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Thursday, October 16, 2014

InspHERational Woman: Ida Bluhm

Ida Bluhm
Underwater Hawaii
Jewelry Designer

I met Ida Bluhm a few months ago during a photo shoot I did of her family.  Through casual conversation, I learned that she designs and handcrafts jewelry.  She was wearing some of the jewelry she makes.  As a native Hawaiian, Ida draws inspiration from the ocean and beach.  When I saw her jewelry, I knew I had to learn more.  Ida shared the name of her business and told me about her business page on Facebook, so I began following Underwater Hawaii on Facebook as soon as I got home.  I find myself constantly inspired by the images she posts on her Facebook.  Ida sells her jewelry Etsy, and to jewelry & accessory stores around the world.  Here's more inspiration from Ida.

How did you get started?

After I gave birth to my son and our family moved [from Hawaii] to Kansas, I thought, "I'm going to be so bored" because I was always working and busy--especially in Hawaii.  A lot people were making jewelry like this in Hawaii.  I love jewelry, and I spend way too much money on jewelry.  So when I saw people making jewelry like this, I thought that I could totally make that.  So I took a soldering silversmith class in Kansas City.

Once I learned how to fuse metal together, I realized I could pretty much make anything.  So I took the class, I looked at other people's jewelry for inspiration, and it just went from there.  Getting all of the tools was the hard part.  I didn't take any other jewelry making classes to learn how to wire wrap or do any of the basics.  I just went and learned how to solder, so I had to figure everything else out.  I figured things out by asking friends, self-teaching, and watching YouTube videos.

What inspired the name of your business?   

The ocean.  Seriously, that was the only thing I already knew.  The name for the shop was going to be "Underwater Hawaii".  Everyone's into the mermaid thing, but I swear, I was a mermaid before everyone else.  My friends and I grew up around the ocean and this is beach-inspired jewelry.  And under water is the nicest place.  It's all beach-inspired and simple.  

Did you envision yourself growing up to be an entrepreneur when you were younger?

No, not at all.  I just kind of got into and it was fun because it stimulated my brain.  I was home with the baby all day and this gives me the chance to converse with adults especially when I try to make a sale when people message me for custom orders.  But yeah, it's fun.

So you started your business in 2012?  

Yes, I started the business at the end of 2012, in November of 2012.   Each month got better and better.  I closed the shop when I gave birth to my [second] son so things slowed down then.  And now I'm closed again until I get settled [back in Hawaii].

How do you market your business?  

Social media has been the biggest tool for networking and marketing.  I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.  Pretty much all of my social media have the same post, but they give me more exposure.  I think the more you post, the more likes you get.  Social media is the only thing I use, that and Etsy.  The more likes I get on Instagram, the more business I get.  I have a lot of friends who are photographers or models and I give them items and trade.  So I'll ask: "Can I give you jewelry while you go on your trip to Tahiti and you just tag me in your pictures?"  And the word just spreads.  You just need one person to make it look good.  So I focus on marketing and advertising through friends and word of mouth.

What's been the biggest challenge while growing your business? 

Balancing life and business.  At first it started as a hobby but then I thought "if I'm buying all of these tools" or I'm going to buy all of these tools, I might as well try to make it big.  Trying to find daycare times and trying to please customers and get items out in a timely manner.  This isn't full time job, but on weekends I try to do most of my work while my husband watches the kids.

What has given you the most joy while growing your business? 

Customer satisfaction.  Having feedback from customers saying how much they like it and reading their reviews, that's the best thing.  If someone receives something and they don't like it 100% then they'll message me and I'll fix it or they'll send it back for an exchange.

Do you have any words of advice/encouragement for any other women who are considering opening their own business or trying something new? 

Just do it.  Do research, but I say just go for it because if you don't, then you'll never know.  Invest the initial amount to get your business started and in time you'll make it back--you'll probably make more.  Be persistent and have pride in your work.  Have fun with it.  This is kind of a hobby/job for me as a stay-at-home mom, but I have other friends who have small businesses and I find inspiration from them because it's their only job.  Also, consistency and networking.  Networking is the biggest thing, I think, because if you don't network then other people won't talk about your product.  Everyday, learn different things.

What's next for Underwater Hawaii?

I'm getting into casting, and I'm making sharks tooth stud earrings.

Ida, thank you so much for your time and your words of inspiration!

You can keep up with Underwater Hawaii on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and make purchases on Etsy.  Remember, many of the items are customizable!

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