su p p plireorfile
Success required ingenuity,
work and a “lucky clover”
By Lynne Meredith Schreiber
UNTIL HER HONEYMOON in 2000, Natalie Hesse
never wore jewelry. “I liked jewelry but never found
any I liked,” she explains.
That is, until she saw the vivid colors of satin-smooth glass beads on a factory tour in Murano, Italy.
“I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was,” says
Hesse, who sports a chunky black-and-gold bracelet.
“I came out of the shop with a bagful.”
Five months later, she was making jewelry on the
pool table in the basement of her Farmington Hills,
Michigan, home. Hesse read books, took classes and
watched instructional videos to learn how to turn the
exquisite beads into wearable art. “The glass is so
beautiful and simple—it didn’t need a lot of design,”
Hesse took her first custom creations to the office
of her best friend. She sold out in two hours. That led
to direct-sales parties where she presented heartfelt
descriptions of how each piece was crafted.
Today, her company, LuckyClover Inc., sells three
lines of original creations: The LuckyClover line combines Murano beads and Swarovski crystals; Gioielli
(the Italian word for jewelry) features handmade,
signed pieces by a husband-and-wife team; and
Gabriella features glass and sterling silver designs from
Florence, Italy. Hesse oversees 40 employees in a
3,000-square-foot facility and participates in as many
as 300 roadshows a year.
In seven years, the company has evolved from a
home-based business earning $70,000 a year to $1.8
million in sales in 2006. At the company headquarters,
bins of gleaming crystals and beads are stacked on tables
near the eight jewelry makers. Hesse’s two Yorkshire terriers, Lucky and Clover—yes, the company is named
after them—sit in crates across from her desk. A plastic
container of strawberries lies open nearby. (“We bought
it at Costco!” Hesse says of the snacks.)
“I’ve always been in sales,” explains Hesse, who left
a pharmaceutical career to launch LuckyClover. “I figured I could sell anything. The secret of selling is product
knowledge. Salespeople have to be on point [to answer
questions such as] ‘What is Murano glass [and] how is
it different from that sold at mall jewelry stores?’ ”
Selling at Costco has been a key to LuckyClover’s
success, Hesse says. She became a Costco member
when the Commerce Township, Michigan, warehouse opened near her home, and spent years checking out Special Events—temporary product displays
in the warehouses—as she shopped. Later, as a business owner, she thought, “Someday I’d love to be a
turned her fascination with Murano
glass beads into a
In 2005, Hesse lugged a bag of jewelry to Costco
headquarters near Seattle, hoping to dazzle a corporate buyer. It worked. She signed a contract and
worked the first show herself.
“It’s a huge privilege” to be a Costco supplier,
Hesse says. “I’m a one-person show up against huge
multinational companies. My company would never
be where it is without Costco.”
This year Hesse expects to run 250 Special Events
at Costco, as many as 20 at a time during the holidays.
At the shows, small DVD players run videos of
Murano’s famous glass artisans at work. The videos
demonstrate Murano’s eight-century tradition of
glass blowing and the craftsmanship behind
LuckyClover’s bracelets and necklaces.
Hesse is no longer the company’s front person,
putting pretty pieces in people’s hands. While she still
designs some of the bracelets and necklaces in the
LuckyClover line, she’s “running the business, looking for new business, maintaining accounts.” Besides
Costco, LuckyClover creations are sold wholesale to
specialty boutiques and museum shops, and through
a home party division.
The husband who accompanied Hesse on that
fateful trip to Italy is strongly behind her venture. She
is thrilled with her company’s growth, but also a tad
wistful that success means she spends two-thirds of
her time on the road and in a supervisory, rather than
a creative, role. It wasn’t her intention to launch a
newfound love of delicate Murano glass into a lucrative career on a national scale.
“It’s really pretty jewelry,” she says, “and I just
wanted to be around it.” C
Lynne Meredith Schreiber writes about food, faith and
home from Southfield, Michigan.
Company: LuckyClover Inc.
39225 Grand River Ave.
Products at Costco:
LuckyClover jewelry can be
found only at Special Events
roadshows. (The schedule
of events can be found in
this issue on page 70; look
for “Venetian and Murano
glass jewelry.”) Besides the
jewelry lines, LuckyClover
features Murano slide beads
and art-glass collectibles.
Comments about Costco:
“When we need something
for the business or personal use and we’re not
sure if Costco carries it,
we remember our motto:
‘Costco has everything!’ ”