Groomed for Success

Some would-be grooms need a little direction in finding the perfect diamond. Here come the guides.

By April Y. Pennington

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Description: Jeweler, focusing on engagement rings
Founders: Skip Robbins, 52, and Steve Robbins, 49
2004 projected sales: Approximately $80 million
http://www.robbinsbros.com

Ring Reinvention: When the brothers saw a multitude of mall jewelry stores crop up, they decided to take their family-owned William Pitt Jewelers out of the malls, change their image and become Robbins Bros., focusing exclusively on engagement rings. Their first free-standing store opened in 1995. "There was no going back," recalls Steve. "We had to convince the bank and vendors. Everyone thought we were crazy."

Building Blocks: Converted bank buildings became Robbins Bros. stores, featuring friendly sales associates, on-site computers with information on choosing diamonds and access to the Robbins Bros. website with 3,000 ring combinations, and a "de-stressing" room with soda, coffee and ESPN. Customers can also get an up-close look at their diamonds in offices equipped for gemology.

Radio Heads: Any Southern California radio listener knows Skip and Steve's spots, featuring humorous discussions between the two. "It's lighthearted. We're not hawking a product," says Steve, who plays the silly one against Skip's straight man. "And we're cheap talent."

New Additions: Their new division, World Class Weddings, creates websites announcing engagements, complete with the couple's photo; offers a wedding planner guide; and sends out automatic e-mails. Offering these services for free, Steve says, is "'good karma marketing.' Do nice things for people; they appreciate it."

Holding 22 percent of their market, Robbins Bros. is gearing up to expand from seven Southern California stores to 12 or more nationwide by 2008.

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