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Building a Business on Ownership Mentality and Meaningful Customer Relationships When it comes to selling a luxury product, it's important to cultivate a relationship with your consumer and understand their motivations.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Courtesy of Adornment + Theory

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

When it comes to selling a luxury product, it's important to cultivate a relationship with your consumer and understand their motivations. You have to think about more than just the sale—start with building a relationship and go from there. Viviana Langhoff, owner of Adornment + Theory, a jewelry shop in downtown Chicago, created five pillars for her and her staff to live by. Through these pillars she has been able to ensure that her business always operates to its fullest potential and that her values are never compromised—whether she is present or not.

Our Yelp reviewer, Shelby F., saw these pillars come to life in her numerous experiences with the business. One of the pillars that is essential to Viviana—and should be for all business owners—is "ownership mentality." She expects that all of her staff "carry a sense of personal responsibility for the greater vision of the brand and studio." This is critical and something that we don't often hear—Viviana wants all of her staff to be as invested in the shop as she is and act in a way that reflects that. And it works. Shelby's experience with a sales associate could easily be (and was) mistaken for an interaction with the owner herself.

A connection between the business and the customer is also incredibly important. Shelby has worked in the retail and restaurant industry since she was 15 and has seen and learned a lot in that time—most importantly, "the difference between a sale and a relationship (with a customer) is a connection." It's the connection that compels people to come back and it can be rare to truly feel that with a business. In Shelby's words: "Really frankly, giving a crap about the people who are coming in the door and why and what they're on a mission to look for. That feels a lot more exploratory and almost like storytelling, opposed to being just another number that's walking through the door, a transaction, a way to pay the bills—this very logistical, impersonal kind of reception."

Of course, that was the opposite of what Shelby experienced at Adornment + Theory. Her sales associate not only treated her as more than a sale, but was actually excited for why Shelby was there in the first place—a milestone that Shelby was looking to celebrate with a piece of jewelry. Getting to the motivation behind the purchasing decision can allow for a much more meaningful consumer relationship.

Let's circle back to the pillars. There is another worth highlighting: "confident beauty." As Viviana puts it, "We celebrate unique, diverse, independent, confident women." She takes this very seriously. As a minority in the industry—a Latinx jewelry designer—she's faced a lot of challenges and hurdles to get where she is, and she gets excited about the opportunity to represent other minority designers. "I brought on many POC artists, and that's kind of my heartbeat—to continue to bring on as many Black and Brown, indigenous, queer artists and people with different identities and backgrounds. I think it makes for beautiful work. I have no interest in having a jewelry store where everything looks the same. For some people that works, but that's just not the world I want to create."

This has been core to Adornment + Theory from the beginning, but she's noticing an uptick in business as people have become more cognizant of how they are spending their dollars in the past months. Conscious spending is a trend we've absolutely been seeing and, in fact, searches on Yelp for Black-owned businesses are up 6500% year over year—and we don't see this trend toward conscious spending ending anytime soon.

Business owners who create an ownership mentality among their staff, focus on building meaningful relationships with customers, and celebrate diversity will most certainly see a pay off—not only in their financial success, but in the long-term customer relationships they will create.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Viviana and Shelby, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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