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Q&A: Sustaining Business Growth on a Global Scale

When Courtney and Erik Legenhausen met while working for a jewelry business in California, they both knew they wanted to start their own business someday. Mrs. Legenhausen had trained at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, while Mr. Legenhausen had the experience of being a second-generation jeweler, and held a bachelor's degree in metal sculpture from the University of Maryland.

Two weeks after the couple married in July 2006, Mrs. Legenhausen quit her job and started the framework for their business. By January 2007, the Legenhausens had filed paperwork to open Lotus Jewelry Studio, a business specializing in wholesale jewelry manufacturing, in the Baltimore suburb of Timonium, Md.

For the first year, Mrs. Legenhausen, co-owner and CEO of Lotus Jewelry Studio, worked on building the business, while Mr. Legenhausen, co-owner and COO, continued to work a full-time job before officially joining the company in 2007.

A lot of business owners make efforts to grow their business, but they aren’t prepared for when the actual business comes in.

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Now, their business has six full-time employees, and all of its American-made, mid-line fashion jewelry pieces - including earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and monogrammed pieces made with natural stones, silver and 14-karat gold - are created in a 2,000-square-foot warehouse in Baltimore.

Lotus Jewelry Studio now sells to stores and boutiques in Canada, Germany, Malaysia, France, England and the Grand Cayman Islands, and its product line retails for $50 on average and ranges in price from $25 to $200 per jewelry piece. In 2012, the company netted seven figures in sales.

How much has your company grown since you first started?

Courtney Legenhausen:  We've grown very quickly. We've had a 20- to 30-percent growth rate almost every year. Our lowest growth rate was 18 percent, but in 2012 we will grow about 28 percent.

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Some businesses find it challenging, but if you keep on top of it, it's a great situation to have. A lot of business owners make efforts to grow their business, but they aren't prepared for when the actual business comes in. They don't up their budget, their staff, and they get their heads under water and start losing clients. You have to be prepared for all the growth when it starts to come in.

When did you start doing business in foreign markets?

Legenhausen:  About two years ago, it kind of fell into our laps. We found a lot of growing interest in international buyers who were attending our trade shows in New York, so we thought we might as well start selling internationally. Our first account came from a buyer in Germany who was at the New York International Gift Fair. They have been a great account for us because they order a large volume and regularly order from us.

How does that work with exchanging money overseas for your international business?

Legenhausen:  Most clients we deal with come from trade shows. Our computer software program will translate what they purchase from U.S. dollars into the currency of their country's location.

We are currently working on a website redesign that will include the currency translator once it is live. We have decided to do this because many of our competitors have this feature and we want to grow our business globally, both wholesale and retail. We feel overseas customers would feel more comfortable purchasing from websites that display their currency. It gives the consumer the comfort of knowing that our company is familiar with shipping our products globally.

Have you considered hedging your foreign exchange risk at all?

Legenhausen:  It's not something we've focused on at this point, but it is something we will do in the future.

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