Shared from the 8/30/2020 Colo Spgs Gazette eEdition

SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT

A gem of a business

Revolution Jewelry Works is thriving on Springs’ east side

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PHOTOS BY JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

Jennifer Farnes, owner of Revolution Jewelry Works, recently was named Small Business Person of the Year. The business has a retail area with examples of custom jewelry that can be made for the customer, as well as a manufacturing area in the shop.

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Jeweler Susan Kim works on a piece of jewelry at Revolution Jewelry Works on the east side of Colorado Springs.

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PHOTOS BY JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

Jeweler Janelle McNeil works on a piece of jewelry at Revolution Jewelry Works. Revolution Jewelry Works has a retail area with examples of custom jewelry that can be made for the customer as well as a manufacturing area in the shop. Jennifer Farnes, owner of Revolution Jewelry Works, recently was named Small Business Person of the Year.

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A custom diamond ring is built by jeweler Mason Fuchs at Revolution Jewelry Works.

Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional series profiling small businesses in the Pikes Peak region.

Jennifer Farnes was intent on starting a revolution.

In the jewelry industry, that is.

“I really think that the old school way of doing things with jewelry is kind of a dying way,” she says. She, for example, didn’t want her jewelry shop to be a place where people come in with a budget of, say, $3,000 and are encouraged to go a lot higher with the help of financing. And she didn’t want to have a store where you’d find the same old, same old, but, instead, get exactly what you dreamed of.

“We’re in a society,” Farnes says, “where everybody is used to being able to customize everything — phones, shoes, purses, cars. And so we find that there’s a lot of cases where people see the things they like online but it doesn’t have everything that they’re looking for, and that’s where this business has really thrived.”

And her Revolution Jewelry Works on the east side of Colorado Springs has indeed prospered. “Every year that we’ve been open, we’ve had double-digit percentage growth,” says Farnes, who was named Small Business Person of the Year at this year’s Small Business Awards, presented by the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.

A love of rockhounding

Owning a jewelry store wasn’t the result of a longtime career path Farnes had carved out for herself. But it was the result of a long-held passion.

She grew up in Montana, introduced at an early age by her brothers to rockhounding — “digging in the dirt, looking for crystals.”

“That’s kind of where it all started,” she says.

As she got older, she stuck with rockhounding as a hobby. As far as a career, though, she was already working as a radio DJ when she headed off to college and figured that would be her profession. After a semester of attending college and working full time, she said goodbye to school, then got an opportunity to be an events planner in Arizona. That job took her all over the country.

“I had the opportunity to kind of be a gypsy for a few years and really figure out what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be,” she says.

And where she wanted to be. She had enjoyed Colorado Springs during her travels and decided to make that home. She worked in retail, first managing a Target store, then a Victoria’s Secret.

She also fell in love. She met Jeremy, her husband, through a team member at Target, and it was love at first sight. “We got engaged on our first date and we got married four months later,” Farnes says. “It was just an instant connection.” They’ve been married for nearly 18 years.

She introduced Jeremy to rockhounding on their honeymoon. On their one-year anniversary, he suggested getting one of the crystals they had found cut for a piece of jewelry — and that’s when the light bulb came on.

“I knew that crystals come out of the ground in one way and that they come out of the jewelry store another way,” Farnes says. But she had never given thought to be the person in the middle who does the stonecutting.

“That was where it really exploded,” she says. She became an apprentice gem cutter, then a journeyman, then a master faceter.

Farnes started a business at home, a side gig cutting stones for customers and doing repair work for jewelers across the country. She had left the retail world behind and was working for a local ad agency when she realized she needed to make a fateful decision: “Do I stay in advertising or do I pursue my passion and turn the stonecutting into a full-time job? Yeah, of course, follow your bliss.”

Her original plan was to take over an existing shop. When that deal fell through two weeks before closing, she changed up the business plan, converting an SBA acquisition loan to a startup loan and putting everything on the line — “our cars, our house, our retirement.”

Looking back, she says, “everything about it was meant to be. I would have been buying someone else’s vision, someone else’s ideal layout. I got the opportunity to really express who I am through that build-out.”

Focus on custom design

The store opened in late 2013. Last year it expanded, taking over the neighboring space left by a departing retailer. About 10% of business is repair, 20% is sales out of the showcases and the remaining 70% is custom.

“We do, as far as I know, the highest volume of custom design in the state,” Farnes says. That process is aided by the latest technology, including CAD, or computer-assisted design.

“CAD is huge,” Farnes says. “We even have software that people can come in and design on their own.” Typically, though, “they just say, ‘Here’s a sketch that I did on my napkin, how do I make this into a piece of jewelry?’ And then they trust us to interpret the design and bring it to life.”

But the customer can continue to be part of that process.

“We’re able, for example, to put a hand prototype into the modeling software to show them proportionally this is what we are talking about, do you want to go bigger, do you want to go smaller, do you want to move something. It really does put the power into the hands of the client.”

Depending on the customer’s wishes, the jeweler might start from scratch or incorporate an existing stone or piece of jewelry.

“A lot of places won’t work with heirlooms,” Farnes says. But if someone brings in an heirloom that’s languishing in the jewelry box because it’s not that person’s style, her jewelers will work to create something new that the person will cherish. If it’s an heirloom that tells a story, that’s a piece of family history, “I really think it should see the light of day.” she says.

Revolution’s showcases, meanwhile, feature the work of individual artists — most American and working out of their home studios. “We’re really going back to American craftsmanship and artistry,” Farnes says.

Among those artists is shop manager Janelle McNeil, who is a third-generation jeweler with her own design collection at the store, titled “Nell-Marie.” (As a member of the celebrity gifting organization The Artisan Group, she’s also seen her work reach Hollywood, with a piece worn by a star appearing on TV’s “Arrow.”)

Revolution, she says, “is probably the best place I’ve ever worked, hands down. We’re kind of just like a big family in here. ... Everyone has different insights, so we all learn from each other.”

And jewelry, she adds, “is a really great business to be in. There’s so much story and family that goes into jewelry. Everything that comes in has a story. It never gets boring.”

A big July

Revolution shut down for six weeks amid pandemic restrictions, except for some curbside service. And there was plenty of business waiting once the doors reopened.

“July was actually our biggest month ever,” Farnes says. “It was outrageously huge. ... We’re back to being ahead of last year’s numbers.”

That’s good news for the employees, who share in the profits at the end of the year.

Farnes doesn’t believe in salespeople working on commission, which she says creates “a really abrasive work environment.” Instead, she says, she pays “a fair living wage” so people know what to expect in their paycheck, and “at the end of the year, if we’re successful, everybody’s successful.”

There are nine employees, and everyone gathers on Friday mornings for a team meeting where people bounce around ideas for the business. “I don’t have a big enough ego to think that I have all the answers,” Farnes says.

While she laments that, as owner, she’s become “a glorified paper pusher,” she also still gets to do what she loves.

“I still dedicate at least one day a week to doing the stonecutting and doing inlay.”

Husband Jeremy is the shop’s tech guy and a backup CAD designer. When they’re not at work, you might find the couple out four-wheel driving or at home doing beta testing for video game manufacturers.

“My husband and I are big geeks,” Farnes says. As are many of Revolution’s customers.

“We’ve done a lot of geek rings,” she says. “’Lord of the Rings,’ ‘World of Warcraft,’ ‘Pokemon.’

“It’s amazing the fan base that’s out there.”

REVOLUTION JEWELRY

WORKS

Address: 5928 Stetson Hills Blvd., No. 110

Phone: 719-650-6000 Online: https://revolutionjewelryworks.com/

Also find on Facebook and Instagram.

“Do I stay in advertising or do I pursue my passion and turn the stonecutting into a full-time job? Yeah, of course, follow your bliss.”
Jennifer Farnes, owner of Revolution Jewelry Works

See this article in the e-Edition Here