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tarina tarantino

Tarina Tarantino designs the hottest accessories. Everyone from Selma Blair to Gwen Stefani wears her stuff!

How her interest began...

"In 1992, I was doing freelance make-up work for music videos and TV commercials. In the evenings and on the weekends, I would make jewelry as a creative outlet. One day my fiancé, Alfonzo, quit his job and said, Ya know, this jewelry of yours... you go to work and come home with none of it because everyone buys it from you. Let's just put a box together and I'll take it out to some stores. We put a whole group of hair clips and necklaces together. Alfonzo went to Fred Segal, which is the hippest store in L.A., and they ordered right away! We built the business right out of our dining room."

Hear her success story and get her tips from the top:

1) Learn all aspects of the business.

"In the beginning, it was just me and Alfonzo doing everything. We were both wearing hundreds of hats. We were both doing the manufacturing. The designing. The shipping. The invoicing. Pretty soon it got to the point where I couldn't take it anymore. So, I found a girl to help me with making the jewelry. When it got to the point when we had 8 employees coming into our apartment every single day, we decided to go out and find a small studio."

2) Take one thing at a time.

"We always have taken baby steps. You have this great idea. You have all these people who want it from you. You're trying to produce and manufacture it. You're trying to move into offices. You do all these things, but you try to grow too quickly. Then you get in trouble. For example, if you're not able to pay your manufacturers on time, they're not going to ship you your product."

3) Be careful not to get ahead of yourself.

"I think the biggest problem you can get into is if you try to grow too fast. We were tempted to grow very quickly and start doing handbags and clothing. However, you have to concentrate on what you know best and keep doing that for several years before you go into other categories."

4) Don't get discouraged.

"There was one store on Melrose where the guy said, That stuff is too funky. It's too colorful. People aren't going to understand it. It's too artistic... which all sound like good things, to me. He just thought he couldn't sell it. People weren't really ready for the jewelry. I like to design in a collection form. I like my jewelry to have stories and themes behind them. I like the use of outrageous color combinations. Even today with everything going on in fashion, I'm still considered a bit of a rebel and renegade as far as the way I design. I still have to prove myself. You still have to keep proving yourself over and over again."

5) Don't be afraid to take risks and go against the crowd.

"We invented a category -- hair jewelry. It's not that nobody ever wore jewels in their hair, but as far as the trend actually happening, there was nobody doing that before us. Now, I just want to continue to design into other categories. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel, but that's what they want you to do in fashion. It's a lot of pressure, actually. Sales reps will say, Why don't you do the stretchy bracelet? It's really in. Well, I didn't invent the stretchy bracelet. Paige Roberts invented it. She should do it because she does it best. I didn't like it when everyone was knocking off my dragonflies and butterflies. Sometimes it's a double edge sword. That's fashion!

6) Don't let the competition get you down.

"There are people whose business is seeing what other people are doing and then knocking them off. Those people make a lot more money than we do. Yeah, our company does very well, but it's the people who make the stretchy bracelet because it's in this month who really capitalize on this stuff. Being true to my creative side and my art is a disadvantage sometimes. You'll have people try to commercialize you."

7) Never stop learning.

"There's one book I'm reading right now. It's wonderful for anybody starting their own business. It's called The E-myth by Michael Gerber. It's about the myth of the entrepreneur and it's for anybody starting a business. It talks about how we have to do so much in a day and how we can do it more effectively. It's a great great book."

8) Deal with  business emergencies accordingly.

"There's always some drama or emergency you'll have to deal with. Part of having a business is dealing with problems on a day to day basis. Once you have employees, it's unbelievable the kind of issues you have to deal with. When you're dealing so many different people, it's such a chain of events to get something accomplish, something can always go wrong. It's inevitable. If it was easy everybody would be doing it. I had to learn early on not to look at everything as a problem, but as a challenge and to focus on the solution. There is a solution. There's probably more than one solution so you have to ask yourself, What's it going to take to get this solved? You also have to realize when things are beyond your control and be able to let go."

9) Don't be afraid to ask others for help.

"I'm lucky, I have a partner so I have someone to discuss things with. I also have a great staff who support me. I used to get so frustrated. What I've learned is that you have to give the different parts of yourself time to do what they have to do. You need to be organize and take a deep breath."

10) Get creative when trying to market your company.

"Alfonzo had this clever idea to call the TV shows. He called the stylist for Clueless and said, I have this stuff. It's really funky and colorful. You have to see it. She said, Oh, no. I did all my shopping for this season. So, he talked her into checking the line out, went over there, and she went crazy for it! He started doing that with all the television shows. That was an amazing way not only to get the product on these actors, but to meet the stylists who still come to our studio."

11) Keep in touch with all your contacts.

"I knew Christina Aguilera's stylist way before she started with her. Once she started working with Christina, she told me to send a bunch of stuff over. Most of the celebrities are very gracious about it. Ashley Judd is so sweet. She bought my stuff in a store and loved it so much she tracked me down because she wanted to see more of the collection. She called me one day out of the blue. Every time she wears my stuff, she always drops my name."

12) Appeal to different markets.

"We're re-launching Twinkle. This is a line I'm doing for teenagers. It's going to be a full jewelry line and it's got a whole concept behind it. I'm not trying to knock off my Tarina Tarantino designs and make them cheaper. I'm doing this line for my teenage customers that want something fun, funky, and affordable. That's what we're working on right now. What we ultimately want to do is turn Tarina Tarantino Designs into a lifestyle brand so when people think of us, they think, Oh yeah. I can get anything -- something to wear, something for my home, something to put around my dog's neck. We want to do a pet collection too and we really want to open a store next year."

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