Liz Campbell: An Accidental Design Sensation

 

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Liz Campbell, photo by Spring Dyer

Unlike most successful entrepreneurs Liz Campbell didn’t start out with a business plan. She didn’t even start out with a dream. She simply wanted to make her daughter happy.

“Taylor saw a Tahitian pearl bracelet that she wanted, but it was more than I could afford,” said Campbell. Instead of turning her daughter down, Campbell promised to make one for her. A promise she made without any experience in making jewelry.

“I did some research and found the pearls,” she said. Taylor loved the bracelets. When her friends saw it they wanted one too. Campbell made bracelets for them and sold a few to her son Dylan’s friends.

When friends saw what she was doing, they asked her to make things for them. Before long she was not only making single pieces, but also filling large orders for friends. One asked her to make ID bracelets for the bridesmaids at her daughter’s wedding. Another, whose daughter is a cheerleader at Coronado High School, asked Campbell make tiki charms for the cheer squad. The tiki is the school’s mascot.

Her success with friends encouraged her to formalize what had been a hobby. She came up with a company name — Crown Town Design — had business cards printed and started a Facebook page. Then things got serious.

In August, Campbell walked into Blue Jeans and Bikinis looking for something to take on a trip to Cabo San Lucas.

“I kept looking at her jewelry,” said sales associate Breanna Martins. “It was really pretty, eye catching, simple, yet elegant. It fit in perfectly with what we sell here.” When she learned that Campbell had designed it herself, Martins talked to Blue Jeans and Bikinis owner Rachel Wolfe. By October, Crown Town Design’s jewelry was featured in all four of the boutique’s shops.

 

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Breanna Martins shows off a few pieces of Liz Campbell’s jewelry sold at Blue Jeans and Bikinis

Just as her friends and relatives had, complete strangers fell in love with Campbell’s creations.

“Liz is our bestseller by far,” said Brie Fitzgerald, manager at Blue Jeans and Bikinis in Coronado. In less than three months Campbell has sold some 80 pieces, 23 in Coronado alone.

Locals like supporting people who live here and tourists like to take something home that was made here. “It’s better than a t-shirt that says Coronado,” Fitzgerald said.

“People also like that each piece is unique and is handmade,” she added.

But it is her price point that has been the key to Campbell’s success, Fitzgerald believes. “She sells a high-end product at a reasonable price.”

Campbell works exclusively with semi-precious stones, leather and fine metals, sterling silver and gold fill. Tahitian pearls and turquoise are her favorites. She fabricates everything she makes, from straining the pearls to hand stamping the silver.

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Photo by Spring Dyer

There was little in Campbell’s background to predict a career as an artist. She graduated from Coronado High School without taking a single art class and then trained to become a legal assistant at a local technical school.

She married her high school sweetheart and spent the next 37 years as a Navy wife. Before that she worked as a legal assistant and a flight attendant. On long flights to the south pacific she did take up needlepoint to pass the time and dabbled a bit in ceramic painting and pencil drawing.

But it was being a Navy wife that she believes fueled her creativity. “We moved every two years and each time I had to figure out how to decorate our new home,” she said.

She launched her jewelry business without any training in jewelry design, save for a soldering class she took last year and a fine silver class she took in August of this year at the Bead Gallery in Mira Mesa. Everything else she learned by watching You Tube videos.

Now that she has a business, Campbell takes her work seriously. She follows trends and continues to look for ways to broaden her skills. This year she plans to learn how to fashion jewelry using precious metal clays.

She pays close attention to how her pieces sell. “Like most artists she is fussy about how her work is placed,” Fitzgerald said.

Staging merchandise to catch a shopper’s eye was something she knew about long before she launched her own line. For eight years Campbell oversaw product placement for Coach and Michael Kors handbags at the Navy Exchange on North Island Naval Air Station.

“My job was to make sure that were placed in ways that were appealing, not just piled up in a table as if they were discounted,” she said. She applies what she learned for high-end fashion companies to her own business.

While she has experience in product placement and comes into the store a couple times a week to see how things are going, she never makes demands. “She’s really flexible and is always asking us what we think and what the customers want,” said Martins.

Despite her quick and seamless success, Campbell isn’t looking too far into the future. She still doesn’t have a business blueprint or plans to expand into other retail shops. “I’m happy where I am right now,” Campbell said.

For more information: See Crown Town Designs facebook page or the Blue Jeans and Bikinis website.

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A freelance writer in San Diego for more than 30 years. She has written for a number of national and international newspapers, including the Times of London, San Diego Tribune, Sierra Magazine, Reuters News Service and Patch.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@ecoronado.com