Drive: Matthew Patton
Matthew Patton grew up in the jewelry business. A family-owned company spanning three generations, Patton’s Fine Jewelry is your typical, big retail jewelry store. After working for his family for several years, Matthew decided he wanted to give clients a more personal jewelry experience than the current retail model could offer. Sparked by a belief in quality over quantity, he left Patton’s in 2012 to open Cut Fine Jewelers – the only private jeweler in Baton Rouge.
In starting this business, you took a leap of faith in a way. What was the actual moment like when you realized you wanted to start your own business?
Entrepreneurship has been in my family for generations, so it actually wasn’t that difficult of a step to take. I enjoyed what I was doing – I just hated where I was doing it and who I was doing it for. Now, I love working with my dad. But I watched him make certain sacrifices when I was a kid and not be around for certain things, because he was a slave to the retail business model. I knew one day I was going to have a wife and kids, and I don’t want to have to make the same kind of sacrifices. It had nothing to do with wanting to make this much money or be this successful. It was so I could have that time in the future to do whatever I wanted to do. I have a lot of respect and gratitude for what my dad did to give us a better life. He did his best to make sure we didn’t want for anything. He worked hard for it, though. I want to be there for my kids, and I’d rather make less money doing it.
Was there any time when you questioned what you were doing?
All the time. The normal jewelry retail business model is proven. There are certain things you do on a daily, monthly, annual basis, and it works. You can be successful with it if you have enough funds to back it up and you treat people right. So for me this was uncharted territory. Do I really want to do it this way, or do I want to do it the way everyone else is doing it?
It’s not about making money. It’s about making people happy.
What has proven to be the most challenging part of being a business owner?
There’s no “Owning a Business for Dummies” book. You have to take things every day as they come on. Marketing is a huge challenge, being such a small operation compared to some of the other jewelry stores that have been here for decades. But there are over 20 different jewelry stores in the greater Baton Rouge area. Obviously there’s plenty to go around for everyone if they can all survive. I’m hoping I can capture a better segment of the market, because the way I’m doing things is so different. But marketing challenges are definitely up at the top of that list right now.
I looked for mentors. In some of the other big cities around the country, there are guys who do it this way. The difference is, there’s nobody my age. The most recent one I found had been doing it for about 12 years. You can ask people how they established themselves years ago, but so many things have changed. The principles for founding that type of business don’t work the same way they would today. The jewelry industry is kind of cut-throat now with the Internet becoming such a big player in it. Without help from other people running a private jewelry business, I might not have been able to do it this way.
Anything else you would like to add?
I started this business because I wanted to make sure when I got up to go to work every day, it was something I looked forward to doing. I remember something Steve Jobs said. Basically, when you get out of bed every morning, and you hate doing what you’re doing, and that happens for too many days in a row, there has to be a change. That was a big driving force for me. It was around the time I was figuring out how I was going to leave Patton’s, and things were getting really emotional for the business. Do what you want to do and make sure you enjoy it. If you’re in retail, it’s not about money. It’s about making people happy. And if you take care of people and make them happy, there’s no way to not be successful.