David McLean developed post-traumatic stress disorder after 20 years as a parole and probation officer that led him to make a career change. He found release in working with his hands, creating rings from old coins, which he has turned into a business.
David McLean traveled a rough road to reach this point. After being forced into early retirement by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2011, David – a former parole and probation officer – followed his creative side and began an online handcrafting business.
His business, Global Coin Jewelry, involves handcrafting rings from coins and it has given David the chance for a second career. Using simple tools in his garage, David forms silver, copper and bronze coins by hand and makes one-of-a-kind rings from circulated antique coins.
He can source specific eras and countries for custom orders. Thanks to the Internet, his customers come from around he world and his designs can be viewed in his online shop (GlobalCoin- Jewelry.etsy.com ).
David describes life now as being ‘very good’ and he believes it can be for others with PTSD as well if they follow their heart and their passions. I began my interview with David by asking him how he came up with the idea of making handcrafted rings …
A: I found an old Canadian penny on Campobello Island where I often go in the summer. I thought it was pretty cool and wondered what I could do with it. Then I stumbled across someone online who made rings from coins. At the time, I was off work. I was sick from being a probation and parole officer and I had the opportunity to start to look at what I could do differently in my life, knowing full well that I couldn’t stay in law enforcement and be healthy.
I knew that I wanted to work with my hands, something I wasn’t doing as a probation and parole officer, I wanted to be in sales and marketing and I wanted to have a presence online.
Q: How did you move from this idea to actually setting up a company and making rings?
A: I took a course through Ashworth College in jewelry design and repair and I started making rings from historical coins that are made out of brass, bronze, copper and silver. First I made them for my friends and family and worked out a technique where I was only using hand tools, not a machine press. It took off from there – I started selling on the Internet in August of 2011 and I haven’t looked back.
Q: Where are your clients?
A: Primarily, my clients are in the United States. What I call my hotbed market is the New York City area, Boston-Washington Corridor, Dallas-Fort Worth Area, the San Francisco Bay Area followed by areas in and around Chicago.
Q: Are your customers purchasing from you once or multiple times?
A: It’s both. I have first-time buyers but a lot of customers who come back again and buy.
Q: Who are your customers?
A: My customer profile is predominately female, 25 to 50 years old, who are buying rings for themselves or their loved ones. They are predominately just people who want to buy a ring to commemorate a trip, their heritage or just something that’s symbolically significant to them.
Q: So four years in how’s business?
A: Back in 2011, in my first two weeks, I had my first sale online. After that, on a yearly basis, my revenue has increased. I hear there is the possibility of a plateau, but that hasn’t happened. This business is lucrative for me and it’s growing. My customer base keeps growing. My sales continue to flourish overseas.
Q: How do you expose your business to a global market?
A: Well, that’s always a challenge with an online business. I’ve heard people say,“Well, you know, do what you love and the money will follow.”I don’t quite agree with that, I think“Do what you love and chase the money.” And the money is online. I have my own website, but there are so many websites that people can go to. So I started working at etsy.com – a website that is dedicated to craftspeople, artists, even some people that sell antiques. That’s where I found all of my customers. I couldn’t attract customers to my own website without spending a huge amount of money. At esty.com I am getting somewhere between 100 to 200 unique views per day at my shop.
Q: You can run your business from anywhere?
A: I could live anywhere in the world and conduct my business as long as I had a reliable Internet presence and also a reliable courier or mail system.
Q: How did you find out about etsy. com ?
A: I found out about Etsy just by doing a simple website search into a portal for craftspeople and artists to sell their wares. Their commissions seemed to be fair, much better than what it would be on eBay. So I gave it a try.
Q: How does the business relationship with etsy.com work?
A: Etsy is my marketing engine. They charge me $0.20 to upload my listing for a ring and then they take a 2.33% commission from every sale that I have.
Q: What are your goals in the next five years?
A: I want to increase my sales to make this a full-time occupation. Right now I put about 30 hours per week into my online shop. There is a huge marketplace out there for this and I want to have someone that I can pass off my knowledge to, someone that can take this over some day.
Q: Who would you like to pass this knowledge to?
A: I’ve never shared with anyone how I do what I do. But I would like to take my knowledge overseas and teach people who are in developing countries how to do this. You can do it from anywhere. I’m using very basic tools, the overhead is low and the startup cost for this is minimal. It’s easy to do once someone has learned the technique.
Q: Any advice for someone contemplating leaving their job and becoming self-employed?
A: Life is going to throw all of us a curve-ball, or two, and it depends on what we do with the next pitch. Life is too short not to take the leap. However, there needs to be some planning. I would recommend to others to save enough money to sustain yourself for about six months and start your new venture on a part-time basis. Then try to build up enough income from that to pay your basic needs and more.
Q: What is the best way to describe what you do?
A: I often say,“I can take a Canadian quarter and turn it into $30 US”. It would be a great way to open the conversation if I ever start public speaking.
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