Cecile Raley Designs: Behind the Scenes

Perhaps some of you are wondering how it works. How things get done so fast - sometimes, and then painstakingly slow other times. How things get made, who makes them. Or what you need to run a business like mine. So here goes.

In my home office, there's just me and 2-3 days a week, my very cool friend Debbie. Two days a week we're out, making "runs" in New York. 

I work 7 days a week but not all day every day. I start right after waking up. Etsy questions, convos, listings, photos. That takes about two hours.  When Debbie comes in, she ships.  When she doesn't, I ship.  Shipping can sometimes take half a day.  Etsy insurance doesn't cover gems,  Ship Station does, PayPal does, the latter only up to $500. So we use different services. Payment plans require checking for total amount paid before insuring and all parts of the payment plan (or custom order) need to be checked as shipped.  Ring sizes have to be double checked, custom orders checked one last time, and if a second person is there, all packages are gone through twice to make sure no content got mixed up.


Debbie, My Assistant and Friend

By the time that's all done I usually already have more custom requests, so I take more photos and answer questions. I make a lot of quotes. I go though invoices, do some bookkeeping. In between we do Facebook, Pinterest, other social media, newsletter, blog, we order supplies and castings.  It easily takes all day.


Most of my time is taken up with customers and Etsy itself.  Most of Debbie's job is shipping and social media.  But we also switch off with that, with photographs and other stuff.


Twice a week I go to 47th street to process orders. Those are very busy days!  I am often off to a late start because I have so much Etsy traffic. So Debbie gets there first, going directly from her house, picks up castings and gets them to out pre-polish service - they cut the sprue, clean and tumble. New designs make it from there to Alex, the engraver, then go back to Taba Casting for a mold and castings.


Buying Supplies in New York City (Actually this is Cheese)

Our custom orders each have designated jewelry envelopes with customer name, order date, metal, size or length and order description or drawing. All the order steps are listed and get checked as we go (i.e. casting, parts needed, pre-polish, jewelry work, setting, final polish). Many steps are the same for each piece.  So we essentially funnel the envelopes through 4-6 stops a piece, leaving them at many stops for 2-3 days, and quality checking each time. Some days we pick up or drop at the lab, requesting certificates. On other days I have appointments at various gem dealers while Debbie does the "runs" between stops with the "jobs." We text each other all day long, double checking what is where or which setting works or which customer needs what.  Some days we run out of time. Plus I have to take breaks answering questions for customers (those are the days when you get convoluted convos with many typos).


"After New York" days are often the busiest.  Custom orders come back and need photos and listings and if possible, are shipped asap.


I love my New York days. I exchange news with Pierre the Setter, Vasken the jeweler, Josh from the lab and Jaimeen from Prima Gems. I find out what's new in gems, what the buzz is on the street, and I get to be out and about. I can take much of the news back to my customers.


Often there are errors to correct, and there can be slow downs (a casting has to be redone, a stone broke, or I don't have all the correct stuff in my bag so a custom piece is delayed). Debbie and I need to plan our day carefully so nothing is forgotten and we don't run out of time. One step is missed and we lose half a week!  It happens though. And often it is our fault because there is too much to think of at once.


I process up to 150 orders a month and half or more are custom. I stick to my wholesale pricing so getting more staff isn't easily paid for. But I love what I do and wouldn't go back to my day job for anything.