If you follow us on instagram, you've probably noticed that we've been sharing more of our faces around here lately. We just adore connecting with fellow vintage lovers and sharing our special finds with you all. In addition, our hope is that by sharing our entrepreneurial journey, that you feel inspired to follow your highest potential too! So with the start of a fresh year, we thought it would be worthwhile to share some of the questions that we get asked the most.
1. How did Sweet & Spark start?
After working in corporate America as a buyer for many years, Jillian started Sweet & Spark in 2012 out of a love for vintage costume jewelry. She traveled around the country with her antique loving dad, learning how to identify and source vintage jewelry. A few years into business, she met Emilee, who also grew up with antique loving parents and came from the fashion industry, and they instantly bonded over their love for all things fashion and vintage. The rest is history!
Together the two have expanded their collection into designer vintage accessories, vintage home decor and new women's clothing with a focus on feminine and California cool essentials. Their dream is to build a brand that reflects everything in your dream closet. They share a passion for personal style and owning special things that bring joy.
They also have a sweet store in San Francisco. If you're ever in the charming Pacific Heights neighborhood, make sure to pop in and say hi!
2. How did you grow Sweet & Spark into what it is today?
It's been 8 years now since Sweet & Spark started and we can tell you that things didn't always look as beautiful as they do today. So don't be fooled by what you see on social media! Things worth building take time to blossom and if you love them enough, they will grow.
We have been self funded since the beginning and have learned our fair share of things the hard way! But that's all part of the journey so we always say, slow and steady wins the race. It's all of the little things together that make Sweet & Spark what it is today.
For entrepreneurs just starting out, we always recommend experimenting with a lot of different ideas and products in order to see what sticks. Finding your right product market fit takes time. Everything comes down to the execution of your ideas so take it step by step and have patience with yourself. Also, connecting with others that are in a similar stage, or beyond, is always a helpful gut check and can help expand your understanding of what's possible.
3. Where do you buy your pieces?
Unlike some other vintage and resale sites like Tradsey and The Real Real who focus on consignment, we own all of the pieces in our vintage collection. This gives us the ability to prioritize quality and style over quantity.
While we are based in San Francisco and manage the day-to-day business from here, we typically travel to the east coast and the south to find most of our vintage pieces at estate sales, antique stores and large antique fairs. Jillian is originally from Buffalo, NY and Emilee is from Dallas, TX and each spend a lot of time around their hometowns scouting for the best vintage finds.
Thankfully, over the years, we have established relationships with many vintage vendors around the world who are able to remotely service our inventory needs. Fun fact, many of the finds in our designer collection come from our vintage vendor in Japan.
As for our clothing collection, it is not vintage! We love wearing the old with the new. Seasonally, we travel to apparel trade shows to preview the lines from our favorite contemporary brands including Levi's, Sanctuary, Line & Dot, French Connection, Gentle Fawn, etc. to choose the special pieces for our collection. We're drawn to pieces that feel timeless, are versatile to style with accessories and feel more expensive than they actually are.
We believe that original style stems from owning things that you love and mix and matching them in fresh ways. If you can't already tell, we love building collections both for ourselves and to share.
4. How do you authenticate your pieces?
We both credit our parents, who have been antiquing for decades, for initially teaching us the vintage ropes. From there, we have a built a library filled with books on the original designers and decades that we reference often for identification purposes.
Over time, we've seen hundreds of thousands of pieces and have been able to learn all of the intricacies of the industry in order to become the experts that we are in identification and authentication of vintage costume accessories across the decades.
There is no central process for authenticating vintage so we take into account many factors such as quality, signature markings and design. We stand behind the authenticity and high quality of every piece in our collection. You can learn more about our authentication process here.
5. What does a typical week look like for you?
The retail industry is notoriously fast paced, and is especially so for a small business where you are juggling many different tasks like content creation, sales, marketing, buying and finance. We are a lean team but, with clear roles and responsibilities, we are able to accomplish a lot in a week!
Typically we spend Mondays as a team hind-sighting business from the prior week and planning out the marketing plan for the coming weeks. From there, we divide and conquer shooting content, buying product and managing the day-to-day operations like customer service, shipping orders and the like.
Outside of that, we love making time to connect with other entrepreneurs over coffee, collect/ share inspiration, work weekends in the store, pop-up at events around San Francisco and take buying road trips!