Mother & Daughter, Inc.
Handmade Jewelry BusinessCindy & Avril Joffe, Avindy Jewelry
When Cindy Joffe and her mother, Avril, started stringing beads in their basement five years ago, little did they know that their gem-encrusted creations would someday adorn the necks and wrists of celebrities including Hilary Duff and Naomi Watts. It was misfortune, however, that pushed this Atlanta mother-daughter duo to develop a million-dollar company.
In 2002 Cindy, now 32, became ill with symptoms ranging from bronchitis to dizzy spells. She was forced to take a medical leave from her job as a trademark attorney. Ultimately, her doctors found that she was severely allergic to the mold in her 100-year-old home.
On doctor's orders, Cindy and her husband temporarily moved in with her parents. At that time Avril, now 52, was winding down a 20-year career as president of the family's car-wash business and was spending time at her hobby, beading. Eager to keep her daughter busy -- and armed with $400 worth of garnets, topaz, and coral bought at a local gem show -- Avril got Cindy to try stringing necklaces and bracelets while she recuperated.
Three months later Cindy's allergies had cleared up and she was back at work as a lawyer -- but couldn't shake the beading bug. "My mother had always been artistic, but I'd never done anything like it," Cindy marvels. "It was like an addiction." Several times a week after work, when she wasn't hunting for a new house with her husband, she and Avril stayed up late making one-of-a-kind pieces.
They eventually invited practically everyone they knew to a show at Avril's house. In three days they sold $25,000 worth of jewelry, leading Cindy to exclaim, "We have a business!"
They linked their names to be a moniker for their enterprise -- Avindy -- and began to sell pieces on consignment in local stores. That autumn, armed with references from Atlanta shop owners, Avril visited Fragments, a New York City jewelry showroom that sells to top retailers. Its buyers snapped up pieces worth thousands of dollars, and a week later, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys Japan placed orders. Cindy resigned from her job and devoted herself to Avindy.
The first six months proved to be a bit rough. "When we did shows, she'd set up the display and I'd move things around," recalls Cindy. "Then she'd move them back. Eventually we found a look we could agree upon." Working out of Avril's cramped basement created further tension. "Everything was in Mom's house," Cindy says. "There was absolutely no separation between work and life."
The two, along with a staff of five, are now busily creating in a loft in Atlanta's hip West End. With differing working styles -- Avril designing in her head before stringing beads and Cindy playing with the gems until an idea comes together -- the pair expect to generate about $1 million in sales this year.
-- Adriana Gardella