We love a good career story… especially when it’s a go-getter who is forging their own path. Enter Jillian Bremer– the founder & creative genius behind Sweet & Spark. Sweet & Spark is a father-daughter jewelry company with a mission to make vintage cool again. Scouring flea markets and estate sales across the country (with her sparkhuntin’ dad in tow), she’s bringing the best vintage finds to the web. Don’t get us long, we love a good treasure hunt… but we’d rather do it from the comfort of our computers. We sat down with Jillian in her San Francisco headquarters to get the scoop on all things Sweet & Spark:
Hi Jillian! It’s no secret we LOVE your company. But first, how did you first get started in the fashion industry?
I’ve been in the fashion industry my entire career. I went to college for retail management and then moved out to San Francisco to participate in Gap Inc.’s 9 month Retail Management Program. Upon completion of the program, I stayed on for a few years as an assistant buyer with their Old Navy Brand. After feeling that I was a small fish in a huge pond, I decided to take up a unique opportunity back east, helping American Eagle Outfitters launch a new brand. Working on a start-up for a huge corporation was exciting and I learned so much about how to create a brand and operate at a macro level with a lean team. Long story short, the brand closed in 2012 and I decided it was now or never, to test out the Sweet & Spark, curated vintage jewelry concept.
Talk about an impressive resume! So, tell us about Sweet & Spark. How is it different from a traditional jewelry store?
Sweet & Spark started as a lifestyle blog in 2011 as a creative outlet & platform for learning the basics of photography, coding and social media. When the new brand I was working on closed, I found myself back in my hometown of Buffalo, New York for a re-charge. Once again, I found myself trolling around yard sales and flea markets with my dad, like I used to 20 years ago as a kid. With a now trained merchant eye, I was amazed as how much cool stuff was out there and couldn’t stop thinking of myself & girlfriends that don’t have time for the hunt and are overwhelmed by the thought of digging for vintage yet, totally appreciate.
Sweet & Spark is different than a typical jewelry store because everything is one-of-a-kind authentic, vintage! Our mission is to make vintage costume jewelry accessible and cool again by partnering with modern apparel brands, boutiques and bloggers. We’ve been featured in The Zoe Report, Glitter Guide, Lucky Mag and many fashion blogs across the country and recently, we started selling our line in the Piperlime NYC store. The sweetest part is that most everything is under $100!
While at the core we’re about gold plated classics, we also have silver plated classics and a wedding collection, featuring mostly rhinestones. After careful research, the decade is indicated on every piece of Spark listed on the site. I’m a sucker for 70’s Statement Earrings!
We are too! How do you find the Spark?
Sweet & Spark is headquartered in San Francisco and my dad is on the East coast and manages most of the day to day buying. Every few months we get together for a Sparkhuntin’ trip and cover miles upon miles scouring the nooks and crannies of the country. We’re learning that bigger and more well known doesn’t necessarily equal better. Sometimes the best places to find vintage goods are in small towns. A lot of our finds are discovered by just getting in the car and stopping along the way based on what we see or what yard sale our favorite app tells us is nearby (Garage Sale Rover), it’s very much trial and error. It’s always refreshing and humbling to step away from the computer!
Get first dibs when we’re on the road! Follow-us as we document behind the scenes on our instagram account, #sparkhuntin’ and sell some of our favorite finds directly.
What does a typical day at the Sweet & Spark headquarters look like?
There is no “typical day” at the Sweet & Spark offices! If we’re not on the road hunting, the team likely can be found at our San Francisco, HQ or working remotely jamming to Pandora, sipping coffee and getting creative with the minimal resources we have.
An average week for me involves as many coffee dates with fellow entrepreneurs as I can book, a lot of sorting & re-sorting of jewelry and pitching new business and press. With a one-of-a-kind business, and the fact that we rarely see the same Spark twice, I joke that my brain is just one big rolodex of jewelry!
My New Year’s resolution is to embrace the natural ebbs & flows and celebrate entrepreneurialism as a flexible lifestyle instead of resenting the fact that it never turns completely off. Social media will always be a priority, 24/7. But, if I need to take a nap on a Monday afternoon, I will. However, I also work odd hours, hosting events and Spark Parties in the evenings and on the weekends.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Leaving corporate America was definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done but I knew there was never going to be a better time. The hardest part is making the decision and starting, the rest evolves from there. Anything we want to know if now at our fingertips. So once you stop consuming information and start taking action, you realize the incredible power of momentum. I can’t tell you how many youtube videos I watched at the beginning trying to figure out photoshop and the basics of coding! I still find myself asking for help via twitter, emailing old colleagues or “googling it”. There is no “magic recipe”, it’s all of the little experiences and connections that make Sweet & Spark what it is today.
Also, my background lies in the merchandising/ financial side of the business so when it comes down to actually executing an idea creatively, I struggle. I don’t have much experience with photography & photoshop so in order to continue to push the brand voice, finding creative partnerships has been key.
And the best moment so far?
The best moments have been the people! Whether re-connecting with old friends and colleagues or meeting new customers that turn into life long friends, it’s been incredibly gratifying to see people help. I’m a big believer in paying it forward and growing organically through word of mouth.
My favorite story is a customer who reached out after discovering us on The Glitter Guide. We ended up becoming pen-pals and while she was on a work trip in San Francisco, we met over coffee and have been amazing friends ever since. She’s since hosted me at her home in LA and has invited me to her wedding this Summer! How cool is that? It’s been incredibly gratifying to experience first hand how open people are helping any way they can, all you have to do is ask.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received along the way?
Discovering business blogger, Seth Godin was a game changer for me. I highly recommend his book, “The Linchpin” for anyone looking to defy mediocrity. My favorite post of his was called “You don’t need more time”……you just need to start. It’s 5% idea and 95% execution, the rest will evolve from there.
You’ve made SO much progress so far. What’s next?
I wish I knew! Waking up to all of the possibilities never gets old but, it certainly keeps it real. This year we’re continuing to grow our presence in boutiques around the country, you can already find us here. Also, we just launched our Spark Party concept to our customers. Host your own and make 20-30% commission without committing to purchasing inventory and becoming a part time jewelry rep. Just another reason to have your girlfriends over from brunch and bubbly! Details can be found here.
Sign us up! Thanks Jillian!