Chrissy Weems explores the roots of a successful business in her TED talk
Chrissy Weems, the CEO of Origami Owl, recently shared her experiences in life and business through a TED talk given in Davenport, Iowa. Her talk explored the beginnings and the consequent success of her family business.
The concept of Origami Owl was born when her teenage daughter Bella approached her about getting a car for her 16th birthday. Weems required that Bella earn the money herself. Bella explored several different avenues of raising money for her car.
When it became clear that Bella could not earn enough money from a car through babysitting alone, her mother encouraged her to start her own business. Starting small at a mall kiosk, Bella opened Origami Owl. This business combined existing charms and embellishments into customized lockets.
As Bella’s business grew, she and her mother expanded into the direct selling model. Company representatives, called Designers, attend parties where they help clients create the perfect customized jewelry for their needs. Social sellers were a huge success, allowing Weems and her daughter to achieve their dreams. The company started small, but soon expanded to a nationwide reach.
The success of Origami Owl depends on an emotional connection with the customer. Often, the charms chosen by each customer have deep personal meaning. In her TED talk, Weems told attendees about a customer who selected two sunflowers to remember her late twin daughters. This deep personal meaning motivates Origami Owl customers to keep creating new jewelry for their friends and for themselves.
Weems holds that businesses that foster an emotional connection with their customers are more likely to be successful. Purchasing a custom piece of jewelry can be satisfying to the customer’s emotions, and they want to share this experience with their friends and loved ones. Meaningful personal gifts bring Origami Owl a level of success not often experienced by other direct selling companies.
Investors began to show interest in the company, giving them a “life-changing” sum of money. This could have supported their family comfortably for many years. With the investors’ money, the focus of the company began to shift away from the customer. Sales suffered, and the level of personal service expected by customers and social sellers began to fade.
Weems made the difficult decision to return the investors’ money, believing that they could run their own business based on their personal convictions. The company’s financial advisors were not supportive of the move, but Bella and her mother persevered.
It took some time before Origami Owl regained its profitable state, but the company thrived after giving up the investors’ money. The business returned to its fundamental principles of sharing their customers’ vision and commemorating the special events in their lives.
Customers were encouraged to share special social events with their friends and to include the social sellers. The individual designers or social sellers were the backbone of the company. Returning to a customer-focused company meant that Origami Owl was able to achieve greater financial success in the long run.
The basic lesson of the TED talk is that businesses need to foster an emotional bond with their customers. As people move away from buying jewelry and accessories in person, Weems emphasized the importance of allowing the customer to see and handle their products before buying. The benefit of social interaction helped Origami Owl grow.
The Davenport installment of the TEDx program showcased several different businesses and individuals with inspiring stories. All of the talks are available on YouTube for the public’s enjoyment and education. Entrepreneurs like Weems share their experiences and how they achieved success in the highly competitive business world.