Mrs. Craddock never dreamed of owning a business and was an English teacher for 25 years. She has grown Katie’s Jewelry to include two shops in Tyler, as well as stores in Lindale, Lufkin, College Station and Fredericksburg.
Mrs. Craddock shared her story Tuesday to a group of mostly women at the 15th annual Women Entrepreneurs Conference, hosted by Tyler Junior College Small Business Development Center.
The event was rebranded this year, with a new name, place and time. About 235 people attended the conference, held at Green Acres Baptist Church CrossWalk Center, said Kay Bookout, staff coordinator for the Tyler Small Business Development Center.
Mrs. Craddock grew up in Dallas, where her father was a manager at a hat factory. He would get off work tired and sweaty but had a smile on his face and always seemed happy to see Mrs. Craddock and her two sisters.
After the hat company closed, her father got a job in Tyler as a traveling salesman. Mrs. Craddock said she regrets never asking her father how his day had gone or how he liked his job, she said.
Her late father saw her graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University, get married and have three sons, but he never got to see her go into the retail business.
“I tried to follow in his footsteps,” she said. “I think he’d be proud today to know I was in the retail business. … He gave me the foundation that although I may not have realized I was receiving, I was receiving.”
About 30 years ago, while Mrs. Craddock was teaching English, her husband, a truck driver, came home with $300 worth of twist beads. They were a big fad at the time, and she took the beads in a briefcase to sell to fellow teachers. Soon her phone was ringing with people wanting to come to her house to buy the beads.
Mrs. Craddock, 68, began selling the jewelry at First Monday Trade Days in Canton in 1981. Her first simple booth took about 15 minutes to set up. Today, she is traveling to Canton to spend eight hours to set up her booth for this weekend, she said. Selling her wares in Canton helped grow her business, she said.
She rented a small store on Golden Road. As new jewelry fads were introduced, the business began to branch out, and they also began making custom necklaces.
“I remember the first day we grossed $100,” she said. “I was elated. I felt I was truly an entrepreneur.”
Mrs. Craddock and her husband of 44 years, Bill, began doing weekend shows with a traveling arts and craft company.
In 2003, Mrs. Craddock retired from teaching and went on the road full time with her husband. They continue to work with each other running the business and still say “I love you” at the end of the day, she said.
The second Katie’s Jewelry store opened next to Jason’s Deli and remains there. Mrs. Craddock said it was risky expanding the business to two sets of employees, payrolls and schedules, as well as more merchandise.
Now, Katie’s Jewelry has two Tyler stores, as well as shops in Lindale, Lufkin, College Station and Fredericksburg. The newest store opened at 2641 Park Ridge Drive, near FRESH, in December 2011. Mrs. Craddock said they still do the traveling shows and Canton, and they travel about 24 weekends out of the year.
“We’re learning as we go and that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “We may not know what tomorrow holds but we’ve been blessed to have had the past.”
She said “women’s goals must be greater than we can reach but we have to keep on trying to grab them.”
Mrs. Craddock said she unknowingly learned from her father about determination to achieve — even in risky times. She said she is thankful everyone has the opportunity to reach for their dreams and those things that may be a little beyond their grasp.
Through an exhibitor speed-dating event at the conference, three women received the chance to talk to the luncheon audience about their businesses.
Joy Williams moved to Lake Fork from Austin, developed 20 acres in the Emory area and turned it into North Shore Landing, which opened two years ago. She and her husband run the RV park, which also offers guest houses and cabins, she said.
Debbie Overland talked about her business, Manage Your Busy Life Inc. After working for a Fortune 500 company, she started her own business.
“I have a passion to help people understand their paperwork and finances,” she said.
Mayor Barbara Bass served as master of ceremonies and told the audience, “Your success starts with you.”
She encouraged them to take their great ideas, get access to local resources, such as the Small Business Development Center, to start and grow their business. After they have succeeded, she asked them to give back by helping someone else get their business running and make it successful.
Pink Tumbleweed held a spring fashion show during the luncheon. Workshop speakers at the event included Brian Brandt, of Core Insights; Carolyn Brooks, an author, speaker, business owner and entrepreneur; and Marc Wilson, a nationally recognized retail management consultant. A panel of business professionals conducted a question and answer session.