By Matthew Koehler
“Right away, like most other businesses, I kind of went into panic mode. Like, oh my gosh, how am I going to pay my rent? How am I going to pay my employees? [It] was a day or two of total shock,” Libby Diament, owner of Diament Jewelry, explained to me over the phone. Like many small business owners affected by the pandemic, she too had to take a deep breath, readjust, and move the pieces of this new reality into place like a puzzle.
Shortly after non essential businesses got the notification from the Mayor that they needed to shut down, or find a way to continue operating while maintaining safety and social distancing, Diament rapidly switched her business model in order to survive: sell care packages. The idea came to her after a friend asked her to send a “fun package” for $50. “So I was, like, done. Get my mind off things. Then a second person reached out asking to send a nice care package to a nurse and then it really struck [me that] this is what we need to do.”
With this piece in place, Diament took to Instagram and within 24 hours, she sold 30 care packages and she knew she was on to something. After two days, she was up to 100 packages, and as of the last time I spoke with her, she had sold more than 900 care packages.
Given that everyone is social distancing, perhaps sending and receiving a package is one activity that can break through social isolation. Many people love receiving gifts but the feeling of giving someone a gift, especially one that surprises them, is a powerful reinforcement of our shared humanity and connections. “It makes your day as much as it makes the recipient’s day to hear how happy somebody is, so it’s like this snowball effect,” Diament pointed out. “A lot of the people who have ordered once are now ordering 3, 4, 5, 6 times.”
Diament only opened her eponymous jewelry store at the Wharf two years ago, but is a veteran of the craft and jewelry world, having attended shows all over the country. As she slowly built her reputation over the past eight years, she has expanded and grown her business model beyond selling jewelry as a solopreneur, and maintains a connection to the small business world by supporting other small producers. “It is a grind to have a small product business,” Diament said. “I know how hard it is to get yourself out there, so I wanted to just provide another platform for people to sell their goods.”
“When I opened this store I knew that it was really really important to me to sell their products, and I think that our store has been really well received because it feels good knowing that basically everything in the shop goes literally towards putting food on the table, or paying for child care for a small business.”
When Diament first started putting these care packages together she was focused on just selling her existing inventory, but has since purchased over $4000 in new merchandise from the same small businesses she likes to use. “Every single order that people are making with these care packages, not only impacts my business, but 250 of our small businesses.”
Aside from helping the many small producers she continues to purchase from, she also has a staff of one full-time and one part-time employee. So far, though, she has managed to keep her employees on the payroll and break even.
So how much are these care packages and what is in them?
Most customers spend $25, $50, $100 and choose from a variety of themes including tropical vacations, a girl’s night out, etc. From there, people can find examples of packages on their Instagram, or do a custom package. “A lot of people are telling us a little bit about the person, that they like cats or they like to travel or they love bath and body products. When we can, we try to make them funny and try to make people laugh a little bit.” Most packages come with an assortment of treats, like caramel popcorn, some self-care items like soap, bath bombs, lotions, hand washes, and lip balms. If it’s in the store it can go in your personalized care package.
And her hottest care package item? “Puzzles are selling out like crazy. We probably won’t be able to order puzzles much longer because they are selling out by the second.”
For the time being, it seems that Diament Jewelry has at least figured out this piece of the puzzle.