The streets of Newport Kentucky can look bleak on an overcast November day, with the only burst of color coming from the rich-red stripes of Sweet Tooth Chocolate’s awning. The unglamorous sight of rusty trucks lined up on the street, worn down buildings and torn up concrete pollute the view from the sidewalk. In the midst of an industrial eye-sore, a gem appears. In this small town you will find the home of Brittany Stadtmiller and her husband Bobby, who, together create some of the most cutting edge pieces of jewelry this side of the Ohio River.
Upon entering the Stadtmiller’s home, a burst of aromatic and musky incense hits your nose, making you forget about the scent of industrial waste that lingers outside. Trance like music is playing on Brittany’s MacBook, and a sleepy pet possum is nearly hidden beneath a blanket on the couch. At age 29, Brittany Stadmiller can pull off the funkiest trends and still look effortlessly chic and not over the top. Tattoos of math equations and delicate pink roses dance flirtatiously up and down Stadtmiller’s muscular left arm. Her dark hair is pulled into an elegant bun, with a red scarf tied just behind her short bangs, which accentuates her strong, yet inviting smile. Brittany wears layers of body-hugging black clothing, which draw attention to her stacks of bold rings, and her signature chunky clear crystal necklace, dangling by a silver chain. “Her style is the perfect balance of unconventional and timeless elegance, and you can see this represented in any of Gem Steady’s pieces.” Said Madeleine Bransford, who has modeled for Gem Steady and is a huge fan of Stadtmiller’s raw and rustic looking designs.
Brittany grew up in Alexandria, KY where she was fond of rocks and gems from an early age. “I definitely ate some gravel as a child.” Said Stadtmiller. Brittany went on to study Japanese and Anthropology at the University of Kentucky, and she later moved to Atlanta to pursue a career as a life coach. Brittany came up with the phrase, Gem Steady, while living in Atlanta, before she caught the jewelry-making bug. “Gem Steady started as a life coaching mantra and a deliberate shift in Brittany’s worldview so she could improve her life and others’, from the inside out.” Said Betsy Schneider, Brittany’s sister.
According to Brittany’s Urban Dictionary definition of Gem Steady, it is all about focusing on the good, trying your best all the time and spreading positive energy. You only have to spend a few minutes with Brittany before you realize that she lives by this mantra. She knows how to stay calm, cool and collected even while dealing with the constant stress of owning a growing business. “I just like to focus on the good, I try my best and I know being mad and holding in anxiety or being in a hurry doesn’t really help accomplish anything.” Said Brittany.
The sun radiates through the blinds and brings the shelving unit filled with Brittany’s personal gem collection to life. Brittany shows me the beautiful chunky knuckle buster ring that turned out to be her first jewelry design. “I had it done by another jewelry artist in Atlanta” Said Brittany. “I designed a piece and had him make it. It was the very beginning of the whole jewelry making endeavor before Bobby and I took it on together.” Bobby came into the jewelry-making picture in the Fall of 2012, when he crafted a special gift for his soon to be wife. “Our wedding bands were the first rings that he made.” Said Brittany. It did not take a lot of convincing to persuade Bobby to pursue Gem Steady full time. “I have always built things, whether it be furniture, skate parks or hot wheel’s loops.” Said Bobby. “ I loved the idea of essentially bonding these pieces of metal together in a very small fashion versus welding or something of a large caliber like that.” The couple moved back to Northern KY in the Summer of 2013 where they constructed a bench jeweler facility between their living room and kitchen.
Owning a business with one’s significant other can lead to excessive bickering and a struggle for domination, but you will not see the Stadtmiller’s competing with each other over control of Gem Steady. “We need each other.” Said Brittany. “I need him because he produces and he needs me because he wouldn’t sell one single thing on his own. We possess different skills that compliment each other, so it works out really well.” Bobby enjoys collaborating with his wife and clients to create new pieces of jewelry. “We twist and we tie my ideas, her ideas and client’s ideas and we pull everything together, grab a little of this a little of that and make a sweet quiche.” Said Bobby.
Brittany and Bobby see each order as an opportunity to work together as a team and demonstrate their individual talents. Brittany does not hesitate to take charge of the marketing, customer service and most of the design portions of the business, and she has no plans to invade the construction part of Gem Steady. She has plenty of confidence that Bobby can bring her designs to life. “I always feel confident that whatever he produces is going to come out absolutely beautiful.” Said Brittany. “He has a good eye for detail so I am always really proud to show off all of his work.”
A seemingly never ending list of orders would leave one surprised to discover that Gem Steady is still a fledgling business that is less than a year old. “I was drawn to the whole jewelry making thing about a year ago and it has turned into this.” Said Brittany. Through the power of social media, Gem Steady experienced success practically over night. “I started posting on Instagram and Facebook, then I told friends and family and started spreading it that way.” Said Brittany “I think Instagram has been our best marketing tool so far and I am always trying to expand that.” Gem Steady has captured the attention of locally rooted folks and they have loyal fans as far away as Australia.
In less than a year Gem Steady has reached nearly 200 sales on their Etsy store alone and Gem Steady has reached over 1,200 followers on Instagram. Outstanding, personalized customer service and detailed craftsmanship have customers raving and returning for more Gem Steady pieces. “I am in constant contact with all of my clients, and I have one on one consultations with almost everybody if they get a custom design from us.” Said Brittany. “I like to follow up and make sure people are happy.” Brittany will even Skype with her customers to connect with them in a more personalized way than phone or email. “I think today, where people are so used to, press nine for English or automated things that the personal contact and customer service really make us stand out.” Said Brittany. Holly Bezold-Schweitzer, owner of a jewelry company and a long time friend of Brittany, recognizes something special about the dedication and passion that Brittany contributes to Gem Steady. “Brittany is a true gem herself.” Said Bezold-Schweitzer. “She will go the extra mile for her customer. She has talent and it shows in her designs.”
With each surge of popularity that Gem Steady receives, Brittany and Bobby are challenged to produce jewelry for their growing number of clients in a timely manner. Bobby is no stranger to slaving over his welding tools from dusk until dawn and he credits his countless cups of coffee for giving him the energy to make it through the day. “With Bobby being the only one making the stuff it can be a challenge to even keep what we have stocked.” Said Brittany. “In a years time I would definitely hope to see some change with that, whether we only sell in our own store and a select few others or hire more bench jewelers to help with the designs.” In addition to Gem Steady’s online Etsy store, Brittany is selling her pieces in five other stores, and she often has requests for custom made pieces.
There is clearly room for expansion in the Gem Steady brand, but for now the company remains firmly rooted in the Stadtmiller’s Northern KY home. In less than a year, Brittany Stadtmiller took her new interest in jewelry making and turned it into a successful business with endless support from her friends, family and husband. “Brittany is honest, she’s funny, slightly cut throat and slightly laid back.” Said Bobby. “ It’s a good mix and blend of wants, desires, thoughts and ideas.” Brittany predicts a substantial growth within her business in 2014, and she will have Bobby, friends, family, and her pet possum, Milkfoot, supporting her each step of the way. “I have a personal and professional friendship with her and it has been amazing to watch Brittany and her business grow into something extraordinary” Said Bezold-Schweitzer. “She is a very hard worker with true determination, passion and drive.”