We recently caught up with Steven Perlmuter, a openly gay man living in Los Angeles, who designs jewelry and works in brand marketing promotions, to get a look at two industries that he feels passionate about.
Bambi Weavil: I’ve always enjoyed networking with you Steven over the years – what was it like growing up in Michigan?
Steven Perlmuter: Growing up in Michigan was great. There is nothing like growing up in the Mid-West, I think that is where I go all my values and big heart from! I live in Los Angeles now, which I love, however there is something to be said about growing up in an area where you knew all your neighbors and the kids all played together outside…that was my favorite part.
BW: What was your coming out experience like?
SP: The coming out experience for me was so much easier than I had anticipated. I was so fearful of what my family and friends would think, that I never thought about how it made me feel. I dated women well into my early 20’s, but it took a guy that I met and wanted to live with that made me finally realized that I was not being true to the people that I loved and even more so I was not being true to myself…I needed to be who I wanted to be, who I was created to be, and if anyone didn’t like that then they would not be a part of my life. I think with this attitude it helped me to feel good about myself, and in return it be comfortable in coming out. Everyone sensed that I was happy and 100% sure as to what I was doing, had I had any doubt I feel that this would have shown and I am sure that I would not have had as much support as I did.
BW: How did you end up leaving Michigan for Los Angeles?
SP: For some reason or another I was always telling everyone who would listen that I was going to live in California. Not sure why, I think seeing all those TV shows growing up with kids living in California I had hoped that one day that would be me. I always felt a bit out of place in Michigan, I had lots of friends, but never felt “at home” till I moved to California. In addition, I was not “out” yet when I moved to California, so initially it was also because I thought I could “start a new life” in California where no-one knew me, where I could be whomever I wanted to be.
BW: You have many diverse business and interests – how did you get involved in making jewelry at Stevie B Designs?
SP: My creativity started back as a little kid, as far back as I can remember. I was always creating and making things, my first introduction was from my Grandmother. She worked as a sales person at a jewelry store, and she ran the costume jewelry section. She used to bring home necklaces, earrings, etc. that were broken and I would take them apart and make new things from them. From there I went on to painting on clothing, and then I started taking old furniture (mostly stuff that would have been thrown out) and painting on them and reselling it, before repurposing was popular and being “eco” was not even a thought. From there it was many years later that I very dear friend, one I grew-up with, introduced me to “beading”. It was an instant love affair. I kept making pieces, and buying beads, until I realized that I was spending all of my “extra” cash on this new hobby. After making pieces as gifts for people, I started getting requests custom made pieces. Before I knew it I was selling via word of mouth. I decided to build a website from scratch after I was successfully selling over $500 per jewelry party I was participating in. I now not only have my own website, I am also on two “Artisan” sites (Etsy.com and Artfire.com, under seller: StevieBDesigns), I am also looking into pursuing this venture even more in the coming year by participating in more jewelry parties and events. I am most excited about also purchasing my very own kiln this month, one that will allow me to make my very own bead, pendants, etc…making my pieces even more so one-of-a-kind designs!
BW: You also run your own promotional marketing and corporate gift store – how did that become your passion?
SP: I got into the promotional products business because of my passion for doing something more creative. I graduated with a degree in Advertising, which lead me to Advertising Sales. I wanted to be in creative, but at the time there were more sales jobs available and they brought in more money than creative did. I feel like I sold my soul to the devil, because I wanted nothing more than to be creative, but I went the easy more financially way of sales. I was very successful in sales and I did enjoy it, however my heart was craving more creativity. When I left sales one of my clients, who purchased advertising from me, approached me because she owned a promotional products business and wanted me to work for her. I turned her down numerous times before finally saying “yes” because I was not working and needed some money. After taking a “crash course” on promotional product sales I quickly fell into it and was caught up in sales again, However, this time it was different for two reasons. One, I could be creative in selling because I was helping find products for my clients that were fun for the most part, and we could even great creative in what products we chose, how we printed on them, and I got to even do custom made items as well…so this fed my creative soul. Two, it afforded me the time and money to be creative on the side. While selling promotional products I designed a line of bags for the urban business person. They were even featured in In Style Magazine, the gift giving section for the Holidays (the biggest issue they printed every year). And, then of course I was, and still am, able to get my jewelry business off the ground while selling promotional products. I genuinely enjoy selling promo items and corporate gifts to people, especially when I can put my creative hat on and come up with the actual perfect product for the perfect event.
BW: What makes your Promo Guy Online store stand out from the competition?
SP: My website is actually not that much different than other sites, were we differ is that the website for us is just a starting point for our clients. It is our customer service, our creativity and pricing that draw the people in. I want people to do their job, that is what they are there for, leave the promo items up to us…let us come up with the best products to convey the clients message for them. They have so much to do in their every day job, so leave this process to me, so they can be free to do what they need to do on a day to day basis. I feel a great deal of why clients come to us is because we can be so creative!
BW: What are your top sellers?
SP: My top sellers are usually the top sellers in the industry! Pens are still and probably always be the number one promotional product out there. With over 500,000 different items in the industry they are one of the “best bangs for your buck”…they are a low cost item, that gets used more than most products out there on a day to day business. T-shirts, are also one of those items that everyone wants. When worn, the message it big and bold and get across to so many people in a day. As far as new items, technology has really taken off in the past few years. These are more expensive, but are being widely used every day in corporate America and in our personal lives as well. The number one “techie” item are Flash Drives by far. I get requests for these every week!! Also, with the introduction of 4-color digital imprinting many more items have made a resurgence such as drink ware, key chains, etc.
BW: What charities and causes do you support?
SP: I would not say that there is any one charity that I support or cause, there are many. Of course anything within the LGBT Community and also Foster Adoption.
BW: In what ways do you work with the gay community?
SP: I both donate to the LGBT Community and I sell to them. I feel by offering the community “special pricing” I am also giving back to my “family”. I cannot donate hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I can save them that in purchasing!
BW: What would someone be surprised to know about you?
SP: That I not only am a big supporter of Foster Adoption, but I am also a Foster Adopt Father of two boys…ages 15 and 25. That was and is my biggest accomplishment to date, one I wouldn’t trade for all the money and success in the world.