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Monday, January 25, 2016

Thank You, Cindy; We're Better for Knowing You

by Matthew A Perosi
I can only describe Cindy Edelstein as a tour de force within the jewelry industry whose presence can't be replaced. In the shadow of the announcement that Cindy had passed away at age 51 on Sunday, January 24, 2016, I sat in disbelief at the reality of losing a dear friend, and watched as a deluge of tears and loving comments flooded Facebook during the next several hours that evening.

As I looked at the shared photos and loving tributes, I noticed that Cindy always had an uncompromising smile and obvious joy to be with who she was with at that exact place and time. The title of Barbara Palumbo's tribute post describes the situation best: "The Day Our Industry Wept: Why There Will Never Be Another 'Jewelry Biz Guru'." Trace Shelton shared his personal Goodbye, Cindy stories with us too.

I share a lot through my daily post, in fact, every time I have a new experience or discover something interesting, my first inclination is to blog about it to let others know. I've written about a lot of new things and experiences, and it's strange to admit this, but I've even thought to myself that, if I died today, it's too bad I would not be able to write about that new experience. That said, I never considered that I would ever have to write about the passing of one of my friends, and business colleagues, but 24 hours later, I feel the need to share highlights of my own Cindy Story as my lasting memorial to her.

It might be a parent, a sibling, friend, or a business colleague, but whoever it is, we all have those we look up to and inspire us. It's just natural that we secretly hope to be noticed one day by those we admire. A hug and a kiss from our parents, a loving punch from our sibling, even a simple pat on the back along with a "good job" is enough to keep us going.

I never expected my daily blogging to gain much attention. I just wanted a few jewelers to find it useful. As any aspiring blogger, I had some hopes that my writing would get picked up by one of the trade magazines, or mentioned online by another blogger or industry expert because it would help raise awareness of my cause: That the jewelry industry needed to transform and embrace internet technology.

I eventually started gaining some recognition, but there were a handful of industry experts that I looked up to, including other bloggers, journalists, and speakers that I had hoped to one day have the honor of meeting or sharing a stage with.

And share a stage we did. It was November 3, 2013 when I first met her in person at MJSA ConFab. Cindy, Eugene Brill, and I were on a Digital Marketing panel moderated by Peggy Jo Donahue. During the Q&A session, Cindy referenced my writing a few times, which was certainly larger recognition that I had expected from her. I don't remember what it was, but something she said made me scramble for my smartphone and take this photo:

Eugene Brill and Cindy Edelstein, ConFab 2013
Eugene Brill and Cindy Edelstein, ConFab 2013

Up until that moment, I had no idea that Cindy was one of my avid readers. Our friendship pretty much began the following day as she planned for me to be one of her special webinar guests.

As is so common in our industry, most of us use email and social media to keep in touch until the next time we meet face-to-face at a trade show where we have a little time to share more personal stories.

Although she certainly was a social media maven on her own, she often emailed me asking for my insights on more technical details of the internet. In fact, her last question to me was just 10PM on Friday night. She showed significant dedication to be working that late on a regular basis, although I'm sure she was also watching the beginning of Winter Storm Jonas out the window. I was working on a reply to her email when I heard the news of her passing. I'll be publishing her email and my reply later this week, because, the answer to her question is something everyone should know.

On a business level, we had hoped to rekindle a special website to help new jewelry designers gain recognition and give retailers an easy way to discover new talent. We didn't expect to make much from a project like that, but we knew it would be good for the industry. That pet project of ours kept getting deferred by other family plans, like my wedding, vacations, or getting her daughter, Remy, ready for college.

Although I only had the privilege of calling Cindy my friend for a little more than two short years, I quickly learned that she got to know who she worked with a personal level. Those personal connections created deeper level of trust when making recommendations and introductions, which she did for me several times.

Her trade show sessions were always well attended. You can see here how eager these jewelry designers were to sit at a table and have an open Q&A with her:

Cindy Edelstein, MJSA Expo 2015
Cindy Edelstein, MJSA Expo 2015

When her round table Q&A concluded, shortly after I took the above photo, she called me over to help answer some technical website questions that one of those designers had asked. She introduced us with something like: "You two need to talk. Bob, Matthew can answer your questions; and Matthew, you have to hear Bob's situation." These types of introductions were common from Cindy. As I look back through my email conversations with her, I find myself surprised with how many times she sent virtual introductions to me and someone else, or I got an email from someone saying "Cindy told me to ask you for help." She never asked for an update, if that designer became a client, or for a commission; she simply wanted to make sure the right people were working together.

She was great at getting the right people to collaborate and support one another.

During our conversations at trade shows, I would bounce an idea off her to help gain clarity or better direction, and she would give me her honest opinion, without sugar coating it. She never sugar coated anything she presented in her seminars either, from hard facts about pricing your jewelry to the latest design trends she was seeing. She also added a touch of humor when explaining the truths about business, as you can see here:

Cindy Edelstein, MJSA ConFab 2014
Cindy Edelstein, MJSA ConFab 2014

She was more than thrilled to see the photos from my wedding in France. Although she was always supportive of same-sex weddings, she respected my reluctance to share photos of my husband, Jamie, and I online. I explained that I didn't want posts of a personal nature, which some in the industry disagree with, to cloud my message of raising awareness of new internet technology. She told me that people would get over it. I shared with her, as I am with you right now, the special meaning behind why I often post photos of a glass of rosé and a pint of Guinness. While other couples will post selfies in a restaurant, my rosé/Guinness photos are my covert way of telling my friends that my husband and I are out to dinner. Again, I simply don't want to cloud the business information I share socially with my personal life.

When it came to married life and children, she often spoke of her daughter, Remy, and how she let her have a path of discovery. She encouraged me to explore the options and hurdles my husband and I would have to overcome if we decided to start a family. When the opportunities finally arose, she was overjoyed to finally meet Jamie in person at the JCK show in June 2015. Although I had also spoken with and emailed her husband, Frank, on many occasions, it was not until MJSA ConFab in October 2015 that he and I finally met.

I do regret one invitation I never took her up on. She had encouraged me to get involved with the Women's Jewelry Association (WJA), and offered to help with initial introductions. Sadly, my travel schedule over the last few years has simply prevented my attendance. She felt strongly that I could contribute, although she never shared her exact vision of how.

While she was nagging me about WJA, I often nagged her that she needed fair representation of mens jewelry in her Cindy's TrendTracker photo gallery on National Jeweler. I assume she enjoyed the friendly teasing as much as I did.

In early 2015, about 6-months before the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, I asked her advice and opinion about forming the Jewelers Equality Alliance (JEA). I still remember her saying "If anyone can show retailers how to reach the LGBT community, it's you, Matthew." Her support of JEA also included the opinion that it would help those who care, and those who oppose it are people we should not care about anyway. Embracing that opinion is why I began sporadically posting personal photos of my husband and me online, although the rosé/Guinness photos are still common.

Cindy obviously loved and supported everyone she worked closely with, and I certainly did my best to give it back to her any way I could, although I probably had the better end of the deal there. Earlier this month I celebrated the 6th anniversary of my jewelry industry mission to educate. In that post, as I recounted where I've come from and where I'm going, I also included a list of important people who supported me in 2015. Looking back on that list, I see Cindy's name right there at the top. Her reaction to me thanking her was one that can simply be described as "typical Cindy," shown her:

Congrats Matthew, Cindy

There's emptiness in the air today as the jewelry industry certainly has lost an incredible person. While many of us in the industry are feeling that loss, I'm sure our grief is nothing compared to that of Frank and Remy. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with you. I also have to thank both of you for allowing Cindy to become such a big influence on the jewelry industry. Her dedication most certainly took her away from you guys often, but know that she kept you with her all the while.

As a final goodbye, late last night, Jamie and I ventured out specifically to raise these glasses in your memory.

Thank You, Cindy; Were Better for Knowing You

Rest in peace, my dear friend, Cindy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Complete Picture: JCK Talks - How the Game Is Changing: Big Data in Retail

by Matthew Perosi
The 2015 JCK Talks "How the Game Is Changing: Big Data in Retail" with moderator Mike Lees and panelists Tony Glowacki, Sam Mallikarjunan, Ara Darakjian, Monica Ermacora.

Here's our collection of blog and social media coverage of that event:

The jWAG Post:

Read the Daily Golden Nugget coverage of the talk here
The Complete Picture: JCK Talks - How the Game Is Changing: Big Data in Retail daily-golden-nugget-1278-26

These are the photos posted to Facebook:

Photos from this afternoons JCK Talks session:How the game is changing: Big Data in RetailHosted by Mike LeesWith...

Posted by Matthew A Perosi on Thursday, May 28, 2015

Here are the photos posted to Instagram:

This is the collection of live tweets from the session:

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"...serious kudos to you. We love your straight talk, pertinent information and plain language. I don't know how many industries have something of jWAG's caliber available, but I learn from the emails every day. Really, really nice work, and very appreciated."
-Cheryl Herrick, Global Pathways Jewelry