Dreamers: “They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway” With Marisa Perry
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Listen to the universe. If the planning and execution goes smoothly, then it was meant to be. And if you run into a tremendous amount of obstacles once you have decided to move forward, then perhaps it was not meant to be.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marisa Perry.
Marisa Perry is a self made woman and leader in her field. Her NYC West Village boutique is a highly coveted destination for high end jewelry — particularly Engagement Rings and Wedding bands — and she was one of the first women to design, manufacture and sell direct to consumer in the luxury good field. Marisa is no stranger to making moves in male dominated industries, fearlessly inserting a female perspective with the ambition and courage to not only be heard, but to become sought after for her strategy and opinion. 18 years and a pandemic later, Marisa Perry is seeing rapid growth, and has no plans on slowing down now!
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
Well, I am a California Girl who moved to New York 30 odd years ago and never looked back. I initially moved here to be in Fashion, but promptly moved into Food. Yes, food, that is not a Typo. My first career was working with all of the top chefs in NYC and the neighboring states and finding interesting ingredients for them to use on their menus. I would find out what they needed, and then go throughout Europe to find the best in that particular category. We would import the products into the U.S.through the company I worked for, “The Chefs’ Warehouse”. It was really fun. I had a special expertise in Chocolate, Cheese, Caviar and Olive oil — so is it any surprise I moved into diamonds?!?. In 2001, I met my husband who was a jewelry designer and we started a jewelry company together, Marisa Perry. Our store is located in NYC’s West Village, and we now happen to be the place to go for engagement rings and wedding bands, and are known for the most cutting edge designs and trend starters in our marketplace. We have had our company now for almost 20 years and together, we are spreading love around the world one ring at a time!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on the most exciting project of my life, which will help many people indirectly. I am working on the growth of my company. We all get caught up in the day to day tasks of running a business, but so often we don’t carve out time to work ON our business. So I have tried to back away from the day to day tasks and focus only on what we can do to grow — and implementing those strategies is working!
Not only will it help my team grow and become more successful, but it will help our clients as well. We strive to offer the best value in terms of jewelry. Which we define as the best quality settings — both current and classic — the finest of craftsmanship, top-tier GIA Certified Diamonds (natural diamonds, not lab created), with a price that reflects their intrinsic value. There are so many games played in the diamond industry and I take it as a personal responsibility/mission to cut through that, protect my clients, and make sure that they are getting not just what they pay for but more than what they pay for. The more people I can do that for, the better.
Additionally, the larger I can grow my company, the more people I can hire. Creating a healthy and happy work environment is also paramount to our corporate identity, and it’s something I’m very passionate about.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
Style, expertise, service.
What makes our company stand out is superior style, unsurpassed product quality, and a stand out team who is “best of” in their particular department.
- Firstly, most Jewelry stores look a little like a men’s club with heavy showcases, beige / plaid or leather chairs etc, and a hushed, stuffy environment. Our shop is different. We have a beautiful, sophisticated and feminine style that is charming and not too formal. I don’t want to confuse the word sophistication with formality. We have a super up-to-date, yet timeless look, which transports you into an Atelier experience without the pretension. Like when you go to a stylish new restaurant full of energy and atmosphere, that’s what we have created for jewelry.
- Next our jewelry exceeds the gorgeous atmosphere, because of our lead Designer, Douglas Elliott. Better style and workmanship cannot be found worldwide. We are the only ones making rings at the quality level of the few top jewelry design houses, but still remaining competitive price wise. Everything is handmade in NYC at the highest level of skill, which few can boast. No dated setting will ever grace our shelves! We are super high style across the board.
- We are also one of the only jewelry boutiques that design their own pieces, manufacture and sell them directly to the general public. We don’t buy from the big jewelry manufacturers and resell like most jewelry stores do. We make a unique product — right here in NYC.
- Last but not least, our team is second to none. We have the most accomplished sales team in the industry, whose only goal is to make sure that their clients receive the very best diamond and setting or jewelry piece for them, within their price range. That part is imperative. Most of what we do is custom which makes that easier, as we create to the clients needs. We are customer centric and make sure that we advise clients on what is best for them and only them. We have the top designer in the US, Douglas Elliott, the best in operations for our manufacturing, the very best sales team, the best interior design, and the best location. And if there is another area I can be best in, I make a point to get there! Like I say-” I am not competitive as long as I am number one”!
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
How did I overcome that? In a sentence, I followed my gut. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I made a mistake because I listened to my gut instincts”? I haven’t.
Before either career, I was told that I could not move to NY on my own with no financial support. Followed by “I would fall on my face and come running back”. Well… that was 36 years ago and I am still here. The moral of the story is, if you know you should do something and really want to do it, whatever “it” is, then do it. No-one knows what YOUR destiny is. And only YOU have that inner inkling. Of course all of these years later, those same people that discouraged my move have acknowledged how much better I fit on the East Coast.
I was also told by a Jewelry Industry “authority” that entering the Bridal Sector was “IMPOSSIBLE” because it was dominated by several large companies already with huge marketing budgets. I was told I would never have a chance of becoming a player. And now here we are, considered one of the main trend setters of our industry.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
Well, it has been 36 years and I’m still here. I started a business, and am still here, I went into the Bridal industry, and you guessed it, here I am!
I realized that the person who said that I had no future in bridal jewelry was wrong when Tiffany’s opened their store in Soho, and put a bill board directly on the top of the building where my previous store was. I figured, if the marketing department of Tiffany knew who I was and was feeling that competition, then I was really on the map.That was years ago, but now we are the destination in downtown Manhattan for Engagement rings, Wedding Bands and other fine jewelry. We are the coveted brand for women in the know, with an acute sense of style, who would never wear the less sophisticated designs of those large, more mainstream companies that used to dominate the industry, back in the day. In fact, we never hear of anyone asking for those brands ever! No one even brings in a photo of those brands to show us anymore. The naysayer in this case, never acknowledged my success, but I am grateful to them for their doubt, it only propelled me to be stronger.
Now, all too frequently, when we post a brand new design, within two weeks we see it on our competitor’s Instagram feed. In whichever career I was in, I have been the one to set the trends, not follow them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, absolutely. As I said, I worked for a company called The Chefs Warehouse. When I was considering changing careers, I wrote a business plan and went to my bosses, which were / still are the owners and said, “Here is my plan, do you guys think I am crazy to leave the food business?” And they said, “No, in fact, we’ll finance you.” If it were not for them, I would most likely not have this company. Interestingly enough, I just celebrated a big birthday and mentioned them publicly at my party (they were there), how when they gave me the funding to start my company, they could have never imagined what would become. They not only allowed my husband and I to practice our craft, but in turn, they provided us with such a valuable part of our network. Because of our shop, we have so many close relationships with customers and employees we have met along the way. So my early partners also indirectly provided an entire lifestyle and friendship circle, which spills over into my employees and their families.
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
Yes, although my parents always tried to encourage me in certain ways, they were over protective in others. Out of concern for my safety, they instinctively held me back. I was ready to take on the world and I had to learn to navigate my personality within my family. They did not understand the depth of my inner ambition and drive, and expected me to have a whole different life. I had to learn from a young age to not let anyone keep me down. It was so counter to everything I was about as a human being and it was so incredibly frustrating!! I was happy to move into adulthood to take off and soar.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Follow your gut: It may sound over played, but I think we all have the ability to sense what is good for our future inside. We just can’t get talked into listening to someone else, and not listening to that inner voice. For example, living in NYC was my destiny, which I knew from age 5. Now other people could not know that, but I knew it. People may think when a 5 year old says, “I am going to live there when I grow up” that they have no idea. But I knew. I knew then an every year after that without doubt. Now, not everyone’s minds are made up with that kind of “knowing”. But if you listen hard enough to your quiet self, you will know what you should do.
- Meditate: If you have trouble reaching that inner voice or getting in touch with that feeling of what is right for you, meditate, meditate, meditate. The answer will always come. Meditation did help me figure out what I wanted to do and helped answer any questions that I had. But I also did a lot of manifesting meditation, and attribute a lot of my success today to that.
- Move forward and see how it goes and GIVE IT TIME: For some reason, many people believe in instant success. It takes time to build a business and a clientele. The longer you are in it, the more established you get. They say you don’t grow after 5 years? I grew more after 5 years than EVER! Think 20 years! I had a friend that started a company, which got a lot of traction early on. It was a strong concept, had little to no competition, and she was the perfect face for the company. Two years in, she let the company go. It wasn’t yet the financial success she had expected it to be. I begged her to keep the business, it already had brand equity! But she didn’t. I truly believe that if she had kept going she would have been a pretty big player now.
- Listen to the universe. If the planning and execution goes smoothly, then it was meant to be. And if you run into a tremendous amount of obstacles once you have decided to move forward, then perhaps it was not meant to be. When I went for funding for my company, I quickly found a business plan online to fill out. Filling it out was a breeze because I knew the material. Then I went to my bosses for advice, showed them the plan and in a moment, they decided to finance me. We moved forward easily and everything went smoothly. That’s when you know it’s right!
- Figure out what you really love and do that: If you have to spend 40 or 60 hours doing something, you better love it or you will be miserable. When you are doing something you love, finding that sense of tenacity will be so much easier! It will be a desire, not a chore. I have worked with jewelry, food, design, all subjects that I love. I can’t say that “When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life”. I have worked like a maniac. But I have never dreaded going to work!
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts” — Nikki Giovanni.
I was just telling an employee today, “See? It’s not the mistake we made that mattered. It’s how we handled the mistake which proved fruitful.” This is especially true with clients when there is a mistake in an order or a product etc. But how you handle it can make them leave you or make them a customer for life.
When trying something new, mistakes are inevitable, and depending how big those mistakes are depends on how hard they are to forget lol. But usually, it’s how you handle them and also what you learn from them that has the lasting effect.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement I would most like to create would be to revamp the employer — employee culture. Employers have enormous potential to encourage employees to discover who they are, what they are good at, and to support that. As opposed to trying to turn them into a brand robot or forcing them to do something that works against their inner talents or against how their brain best functions. Company energy is always better and employees are always more productive when they are happy. And they can only be truly happy when they are encouraged to be themselves and are appreciated for what they are good at and can bring to the table. So I would love to live in a world where everyone was encouraged to be more of who they are and their best selves as opposed to trying to be like someone else. As the saying goes, be yourself, everyone else is already taken. :)
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Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!