can you work? Can you come into town next Saturday? And she had the guts to say that her daughter had something special going on it at school. And I was thought, man, at the beginning, she would have never told me that.

Libby: Good for her. Yeah. Yeah.

Myrna: It’s so important.

Libby: Yeah, it is. What you say, family first – you know yourself first because we’re here to serve our customers. We are the most important. We should be the most important in our lives. That should be the same with everybody. I think that’s really, really important. We should never lose sight of that. Working 15 hours a day, 20 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s all pointless unless you put yourself first and actually look after yourself and think what you need to get through. When you’ve got all that sorted, you will deliver a better service or better product for your customers.

Myrna: I totally agree. It’s got to come from the heart and your soul.

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