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Many people have asked us to discuss how we started our WigJig company. This is something that we have been reluctant to do because it seems to be immodest. At the same time our story is a little unique and we can understand people's interest. Starting a new business is something that requires a great idea, a lot of business savvy, some technical savvy and a large measure of luck. Unfortunately, the great idea alone is not enough. Without the luck and a measure of savvy, our company would have failed.
Our WigJig company is slightly different from most companies selling jewelry tools. The people who run our company actually make jewelry. Most of the companies making jewelry tools are experts in making tools but not in making jewelry. They know how to make pliers so they just make a slightly different pair of pliers for the jewelry application. Unfortunately, the result is pliers that work and are well made, but aren't really optimized for making jewelry. This wasn't good enough for us.
The reason we invented our WigJig jewelry making tools is because we wanted to use these tools for making our own jewelry. We have also worked with vendors to develop some new hand tools, that we now sell, for the simple reason that we found that the then existing pliers did not meet the needs for our approach to making jewelry. If you review our Beginner's Instructions you will see that we have methods for accomplishing several jewelry making techniques that aren't used or taught by others in this industry. In short we do things differently because we think we found a better way to do many of the basic tasks involved in making jewelry by hand with no soldering. Our goal is simple. We want to make jewelry by hand that is so consistent that it looks like it was made by a machine.
Our company was founded by a combination of Marge Helwig and her son, Gary Helwig. Marge was an instructor teaching how to make jewelry with wire and beads. Gary is an engineer who viewed Marge's hand made jewelry and proposed some different ways to make wire components more consistently by using a jig or pattern. Working together they developed the WigJig family of jewelry making tools and accessories. Marge provided the drive and the ambition when she took the jig that Gary made and had it produced in large quantities for sale. When she sold all the jigs that she had made, our WigJig company was off and running.
Unfortunately, after getting the company up and running, Marge passed away suddenly from cancer. By coincidence, this happened just when Gary's wife Suzanne had just taken early retirement so she had time on her hands. Suzanne supplied the business acumen to help our company grow. Pure luck created the situation where Suzanne had the time and the skills necessary to take over running the business and to make it grow.
After several years of Suzanne running the business, Gary found himself out of a job as the Internet bubble burst. At that time Gary began running the WigJig business full time, making new designs, programming the web site, processing the orders, returning calls, answering e-mails and taking out the trash. Gary now performs all tasks except returning calls, ordering new parts and paying our vendors. (Suzanne continues to order supplies and pay vendors. Our vendors appreciate this because she is far more reliable than Gary.) Gary's sister, Marcia is now our customer service representative and she returns all customer calls. (As Marcia would tell you, she is the nice one, Gary is the smart one.) Our WigJig company partners with vendors to have our WigJig tools made and we partner with our fulfillment company to warehouse and ship all of our orders.
Forgive us for being immodest. We get asked for our story so often, we just thought it was time to write it down. The lesson here is -- this is how success is achieved. It takes a good idea, coupled with ambition, skill, luck, and a few nice people. The analogy that "if you build a better mouse trap, that people will beat a path to your door" really isn't correct. To build a business around a great idea takes a group of people all working in areas that are out of their expertise. Getting the better idea was the easy part for us. It was the learning to perform the necessary advertising, accounting, sales, marketing, and software programming that were hard.
We have been asked to post our pictures. This is something that we will work on. On the right, is Gary Helwig, inventor of the WigJig and the Helwig's pet Boomer. Since Boomer is much better looking than Gary, here is a second picture of Boomer. He is an American Eskimo Dog that the Helwig's adopted from the local pound. On the left he is performing his best trick -- "Look Cute".
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