TLL Editor in Chief
Beauty appears to be the core philosophy behind Jewel Branding, a licensing agency whose primary goal is to bring beautiful things into the world and into our lives.
The company was founded by CEO Julie Newman (pictured above), who wanted to create beautifully designed products that appealed to her, reasoning that if she loved it, so would others. And Newman has gone to extreme lengths to make that happen.
Now one of the world’s leading branding and licensing agencies, Jewel has focused on working with artists, designers, and cause-related companies. It has also created its own design trend service, and is a major influence in the entire world of product design as a result.
Jewel also saw that licensing management software solutions weren’t necessarily designed correctly for the goals and tasks faced by the world of art and design … so they literally built their own from the ground up, called Artonomo.
That dedication to art and design is also what drew Newman’s partners and now the president of the company, Ilana Wilensky, to Jewel. She and Newman have now been close collaborators for about a decade now, and have steadily grown the agency into a global force.
The company has been named as one of the Top 20 Licensing Agencies by Licensing International, and boasts a global network with offices in North America, Latin America, India, Asia, Australasia, and Europe.
“Julie founded the company about 15 years ago because she wanted to support artists and create beautifully designed products that she would actually want to buy,” Wilensky says. “She saw a void in the market for trend-forward design in everyday products. When I joined Jewel about 10 years ago, with a background in brand licensing, we collectively believed there was tremendous opportunity to build design-based brands with a distinct aesthetic and an engaging story.”
And that is really what sets Jewel apart. Wilensky says Jewel is extremely particular about who they take on as a client. It’s not about bringing in brands that are already large and profitable, but rather focusing on people who bring beauty into the world. By working with those artists, Wilensky says Jewel can help people live in beauty, and help designers grow their creative genius into a thriving and profitable business.
“Our clients include a wide range of artists, designers, lifestyle and cause-related brands from all over the world, with the common thread that each client has a unique and distinct design perspective,” Wilensky explains. “Our goal has always been to represent a diverse portfolio of clients, because then we can offer manufacturers and retailers a global perspective with different design styles and unique stories to tell.”
While Jewel’s focus is clear, their clientele are still varied, because each one brings their own vision to the world.
“It’s hard to give a specific description for our ‘ideal’ client and it depends on whether we’re looking for an artist, designer, cultural institution, and so on,” Wilensky says. “What I can tell you is regardless of which type of client, the ones we’ve had the most success with are ones where there’s mutual trust and respect and an entrepreneurial spirit. You have to take risks in licensing and sometimes they pay off and other times they don’t—but you never know if you don’t try!”
And speaking of trying, I was fascinated to see that Jewel had built their own software, partly because I have my own background as a tech entrepreneur and software designer. Having founded and run a tech company for six years, I know all too well just how difficult it is to both build and market new software solutions.
But the people at Jewel had a vision that was focused on supporting the growth of art and design as a business within the licensing sector, and they believed proper licensing management was key.
“A significant part of our business is traditional art licensing where manufacturers need a constant flow of new and on-trend art, and that need has only continued to grow,” Wilensky says. “Over the last 10 years, we have built software to help support the growth of this business sector and it’s enabled us to scale our art licensing division. We were getting so many inquiries from artists and manufacturers about our software that we decided to market it and license it to other artists and art agencies—and so Artonomo was born.”
So, what types of clients do Jewel prefer to work with?
As Wilensky says, Jewel’s clients are varied in terms of their work, but there are a couple of things Jewel looks for to help identify a brand or person that’s likely to succeed.
“We have found that a brand coupled with a unique and distinct point of view is a winning combination,’ Wilensky says. “Not every designer evolves into a brand, but the ones that have a compelling and recognizable design aesthetic—and know how to market and promote themselves—have tremendous brand potential.
“Our client, EttaVee (by Jessi Raulet), is a good example,” Wilensky adds. “Her artwork has bold, colorful brushstrokes that are very distinct, and with a background in advertising, Jessi has a keen understanding of marketing and brand building which has enabled her to grow her brand.”
However, working with artists and designers is only one part of Jewel’s offerings as a brand and licensing agency. Because the team at Jewel is so knowledgeable about design trends, the company is able to advise companies large and small on everything to do with design and branding. To carry that out, Jewel built up its own Creative Services division, as well as a new service that offers trend research and analysis in beautifully designed, heavily researched reports called Trend Guides.
“Our Creative Services division helps retailers and manufacturers achieve their design goals and stand out, by providing industry-specific trend-forward design guides, product & packaging design services and more,” Wilensky says. “We also help brand owners and licensors with style guides, logo development, product mock ups, etcetera. We have many long-term clients who continue coming back to us for their creative service needs.”
The Trend Guides are a more recently established service, and Wiliensky says it’s become an important tool for companies wanting to update products, brands, packaging, advertising, logos and websites.
“We recently launched the Trend Distillery, a new creative services product that offers comprehensive trend research and analysis specific to consumer product businesses,” Wilensky explains. “Our team of expert researchers and trend forecasters analyzes trends in specific product categories and packages them into easily digestible Trend Guides. These guides provide businesses with in-depth insights into emerging trends, consumer preferences, and industry shifts, enabling them to make informed decisions about product development. “
When you meet the Jewel Branding team, it’s easy to see another thing that sets the agency apart, as the company is run by women, and almost all of the staff are women, with the company’s talented “Retail and Business Development Guru” Greg Wyman being the sole male in the executive team.
Wilensky says the company’s makeup also affects how it works, and whom it works with.
“I think we’re bringing to market brands and designers that may not otherwise have seen the light of day because they have a more feminine viewpoint,” she says. “With women being significant purchase drivers, it seems obvious that women should have more influence in product design and development, but that’s not always the case in every industry.
“Our culture as an agency is extremely collaborative, supportive and team-oriented, which I think is a key to our success,” she adds. “I can’t say for sure that it’s because we’re all women but we do have an amazing team.”