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Weekend edition December 15, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

Five tips from the CEO of a year-round Christmas company

Joy to the World Collectibles is a well-known, international Christmas company based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

It’s been 27 years since Lisa Kelechava jumped into the business of year-round Christmas. The first year, she debuted with 13 ornaments. Two decades later, she has 1,400.

Joy to the World Collectibles is an international company that ships hand-crafted ornaments all over the globe. The company is headquartered in Knoxville; however, all of the ornaments are handcrafted by experts in Poland. When you walk into the headquarters, it’s like the North Pole of West Knoxville. Boxes filled with ornaments are stacked to the ceiling. “Glitterazzi” Santa Clauses are set out on display for marketing purposes, and the whole team is working away during the busiest time of year.

Kelechava shared the process, which starts with sketching. Once the sketches are complete, they get sent to the clay sculptors in Poland, who mold the shape of the ornament. Once the mold is finished, professional glass blowers shape the glass like the mold.

“The glass blowers do everything by hand. It is an art that sometimes it takes 15 years to perfect how they do their glassblowing,” she said.

Once the shape is finalized, a team paints each ornament by hand. Kelechava said in total it takes about seven days to complete an individual ornament.

Tip #1: It’s all about who you know

Before the launch of her ornament- making career, Kelechava was working in the TV news industry. She said she worked with A-list celebrities, which helped establish her rapport. She attributes her quick, successful launch of Joy to the World Collectibles to the help of some high-profile friends.

Courtesy: Joy to the World Collectibles

“I worked with several celebrities. I worked with celebrities like Betty White, Ted Danson and Sharon Stone. I was very, very lucky to know and have very high profile celebrities share about the ornaments,” Kelechava said.

Essentially, Kelechava harbored the “influencer- marketing” technique before the term was coined more broadly. In the initial stages of the company, some of the proceeds from purchasing the ornaments would go to support the celebrity’s organization of choice.

Once the ornaments gained enough recognition through the influencer method, Kelechava took marketing into her own hands.

“When it comes to networking, do not be afraid to ask for support,” Kelechava said. “If you really believe in something, you think you have a great product, don’t stop believing it. Because the minute you do that, you’re gonna fail.”

Tip #2: Think outside the box

Naturally, with a Christmas company, the challenge is making it profitable year-round. After all, Christmas only comes one time a year. Kelechava shared that challenge was one of the biggest roadblocks in the first few years.

“I thought to myself, I’m gonna have to figure out something because I’m still gonna have to run a company the other 11 months of the year,” she laughed.

Her solution was exploratory, yet effective in helping her accomplish her goal. Kelechava stepped into the realm of creating custom ornaments for individuals, companies, and organizations around the globe. She started making custom ornaments to go on the Christmas trees at high-end resorts, hotels and companies.

She also tapped into the collector market. Joy to the World quickly gained a reputation for creating collector lines: The Pet Set, Glitterazzi, Santa Clauses, Collegiate ornaments, Luggage tags, and more.

Tip #3: Make new friends, but keep the old

“I think you just have to study the market and study your surroundings. Pay attention to your customers. A lot of times your customers will give you the secrets that you may not see right in front of your face as an entrepreneur,” Kelechava said.

One example is her Pickleball Santa, who is so popular that she struggles to keep him in stock. Kelechava noted the age-range of folks collecting her ornaments, listened to the activities they participate in, and executed a product that would appeal to those interests. It’s one of the top sellers.

“You can scale your company in a lot of different ways, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to increase what you’re doing with your current customer base. If you keep a customer happy, chances are they’re gonna keep coming back,” Kelechava said. “Then, slowly by word of mouth or social media new people find our product.”

Tip #4: Work with people you trust

Courtesy: Joy to the World Collectibles

We asked Kelechava the secret to her scaling Joy to the World Collectibles, and her answer was “the right people.”

Since Joy to the World Collectibles unifies an international team, she has cultivated relationships between all parties involved for several decades. Kelechava shared that the US-based portion of the team takes trips to Poland to meet with the artists who work on the ornaments, they film videos with them, and build connection.

“I have excellent manufacturing support. I am lucky enough to use the best people on the planet who do this.,” she said. “When we did start getting larger orders, they stepped up. The people there are very proud of their talents and they are unbelievable with what they do.  They were happy to scale up their operations.”

She said the key to making the scaling process successful is to have strong partnerships, with people who are all aligned on the same mission.

Tip #5: Get comfortable with rejection

Starting out wasn’t easy for Joy to the World Collectibles, and is seldom is for startups in any industry. Kelechava said it’s really important to not get discouraged.

“You are going to get ‘no’ a lot more than you’re gonna get ‘yes,’ and you just have to be like a pillar of stone and handle that rejection,” she said.

Even successful companies, like Joy to the World Collectibles, have their good days and bad days. Kelechava explained that the pathway to success isn’t linear. Thankfully, she stuck with it. Now, Joy to the Joy to the World Collectibles has more than 75,000 followers on Facebook, they have 1,400 different ornaments for sale, and have shipped to thousands of zip codes.

Check out their full collection at the Joy to the World Collectibles website.


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