Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bead Store Interview: Foremost Focal

1. What is your business name, website and location?

Foremost Focal Beads. We do not have a brick and mortar store; we sell through the Internet and at bead shows. The business is located in Portage, MI.
2. What kind of handmade art beads does your store sell? What types of materials do your customers prefer?

We made it our goal to provide a one-stop shop for art focal beads bringing together many artists on one website. Our customers are those who can’t travel to the big bead shows to purchase directly from the artists.
We also showcase new bead artists. There is no one material that customers prefer, although there is a slight lead with raku beads.

Polymer clay focal by Christi Friesen, available at Foremost Focal
3. How do you stay current with trends in the bead business? What are some of the important things you do for your business?

We read all we can in the various bead magazines and check for fashion trends. However we try to offer art beads that are different. Take glass for example. Many artists make “bumpy” beads and while we may carry a few, we would rather find new and exciting shapes to sell.

Raku leaf pendant by Rama Raku available at Foremost Focal
4. What role does education play in your business? Do you offer classes or tutorials?

Since we are internet based, we do not offer classes. Tutorials are a dream. With our very small staff it’s difficult to find time to put these together. Maybe in the future…
Right now we put all our energy into the services we do offer – finding creative new art beads, preparing detailed design and color specifications and color-matching coordinating beads to each focal. (Yes, we use “focal” as a noun.)

Sassy Silkies beads by Krystal Wick available at Foremost Focal
5. In a world of cheap imports and knock offs, handcrafted beads can be a hard sell. How do you encourage your customers to give art beads a try?

Showing how the beads can be used in a piece of jewelry is the best marketing technique. I had a focal set that just wasn’t selling until it was made into a necklace. At our first show, a customer wanted the beads and purchased the entire piece at its higher price.
6. What kinds of art beads do you look for? Is there a bead you wish an artist would make for your store?

We try to keep an even-handed inventory of beads made from a variety of media. As before, we look for the truly different and we have decided against some artists because their work was so similar to others.
A bead we wish for? I guess those who can’t, talk to those who can. I have ideas that I share with an artist in California. You’ll have to check the website in the future to see them. J I guess our biggest hope at the moment is that we can find PMC artists with decent wholesale policies!

Bracelet Photo and Design by Helen O’Donnell, Embroidered Soul.

7. What beady plans do you have for the future? What bead trends are you excited about?

Our next beady plan is to present trunk shows at stores throughout our area (Michigan, Northern Indian, and Northwest Ohio). After that, we hope to start a wedding jewelry spin-off as well as make our own beads. A book of unique ways to use focal beads is also in the offing.

Carved stone pendant by Riverstone beads available at Foremost Focal

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