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Inspired by various forms of street style, Hip Hop and fashion trends, Kerri O’Connell, Founder and Head Designer of Good Wood NYC, prefers wood —Not Ice— as the medium for creating urban themed wearable art embraced by many. Celebrities like Erykah Badu, Amber Rose, Nas, Justin Bieber and many others have been seen rocking Kerri’s creations.

I had the opportunity to chat with Kerri of Good Wood NYC as she took a break from the wood shop to talk about the growth of her business.

Tell us about your company, Good Wood.
We’re a company that makes custom wooden jewelry. We make necklaces, rings, pendants, earrings, coasters– all made out of wood. We can pretty much make anything that you want.

How did you get started?
I started Good Wood in 2007 carving wooden jewelry. It was mostly three and four-finger rings and stuff like that, and a lot of people started wearing them. I went to a lot of parties and events, giving a lot of stuff out to DJ’s and promotors, showing off what I was doing. I realized that the response I was getting from the pieces was tremendous, so I decided to start branding it.

Any special techniques to how you make your pieces?
All the products are laser engraved. When I started carving them by hand, I realized there was no way I’d be able to mass produce it. So I looked into a few different options to efficiently mass produce the product. I looked into laser engravers, and they worked. We’re actually designing all the pieces. After the laser engraving, we hand sand, hand paint, and assemble all the products here in Brooklyn. So nothing gets done overseas; everything is done here domestically. Throughout time, I was able to build the company through getting more orders, getting more artists to hand paint the pieces, assemble them and design them using Illustrator and Photoshop.

How was it getting your product popular in a time where the IN thing was to wear diamond pieces?
Good Wood is about the artwork and having a piece that means something to you as opposed to having a piece that’s showing how much money or status you have. I feel that it has the same affect on the person wearing it whether or not the piece was $60 or $6,000. I think it makes people feel really good about themselves and it’s something that they can be proud of. That’s the difference between Good Wood  and platinum or gold jewelry. A lot of people would rather have something that gives them pleasure without having to spend a ridiculous amount of money. Also, as far as the artistic value, we’re doing the same thing that a jeweler does, but we’re doing it out of wood so the cost is a lot less, and you still get the same effect. Even more when you factor in custom color, hand painting, and different types of wood inlays that we use. It’s just another way to make jewelry.

Tell us how your business started to grow.
I was trying to get the brand out there because I thought it was something people would definitely be into. I contacted a lot of blogs, did a lot of smaller end trade shows, events, and the response was enormous. No one could believe what it was. People would ask ‘is this real?’ I didn’t know if they were asking if it was real gold or real wood? I didn’t understand the question [laughs]. It was just something people had never seen before, and that’s what helped the business grow. So it was the idea of the product but it was also getting it out there. That was really important because once you have that type of response from the product, you can’t let that go to waste, you have to show it to as many people as possible. So I definitely contacted blogs, the internet, Twitter and Facebook. It all helped Good Wood.

In regards to exposure, what was the strategy to getting artists and celebrities to wear your pieces?
It was about making custom pieces. I’ve always been into Hip Hop and I knew a lot of Hip Hop artists that I wanted to reach out to. I had a few people working with me that would also reach out to Hip Hop artists. It was just about making pieces that I thought they would wear or something that they would like. I didn’t know them personally, but I would look at their logo or something like that. I think that Good Wood speaks to the person wearing it so it’s hard to not wear something if it means something personal to you, or reflects who you are. So that was a strategy I used. After a few celebrities were seen wearing the pieces, more and more celebrities and professionals started requesting Good Wood.

What are some key techniques to expanding your business?
Honestly, it was mostly internet. Just getting it out there. The product is something that sells itself because it’s custom. When we released the Jesus piece, it was enormous. And, it was a product that I’d been getting a lot of custom orders for. If we get enough requests for something, we can put it on the product line and make it available to everyone. So after getting all the requests for the Jesus piece, I decided to design one that we could put on the product line. That was a huge trend. It sold tremendously and was picked up by every major blog, and magazines wrote articles and there was also product placement for it. That’s when celebrities started contacting me for the piece. Making one product that people actually truly wanted is when it started blowing up as a brand.

Any specific tips or pointers for young entrepreneurs?
Be obsessed with what you’re doing and completely believe in it. Never listen to anyone that puts you down. Only take in all the good that you’re hearing and keep pushing. Know who you should trust and develop relationships with people. Network and get in contact with lots of different types of people.

So what’s next?
We’re venturing into a few different products. We’re going to be doing glasses frames where you can put your own prescriptions in them. Over the next few months after we come out with them, you’ll be able to customize them yourself. You can have anything engraved on the sides, design a pattern yourself, or any concepts or ideas you have can go on the frames. We’re also going to be getting into housewares. We’ll be coming out with our own light switch plates completely made out of wood. We’re also doing coaster sets and a bunch of small household accessories that we’re in the process of developing right now.

Kerri’s 5 Key essentials to growing a business:

1Determine your goals and establish new goals as you reach them. Keep progressing.

2- Have the right people around you. Choose productive and innovative people to work with that will go beyond what is expected.

3- Never give up because of discouragement, always look at the positive but stay rational.

4- Believe in what your business stands for and the service or product you are offering. Make it the best it can be and listen to your audience, customer’s and client’s feedback.

5- Network.. Use social networking sites and the internet. Technology is your friend! Get your business out to people who might be interested in letting other people know, including blogs and magazines.

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