Year in Review: A Letter from Aziz Basalely, CPAA President
New York City. Feb. 3, 2019. The president of the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA) has a message for members: the CPAA is stronger than ever after many changes and milestones, and more accomplishments are still on the horizon! The owner of Eliko Pearl recently shared a letter with the CPAA membership to remind them of all the impactful changes made in the past year. A snapshot of his letter is below.
Thank you for the trust and commitment you place in your all-volunteer board. We are pleased to report that our financial position is solid, membership has increased, the pearl business is healthy, and we have been increasing CPAA’s visibility in exciting ways. See below for highlights of the year’s achievements.
Website. This was the first task of 2018! CPAA redesigned its website to reflect compelling pearl visuals, a more user-friendly experience, and clearly outlined member benefits. Now, newsworthy information and press releases, original content, and membership details are updated monthly so members and pearl aficionados can stay up to date with CPAA happenings and projects.
Pearls As One (PAO). CPAA has now enrolled more than 46,000 students in the English-language version alone and translated PAO into nine other languages, including French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, and Vietnamese. Global pearl brands Jewelmer, Atlas Pearl, and J. Hunter are just a few who are not only contributors but also use PAO for their own inhouse educational training. PAO education extends far beyond the scope of an online educational course—this is education which impacts multiple aspects of our entire industry. CPAA also partnered with myriad trade groups, including the Women’s Jewelry Association, The Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, The Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF), The Gemmological Association of Great Britain, The Gemmological Association of Australia, The New Zealand Gemmological Association, and more.
Social Media. Thanks to funds from the government of Tahiti, @pearlscpaa was able to hire a growth-hacking firm to help increase its Instagram following to more than 10,600 fans! Watch for strategized posts and educational PAO snapshots next year, in addition to ongoing re-grams of member imagery. CPAA also conducted several influencer campaigns to help boost the followings of CPAA and member participants. Live video interviews with members and potential members also occurred during AGTA GemFair Tucson, JCK Las Vegas, and Couture.
International Pearl Design Competition (IPDC). After a major overhaul and the creation of two new divisions—U.S. and international—the IPDC, now in its 9th year, is generating more buzz and excitement thanks to a retail component and live judging. U.S. division finalists are now judged in person rather than from pictures, while the international division remains judged from photos. U.S. division winners and some Honorable Mentions then went on a retail store tour to generate more exposure and try to generate sales. The benefits of this project are multi-fold: to increase awareness for pearls, encourage designers to think about using more pearls, media exposure with a long shelf life (contest promotion begins in June and this year’s store tour ends in February 2019), and a revenue driver. The stores on the retail tour are The Clay Pot in Manhattan, Max’s in Minneapolis, and Devon Fine Jewelry in Wyckoff, N.J.
CIBJO Membership. CPAA joined CIBJO this fall in order to have a more authoritative role in jewelry legislation (the Federal Trade Commission routinely seeks out CIBJO opinions). With voting rights, the CPAA can now be present during key meetings with the international pearl community to be sure the voice of the U.S. cultured pearl industry is heard.
Jewelers of America Fine Jewelry Editor Preview in New York City. The preview took place on September 26 and offered high visibility for pearls with focus on trending design. Luxury small leather goods were the supporting theme this year, while the overall goal is that attendees pay attention to pearls! Editors, stylists, bloggers, and freelancers were the audience, as this preview is CPAA’s major live connection with the media.
CPAA-Produced Members-Only Pearl Supplement. This now self-published, expertly photographed, written, and designed mini magazine supports members exhibiting at any of the Las Vegas jewelry shows in early June. The new supplement is a gorgeous and completely custom product with original photos and content thanks to longtime marketing director Kathy Grenier and new part-time executive director and seasoned and award-winning jewelry editor Jennifer Heebner, whose combined talents were able to reimagine the supplement and give participants an amazing value for their money. The cost is now less than ever, yet participants get more than ever, including a company profile written by Heebner. If you are not participating, you are missing out on a great opportunity, because even if you don’t exhibit at the Las Vegas trade shows, people need to know about your company! Also important: CPAA does not take a profit or make revenue from the supplement; this is produced at cost as a true member benefit.
Booth at AGTA GemFair Tucson. Last year, CPAA debuted an entirely different exhibit at AGTA—a welcoming lounge concept complete with a phone-charging station and a CPAA video running on a loop to talk pearl to many people with whom we would not normally meet. We also had a step-and-repeat backdrop against which we conducted live interviews for social media. This year we will strengthen the concept further with better signage, poster displays of IPDC winners, and stanchions that will better define our space. We will also officially present IPDC awards to winners at the booth immediately preceding the annual Pearl Soirée—known as “the event of Tucson.” The party will take place at a new venue! Reach out to Jen at Jennifer@JenniferHeebner.com or Kathy at Kathyspearl@gmail.com for more information or to attend.
Members-Only Newsletter. Sent directly to your inbox, a members-only newsletter exists to make announcements that require your attention and response and to share newsworthy information, pearl-specific articles, editorial opportunities, and more. This content lives only in the members-only newsletter; it does not live on CPAA.org because the content is for members’ eyes only.
Shells Newsletter. Shells has the biggest email list in the trade at more than 30,000 subscribers! Shells is a vehicle for sharing CPAA content that is housed on CPAA.org and is a powerful way for CPAA to communicate about pearls. Your CPAA staff (Jen and Kathy) develop newsworthy materials and information for scheduled email campaigns that reach a targeted audience of retailers, media, dealers, and Pearls As One graduates.
Benefactor Funding. After a long hiatus, Tahitian Pearl Association of French Polynesia (TPAFP) became a benefactor again with renewed enthusiasm and financial gusto, allowing the CPAA to better promote PAO, grow its base of graduates, and expand its Instagram account to an influencer-like level. CPAA continues to be grateful to its other longtime benefactors—the Japan Pearl Exporter’s Association, Jewelmer, Paspaley, Atlas Pearls, and J. Hunter Fiji Pearls—for their continued support.
Articles in the Media. The CPAA has garnered myriad articles in the trade press as well as writing numerous articles for the trade press, including The GemGuide, InStore, and InColor.
Consumer-Facing Events. CPAA has been investigating potential consumer-facing opportunities, including sales and live educational events, for members.
Pearl-Motif Artwork. CPAA contracted with Hannah Becker to create a proprietary pearl doodle for use on promotional merchandise that the CPAA will offer for sale. The illustration is complete, and CPAA is now researching the best vendors to create merchandise in bulk, while individual items may be purchased now in the CPAA store under merchandise. CPAA also hired another illustrator to create reinterpreted images of iconic figures in pearls (think Jackie Kennedy, Coco Chanel, and Lupita Nyong’o in her Oscar’s pearl dress) for member use only. The illustrations are nearly complete and will soon be unveiled.
Have suggestions or want to get involved? Reach out to Jennifer Heebner, CPAA executive director, at Jennifer@JenniferHeebner.com, or Kathy Grenier, marketing director, at Kathyspearl@gmail.com.
CPAA is a nonprofit founded in 1957. The group comprises the finest manufacturers, wholesalers, dealers, and suppliers of cultured pearls in the United States, and its goals are to improve retail marketability of pearls and cultivate demand among consumers. Through promotion, education, public relations, and unwavering commitment to the category, CPAA aims to inspire an authentic passion for all cultured pearl varieties. For more information about becoming a certified pearl expert, please visit PearlsAsOne.org. To learn more about the Cultured Pearl Association of America, please visit CPAA.org.
Comments on this post (1)
Really interesting to hear about all the new promotional activities. It’s about time that pearls had a champion in the same way diamonds and the top 5 gemstones do.
— Anita Matharu