April 15, 2011
Touchstone Crystal: Glittering Opportunity with a Sparkling Heritage
by Barbara Seale
Did you catch this year’s Academy Awards®? If so, maybe you saw Oscar® winner for Best Actress, Natalie Portman, on the red carpet. Portman wore her Swarovski crystals along the edge of her Rodarte dress. And then there was platinum-selling recording artist and American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez, who wore not one but two different Swarovski earring designs in the music video for her latest hit, On the Floor. At a key point in the video, J-Lo even pulls a branded Swarovski jewelry box from her pocket, opens it and slips on a pair of the sparkling earrings.
For more than 100 years Swarovski has practiced the poetry of precision, and today Touchstone Crystal gets the benefit of its expertise. As the world’s leading producer of cut crystal, genuine gemstones and created stones, Swarovski designs and manufactures its own finished crystal products, jewelry, fashion and home décor objects, selling them in more than 1,300 distinctive Swarovski stores and concessions around the globe. Couture designers such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Gucci and even Jimmy Choo use the crystals to bring sparkle to their fashion innovations.
Hollywood has long loved Swarovski, showing off the sparklers in movies ranging from Moulin Rouge to Dreamgirls and Ocean’s 13. Even James Bond shared the screen with Swarovski. From Marlene Dietrich to Madonna, stars of stage, screen and cabaret have turned to crystal, embracing its ability to catch and hold the spotlight, as a way of highlighting their own star quality.
And now, through Touchstone Crystal, every woman has the ability to highlight her own star quality as Swarovski crystals are no longer just for celebrities on the red carpet.
Entrepreneurs on the lookout for a sparkling business opportunity have a shiny new option now that Touchstone Crystal has brought coveted Swarovski crystals to direct selling.
Most people know Swarovski as the jewelry often seen on starlets such as Natalie Portman and Julianne Hough on the red carpet of the Academy Awards® or Golden Globes®. It’s a luxury brand, usually accessible only by the well-to-do who are lucky enough to live near one of the company’s retail stores.
Young Daniel Swarovski established the company in Austria in 1895 after he invented the first mechanical method for cutting and polishing crystal jewelry stones. He put it to immediate use in his father’s business, which previously had hand-cut crystal for the glass and fashion-jewelry industry. The company went on to build its portfolio and reputation with impeccable, high-end, exquisite-quality jewelry, figurines and stemware made of precision-cut crystal. In 1977 the company entered the fashion-jewelry market in the United States to the excitement of fashionistas all over the country. Its crystal creations sold in the upper end of the price range.
But then came the event that jewelry lovers were waiting for. Swarovski’s North American President Dan Cohen, the great-great-grandson of the founder, launched Touchstone Crystal, finally making Swarovski crystal jewelry accessible to many more Americans.
Swarovski continually looks for innovative methods to expose their stunning crystals to the public. They had already begun supplying crystal to some direct sellers, which had given them a peek into the industry. The company dipped its toe into the direct selling waters through a make-your-own jewelry venture.
But two years ago the company began integrating finished pieces into their DIY (Do-It-Yourself) in-home jewelry parties. The pilot showed them that the opportunity was great, and Touchstone Crystal introduced its first comprehensive finished jewelry line in January 2010. The company offers a dazzling collection of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, brooches and rings made with top-quality Swarovski crystal, zirconia, gems and pearls.
Wanted: Direct Selling Know-How
Swarovski started a search for a managing director with direct selling marketing, sales and operations experience. They found 25-year industry veteran Liz DiPaolo, now the company’s Managing Director.
“This business has given me the opportunity to combine my experience and passion for working with women in direct selling with an excellent brand that epitomizes quality, fashion and style,” DiPaolo says. “It was also an opportunity to develop a business from the ground floor. You don’t get that experience every day! Our goal is to take the beauty, luxury and style of Swarovski and make it accessible to women everywhere. We can do that because our products are priced within their reach, and our host plan makes it very possible for women to earn the products for free,” she explains. Some 46 percent of the Touchstone Crystal 2011 product line is priced under $50. Hosts can earn up to 30 percent of party sales in free merchandise credit, plus up to four items of their choice at half price.
Hosts and consultants come from a wide variety of women, ranging from young moms to seasoned, sophisticated women looking for a change in their lives, to career women who understand the business potential. DiPaolo says that the income potential is significant and the Swarovski brand opens doors. Most jewelry is sold at home parties, and consultants crave the sales volume and social environment that parties produce. But they have the flexibility to conform to their clients’ schedules and preferences or even their own lifestyles. A consultant who lives in a small apartment can literally run her business out of a tote bag and laptop. She can even show her wares and explain the business opportunity over lunch or at a coffee shop.
Bring on the Bling
The company estimates that consultants can earn $1,400 a month by holding two parties a week. Touchstone Crystal gets new consultants off to a strong start with a well-merchandised starter kit with two options. The enhanced starter kit contains more than $1,300 in products—each piece carefully chosen by Touchstone Crystal’s staff and top sales consultants—to help the new consultant effectively present the product line. Brochures, invitations, order forms and more are included. A stunning, fashion-oriented jewelry catalog supports other products and helps consultants and hosts show the full jewelry lineup and describe trends to customers. Training in the young company is still mostly one-to-one, from sponsor to recruit. And consultant care employees will happily spend as long as needed to explain any process. Extended hours make them available even in the evenings.
To help consultants get started, Touchstone Crystal offers several bonuses during the first three months of business. Appropriately, the bonuses are called BLING—Business Launch Incentive ’N Gifts program. It rewards a new consultant with special sales tools and bonuses for meeting or exceeding sales and recruiting targets during those crucial first three months.
Consultants immediately get their own website at no additional cost beyond the initial $199 starter kit fee. It lets them immediately organize parties, send invitations and generally get up and running quickly.
But a consultant’s most valuable tools are the show-stopping Swarovski crystals.
“They provide instant credibility,” says DiPaolo. “She can say to her friends, ‘I’m representing Touchstone Crystal, a member of the Swarovski group.’ We hear time and time again that the response is very positive because people know and associate Swarovski with such high quality. That credibility is unprecedented for a young company.”
And what woman doesn’t love jewelry? Touchstone Crystal organizes theirs into five different collections that appeal to their customers’ different style sensibilities: Romantic, Weekend, Resort, Little Black Dress® and City Style. Want to add “pop” to a casual outfit? Turn to the Weekend collection. Dressing for a special occasion? The Little Black Dress sterling silver and Zirconia collection has just what you need. Looking for something special to wear with your summer wardrobe? Check out the Resort collection. And every piece is designed especially for Touchstone Crystal around the unique stones and styles that Swarovski develops each year.
“They share all their new stones, colors and trends, and the inspiration for our jewelry comes from those stones and crystals,” DiPaolo explains. “We introduced 100 new products for January 2011. Of those, 80 to 85 percent were designed exclusively for us.”
A sixth special collection represents the company’s foundational principles that it calls Touchstones: love, care, connect, live, balance, accomplish and inspire. The company chose a color to represent each and includes a Touchstone charm with every order. It invites customers to wear their Touchstone charm as a daily inspiration to symbolize their wishes, hopes and dreams.
All the crystals are displayed in unique jewelry developed by Touchstone Crystal’s own design team, which collaborates with the trend and style experts from the Swarovski parent company.
“We just had two people go to New York last week to see the 2012 Swarovski trend presentation,” DiPaolo says. “We will work with experienced jewelry designers on next year’s new pieces, using the trends that Swarovski identifies and the new stones they create. Designs at Touchstone are different than those from Swarovski in that we design products for our unique market. Touchstone has a distinct product line that doesn’t cross over with Swarovski’s retail collection.”
DiPaolo says that Swarovski’s heritage and their fashion expertise, combined with designs created specifically for the direct selling market, gives Touchstone Crystal the best of all worlds. Consultants recognize and appreciate the difference. And the formula is sparking sales and sponsorships.
“The appeal of our career plan is fueling excitement in our consultant base,” DiPaolo says. “We’re building a strong base because people recognize the opportunity for leadership income. We are developing leaders very quickly because they understand that this is a ground-floor opportunity where they can build a successful business.”
She observes that new consultant growth has doubled in a short time. The privately owned company doesn’t discuss specific numbers, but DiPaolo says that excellent sponsoring rates are fueling business growth.
“When people can join and within six to eight weeks start making substantial income consistently, they become committed and excited. Then when they become leaders, their income grows. That’s inspiring them to increase their sponsoring rate,” she says. “Even in these challenging times, people still love jewelry, love getting together and are interested in a product line that has the unique designs and quality that we offer.”
Fine-Tuning for the Future
DiPaolo plans to support the ongoing sales efforts of her consultants over the next few years through research that takes a close look at what customers want most.
“We want to better understand our target so we can create products that they’ll continue to love,” she says. “Our ability to continue offering unique, quality jewelry that is accessible to many women will be one of the keys to our success.”
With a background in both traditional corporations and experience in direct selling, DiPaolo has many insights into the differences between the two models. She feels fortunate to be leading a company that can make a difference in so many lives.
“At Touchstone Crystal, I not only have the opportunity to build a business with strong sales and profitability, but also to be surrounded by people who are growing and benefiting from our business every single day,” she says. “That personal pride that comes from helping others to achieve success, and developing strong relationships with your consultants and leaders, creates the real point of difference in your own level of satisfaction and business success.”