Hi #BeautifulAndCapable! Today I want to share with you my perspective on blessings as a genuine desire for another person to be well and do well. I want you to do well and be well. I want you to be seen, heard, and empowered out there in the big world. My jewelry is a part of me, and my heart’s desire is for women to feel beautiful and perfect. I make jewelry to bless women.
How I realized that I wanted to bless women
Things happen in life that harden our core and strengthen our resolve to succeed and thrive. I feel life is a game of running with hurdles to jump over, where we must jump over the hurdles in front of us. Sometimes, we actually have blindfolds on as we run and find out about a hurdle when smack full force into it.
After we are able to put a bit of a distance between us and that hurdle, we often slow down and try to understand: why did it happen? When we do, we can find a bigger meaning for our hurdles.
Once you’ve been through hard times, you never wish adversity on others. And you’ve tasted freedom and success, you may wish that same success on others, blessing them on their own path to victory.
We live in a land, in a realm of material competition, where others’ victories are rarely celebrated and actually used as measuring sticks of our own successes or failures.
I would love to transcend that sad notion and find a way to pass on the celebration and blessings of success to women.
My jewelry is in a way that “medal” if you stay with the analogy of a running race.
It is a reminder that you can do it, you can shine and bring the positive into your life. You are part of the strong winning team, and I am so proud of all your successes. I am on your team!
I hear many stories from my customers, sharing how they had an important interview and my jewelry gave them strength, or how they had to stand in a room full of people to present an idea, and my jewelry helped them feel grounded and courageous.
When I set the course to open my doors to Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery in Historic Norcross, it was not my intention to manifest that level of impact on women.
I was not seeking any personal stories. I was simply there, creating and dreaming, and yet the ripples of my blessings were starting to spread.
I love what I get to create, and through that, I love you, my perfect beautiful powerful woman. May what you wear from me brings you joy and courage wherever you are!.
How I discovered that my purpose was to inspire women
We are all superheroes on the inside in a way, and our powers at times have years to develop and manifest. I think I am only recently coming into a better understanding of my own super-powers.
I want to share with you my time looking for a job and attending a job fair at Michigan State University. To explain that better, I have to take you back to that young naïve 22-year-old immigrant girl with very little English at her disposal and a lot of hard decisions to make.
After a few semesters at CCNY, I had an opportunity to go to another school. That school was Michigan State and I was told it was a BIG TEN SCHOOL.
To an immigrant girl who has never even seen a sports game on TV, that wording had only one meaning – TOP TEN SCHOOL. And I was good enough to get in!!!
So, fast forward to my last year at that “top” school, with a 3.85 GPA in hand I thought I was invincible! I was a powerhouse that was worthy of any opportunity! And to no surprise, few top companies asked me to interview: Marsh & McLennan strategy consulting, The Procter & Gamble, GE Capital financial management and Andersen Consulting (Accenture) in the technology division.
Wow, the immigrant girl with a thick accent who had risen from nothing, only 4 years later was at a crossroads of the biggest decisions in her life.
I had an upper hand to choose where to work.
A little secret, not until my second week in Atlanta, in a training room at Andersen Consulting, did I finally learn what BIG 10 vs TOP 10 means.
And you know what, which school I came from did not matter in the end.
I had a complete belief in myself and that I was worthy of an amazing job. That power was what attracted all top dogs to ask me to work for them.
I felt invincible and that is exactly how superheroes feel when they realize their powers. All you have to be is confident in who you are and be inspired by that.
Over the years that truth became a cornerstone of my jewelry business and a new purpose has emerged: I wanted to inspire women!.
Seeing beyond what is visible in the gems and transforming them into something unique that did not exist before, getting inspiration from within and bravely showing that to the world through my creations, I was envisioning a woman wearing my piece and feeling inspired. That is what I do.
My own story is my inspiration, and as I look back at my long journey here in America as a Russian immigrant who went through homelessness and loneliness, I know that in my heart everything I create is meant to inspire you to step into your super-powers.
How I know what empowers a woman in any situation
Have you ever heard of power-tie consulting? Well, I think I am making up that exact term, but we all heard the stories of special consultants who help executives and powerful politicians select the perfect tie for a speech or a presentation.
That perfect tie speaks to the world in subliminal messages of exactly who you are looking at and your subconscious mind categorizes what you are hearing as favorable or not, partly based on that image.
How strange is it to know that ties have that much power! And so does jewelry.
Our jewelry, especially our necklaces, can have that same level of impact on the impression we make about ourselves.
When someone is staying close to you or sitting across the table in a meeting room where big decisions are made, they no longer care what shoes you have walked in wearing or that trendy purse you had in your hand.
All eyes are on you and your face, listening and looking at that “passport photo” size frame around your mouth. Your eyes and your neckline are in full focus, and that is when what you wear makes its full play in your favor (or not).
If you wear lazy, invisible jewelry that you draped around your neck just because it was there in your bathroom, or have a plastic trendy shiny something that takes away from your words, you got to believe that even a guy would make a subconscious notice of that and put you in a category of “she does not have a taste” or “she does not care.”
I’m maybe oversimplifying here, but what you have around your neck truly defines to the listener who you are. It’s the reality we live in.
I began helping women with styling jewelry by default. I could see the struggles an average woman had in understanding how to find the right jewelry colors, how to layer color, and what she should wear that would complement her face and enhance her appearance.
Layering colors could feel intimidating at first, but once you open yourself up to trying it on and playing with different basic ideas – you will become a master in no time and be able to create amazing looks that tell the world who you are.
During the opening night of my store, I was in a sheer panic regarding how to arrange my jewelry. Then, I simply went with my instinct and the very first idea.
I created color stories in each case that had something in common – a specific woman who would wear these exact colors, more specifically, I was thinking through what complexion she’d have and how she’d feel.
Ten years later, that very feature offered in my store is the most special, and our trained stylists enjoy helping women discover their perfect color combinations.
Understanding perfect colors are the first step, after that, we get to play to see what shapes and sizes and what scale of jewelry lets you shine the most and creates the image you ultimately want to project to the outside world.
There was a time I was contemplating: to leave my corporate job and pursue my own jewelry business or to stay complacent in corporate America…
Anyway, I took a leave of absence and applied to a New York-based prestigious tradeshow. The year was 2007.
I applied to this show, ENK, and was able to snatch a spot opened by the last-minute cancelation. I took it as a sign that this would be a great show.
Day 1 - nothing, not even one order… So, my confidence was wavering a bit.
Day 2 - nothing, I had not one order to take back, so I was questioning why I was even there.
After the show, I closed the door to my hotel room, turned off my phone, and turned on the TV. I felt embarrassed and not good enough to run a business.
I was asking silently into the Universe: “Why am I here now? Should I keep doing it or let it go?”
I mindlessly stared into a TV screen watching Janice Dickinson’s modeling agency show on Bravo. As always, she was rambling on and on about something, all decked out in a tiger-striped dress, fabulous hair and perfectly-done face.
She looked stunning!
The more I stared at the screen, the more I became aware of the necklace on her neck… Wait… What??? It’s mine! I made it!!!!
Just earlier that year I had my jewelry in the Oscars swag bags and handed some freebies to a few Hollywood stylists. So, that was not completely unrealistic to expect at some point to know someone actually wore my jewelry at a red carpet event.
But at that moment, as I shut off all the people so no one could deliver to me the answer, the Universe delivered my answer in the most unreal way.
The answer was placed front and center on Janice Dickinson’s neck for the full 15-minute monolog during the only show I stumbled upon that evening.
Janice was a powerhouse!
And my necklace was exactly that perfect piece that spoke volumes when she would pause for a breath.
I was getting a big fat “YES!” from the mistress Universe and I accepted it with gratitude!
Janice is one of the thousands of women who have experienced the power and magic of my jewelry for themselves. I am grateful for many stories of how my jewelry had an impact on women’s lives and helped a woman in the moments where she needed that extra boost of confidence and power.
I have clients who purchase my jewelry to celebrate their own personal victories in health, fitness, school, ministry, relationships, or careers.
Women who used to hiding their scars with high-cut tops because they could not find the right kind of jewelry shapes and size to wear over it and not rub on it.
I had powerful female executives who live out of their suitcases tell me how much less packing of the outfits they do now since they get to feel confident accessorizing and updating their looks by wearing jewelry that is unique, tasteful, and looks perfect on them.
I had women tell me of one specific piece that they only wear when they are most fearful, and that is their Power Piece. Women, who have forgotten how beautiful they are despite their dress size or anything external, feel elegant and classy when wearing my jewelry.
Women speakers share with me that, in their moment of forgotten words or unexpected interruptions, by placing their hand on my necklace they’re able to regain their composure and feel grounded.
We have families who create traditions of exchanging my pieces with each other as gifts or bring the entire family for shopping together and experiencing all that love and inspiration in my store - as a family.
What I was able to create is something far beyond my dreams. My heart is so full of love and gratitude. Thank you, Janice Dickinson, for saying “YES, YOU CAN DO IT!!!!” to me without even knowing it. Thank you.
I know what empowers women in any situation because I myself needed to be empowered in so many life situations.
I want you to know I am with you, you are not alone
If you never experienced a loss, you probably can’t fully understand what someone who lost a loved one actually needs in their moment of deep sorrow and heartfelt grief. To help someone in their grief, you yourself would have had gone through the experience of grief.
If you never starved from hunger, you can’t fully understand what hunger really means or what it feels like to a person enduring it.
If you were never scared of heights, you can’t really understand what it takes for someone to overcome that fear with courage and stand there looking down at the ground celebrating their huge accomplishment.
In my life, I’ve lived through experiences of feeling attacked for my identity, rejected for being perceived as “different,” invisible and insignificant because of my lack of teeth growing up, and even stupid because of my English skills.
Feeling like that is not anything I would ever wish for anyone.
BUT! Going through those experienced uniquely equipped and prepared me to help women who come to Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery in Historic Norcross with their fears, insecurities, hurts, pain, and heartaches. I can understand what women go through because I went through so much adversity in my life.
I can relate to a woman in need of encouragement because I needed encouragement so many times in my life. I can comfort a woman who feels invisible or lonely because I felt invisible and lonely countless times in my life.
The jewelry I create transcends invisibility. The perfectly-balanced colors I choose for my art allow for a piece worthy of being noticed. Even if someone wants to keep you invisible, that’s simply impossible when you wear my jewelry.
My experience with adversity armed me with super-powers, and what I create for you in the form of innocent jewelry is actually a powerful antidote for invisibility.
I grew up in a country that was drab and grey.
I was never told what colors should and should not go together.
Well, there actually weren’t too many color options for me to choose from because from what I was allowed to wear to school, to what limited furniture options we had in the stores, to the color of the wallpaper we had at home - pretty much everything was colorless. Except maybe the orange lipstick with green eye shadows most women wore. That was allowed. It was also all monitored and defined by the Government. And we were all taught from a young age: don’t stand out, be normal, be just like everybody else. I tried, only I had big dreams and genuine aspirations.
Today, I have no fear of mixing colors, textures, and shapes. I define those combinations, not the Government and not even the culture. I create from the most genuine place in my heart. I put myself in the shoes of a woman in a unique life situation and I try to feel what she needs to feel to persevere, survive, and thrive. Then, I create art that is ought to help the woman access her super-powers.
If you had ever seen or worn my jewelry pieces, you probably noticed their unique and memorable color combinations. I’ve been called a Queen of Color on Instagram by many designers, and it makes me smile every time I hear it.
This is how I want YOU to feel when you wear my jewelry: you are the queen and you are perfect and beautiful just the way you are. Be beautiful. Be you.
Blessed and inspired women - customer stories
One day I received a call about a customer who wanted to meet with me because my jewelry changed her life. She wanted to personally thank me. Her name was Melissa, and I felt incredibly touched and honored to meet this woman.
When I sat down with Melissa, she made me tear up as she was telling me her story.
Like many women, Melissa never felt beautiful and worthy. She did not typically wear jewelry. Recently, she had thyroid surgery and felt like that scar was the only thing that people noticed about her.
She was a pharmacist at Publix and came to Historic Norcross to cash her check at Publix Credit Union right next door to Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery.
As Melissa was leaving the bank, she saw a sight of my store windows displaying beautiful things and colorful, well-layered jewelry. She read the sign in a window: “Anna Balkan. Be Beautiful. Be You.”
The combination of colors and meaning behind the words in my tagline brought Melissa into my store. My employee Brooke was her first-ever stylist. With her gentle, loving hand, Brooke helped Melissa transform and see herself in a different light.
Melissa purchased her very first Anna Balkan necklace and earrings and was in tears of joy, according to her own story as she shared it with me.
She said to me “I felt so beautiful.”
She became a collector of my art and a loyal customer. Today, Melissa is retired and owns over 20 pieces that made her feel beautiful.
Another story that comes to mind is that of Jacquie’s from North Carolina.
She stumbled upon my store one day while in town visiting, and fell in love with the selection. Jacquie purchased a few pieces for herself. Over the following few years, her personal collection grew, and I got to know her when her story was featured on my blog.
At that point, Jacquie had already owned over 40 pieces of my jewelry and so she jokingly mentioned that she could open her very own store with that collection.
We became friends, and she let me into her life, sharing with me her personal journey. She shared about her son with a genetic disease which limited his quality of life and physical abilities. That affliction actually allowed him to experience the best of this world seeing only good in people. His favorite phrase was: “Isn’t life grand?!”
I was looking forward to meeting him one day, but in the meantime, our joke of opening Jacquie’s own store was becoming a reality.
As we began working on the plans and logistics of creating a sister store near Charlotte, NC, I sadly found out about her son’s unexpected passing.
I wept with her over such loss and knew I missed an opportunity to meet a beautiful human. Jacquie wanted the store to be something that she could call her own. She had always wanted to quit her corporate traveling gig and spend quality time with her son. I did not know what to say. Now, he was gone.
I went to the funeral, and she shared with me something that made me tear up again. “I will absolutely have the store because this is something Ryan wanted me to do and all that color made him happy.”
Today, Jacquie is a proud owner of her own jewelry and gifts store and we’re still friends. I know that my jewelry changed her life.
If you think these stories are unique to just women, I do want to share that we frequently have men tell similar stories to us. Men share how much they enjoy shopping at my jewelry store in Norcross and how on-point our selection always is to meet their needs.
Men prefer other men, and that is the best compliment we can ever hope for.
All men have to do is to show a photo of the woman they’re shopping for and tell us their budget. We help with the rest!
We recently had a chance to capture some thoughts from one of our veteran shoppers, Ed Jones.
Ed Jones is one of our favorite male customers! He has a great perspective on the shopping experience the Anna Balkan sales team provides to the men in our community!
“Who do I shop for at Anna Balkan? I have so many wonderful women in my life. I buy jewelry for my girlfriend, daughters, granddaughters, friends, and the daughters of my friends. I probably have between 8 and 10 ladies who receive Anna Balkan jewelry on a regular basis.”
When asked about his experiences here at Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery in Historic Norcross, Ed replies: “The [sales] girls at Anna Balkan are incredible. It’s so unlike any other shopping experience. They make shopping so easy! All of them are trained to match jewelry to women’s personality and coloring, so I’m always confident that I’m leaving with pieces that will look great on the ladies I shop for. Anna Balkan jewelry is unusual, beautiful, and all women love Anna’s jewelry.”
Ed tells us that if he could say one thing to other men about Anna Balkan jewelry, it would be: “Guys, it’s foolproof!”
So, we help make men’s next shopping experience easy, stress-free, and successful!
Our results? Blessed and inspired women!
I make jewelry that serves as blessings for women and inspires them. Please be my guest: consider this your special invitation to experience the blessings of Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery and to get inspired. I look forward to meeting you!