It hasn’t always been easy for Georgia jeweler Doug Meadows. In fact, he’s seen some pretty dark times. Unlike other retailers who seamlessly moved from protégé to owner without so much as a blip, Doug’s jewelry career took a dip, actually several dips, that left him questioning himself and his future. But with the help of some amazing industry colleagues and Doug’s desire to make it work, he is now reaping the rewards of his commitment to his store, his community and this industry.
As a third generation jeweler, Doug and his brother David Meadows grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Their grandfather, Arthur Meadows, opened his trade shop in 1926 as one of the first tenants in Detroit’s famous Michigan building. Art did trade work for jewelers and carved out a successful career in the jewelry industry.
Growing up in jewelry led to Doug’s first retail job after high school. Having experience with the wholesale side of the business through his family business made Doug appreciate learning more about retail. After 6 years working in retail, Doug and his wife Mary moved to Atlanta, GA. With an already established business partner waiting on him, Doug walked into an upscale retail store in a major mall in Atlanta. As a 23 year old man, this leap into self-employment seemed to be paying off. But it was only two years later when he and his partner found themselves facing bankruptcy.
“That was a really trying time for me,” recalls Doug. “I thought everything was going to be fine, and then I found myself scrambling to figure out what to do.”
Turning back to his family, Doug asked his brother, Dave, to move to Atlanta, and in 1985 David Douglas Diamonds and Jewelry was born. This began a period of success for Doug as he and Dave tapped into their entrepreneurial spirits and used their profits to buy and open several other companies, including a pawn shop, a car wash and two other jewelry stores.
But in 2004 Doug found himself at another crossroads when his brother asked to split up the businesses and separate everything.
“Dave wanted to split up the stores and manage them independent of each other. I kept the Marietta location and he took the Woodstock store. There was no hostility or malice, it was just what he wanted.”
With a store where he was the sole owner, Doug found himself at a loss. While he had many years of jewelry experience he’d not really learned about the business side of a retail store. He knew little, if anything, about buying goods or keeping inventory straight. He knew he needed help.
“Dave and I are visionaries, and we often see where we want to go, but can’t see the details in between,” states Doug. “When I was finally on my own, I stopped worrying about what other people thought and knew it was up to me to make this thing work.”
He immediately found another jeweler who agreed to let him tag along on a buying trip to the JCK Vegas show. Without two pennies to rub together, Doug stayed in the cheapest hotel and worked off a shoestring budget, tagging along with his willing mentor. He learned a lot, but not about jewelry. It was the connections he made at that first show that have sustained and helped him grow to where he is now.
Doug didn’t stop there. He realized good business practices are the same regardless of industry so he started asking his orthodontist, his ophthalmologist and any other small business owner he knew to have lunch with him. He knew if he could glean even one golden business nugget from the meeting it would be worth it.
But it was his men’s bible study class that really paid off. It was there he met a business coach who he’s met with for almost 8 years now. The advice and guidance of this man have been an instrumental part of Doug’s success.
“I have to give glory to God for putting the right people in my life who helped me find the wisdom and understanding I needed to run this store. It’s not been easy, but I’ve always been able to overcome even the biggest obstacles with His help.”
Another key ingredient to the David Douglas Diamonds success story is Doug’s commitment to his community. For example, Doug started a writing contest in his local elementary schools called Dazzling Diamonds for Mom. Meant to commemorate his mother whom he lost to cancer in 1990, the contest asked the children to write about why their mom deserved a diamond. Eleven years later, and with more than 11,000 participants each year, Doug and his family continue to receive heart warming stories from young children extolling the amazing attributes of some amazing moms.
“In the beginning my whole family and staff would read through the entries and choose the winners, but now with so many entries and so many tender stories we’ve had to hand over some of that process to other people who help us.”
Likewise, after being asked to produce the custom sterling silver flip coin for the Hula Bowl, Doug now makes a commemorative flip coin for six of his local high schools. Complete with their mascot, name and initials, Doug gives each coach three coins which they use at their discretion. One coach used his to honor a player who battled cancer during the season.
“It wasn’t until the last 10 years that I found out just how important community involvement is,” remarks Doug. “I started out doing what was in my heart, but now it has become such a great way for people in our community to get to know us. I never knew just how much additional business it would bring, nor would I have done it for that reason, but it is one key component to the success we enjoy today.”
Always pointing back to his faith, Doug is the founder and president of Fellowship of Jewelers for Jesus (FJFJ). FJFJ was created to support other retailers and their desire to represent Christ. Specifically, FJFJ wants to help build excited jewelers that are effecting powerful change for Christ. He is also heavily involved in Life School International as a board of directors member and a donor. Life School International is a ministry-based organization involved in teaching, training and equipping people from all nations.
“I like to joke that I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks,” says Doug. “I’ve been closed down for getting behind on taxes and I’ve had to lay off 8 employees at once, but since I started out on my own I’ve grown my business 25% and I’ve just doubled my retail space. I’ve learned to seek out knowledge and not rush into anything. I’ve also learned giving back, even when you don’t have a lot, pays off.”