MBA student uses experience at Shop One to help grow her own business

Maddy Schoenfeld pursues an MBA to learn more about the business side of art sales

Antonia Garcia

Maddy Schoenfeld ’20 (metals and jewelry design) working on designs in her studio.

Some people categorize themselves as right-brained or left-brained when describing what they excel at—whether they are more analytical and practical, or more creative and artistic. Both sides have their value, and Maddy Schoenfeld ’20 (metals and jewelry design) believes that combining the analytical and creative can elevate a small business.

When Schoenfeld first started her business, Madison Sophia Jewelry, she was selling her work at local craft fairs. Now, her jewelry can be found in five brick-and-mortar shops in Rochester and, once she secures a new studio space, can be ordered online.

It takes talent to design a product people like, but it takes skill and experience to run a business. Schoenfeld got her first taste of management at Shop One—a contemporary design shop that showcases RIT-made art, craft, and design—and it inspired her to expand her jewelry business and pursue a graduate degree in earnest.

“It is hard to be an artist. It’s especially hard to be an artist without representation. Being able to do your own book keeping, talk to galleries, being able to market yourself—all of these things are really difficult,” said Schoenfeld. “As an artist in the community, I watch people struggle with these things because it’s hard to do if you don’t have a mind for business. Being able to do those things on my own now, and to be able to help other artists, is quite gratifying.”

Schoenfeld’s time at Shop One started with a chance meeting in James E. Booth Hall. She was selling some of her jewelry during a vendor day and her booth caught the eye of Wendy Marks, director of F&A galleries and Shop One. Initially, Marks wanted Schoenfeld to sell her work in the shop, but the relationship quickly evolved and resulted in Schoenfeld joining the team as a student manager, a new position crafted with her in mind. In December 2021, she was hired as the full-time manager of Shop One.

“When Wendy approached me, I thought, ‘that’s fantastic.’ I didn’t know that people would be interested and want to sell the work I was making as an undergrad. I sold some of my very favorite pieces in the shop early on, so Shop One was really my first representation. Later on when other galleries approached me, I was like, ‘oh, I can do that.’ I wasn’t scared to do it because I already had the opportunity to sell in Shop One.”

As she took on more responsibility, the veil of mystery around running a successful business wore thin. While she always had an “entrepreneurial spirit”—passed down from her father and grandfather— being a manager of a high-end shop changed the way she approached her own business. She got experience managing employees, purchasing wholesale products and book keeping, curating a positive customer experience, and more. The more she learned, the more interested she became in all of the logistics involved with running a business.

Her undergraduate education helped her hone her craft, but she knew she needed more knowledge to help her jewelry business thrive. When Schoenfeld learned about the RIT Master Plan Scholarship for graduate study in 2021, it was the final push she needed to apply to business school and pursue her MBA. Established in 2020, the scholarship enabled her, and other alumni, to pursue a master’s degree and receive financial assistance covering 45-50 percent of the graduate tuition.

“I have this very technical mind, it’s not necessarily just creative. It sort of was a natural fit for me to slip into business school. It felt like the right choice to make for me and my business,” said Schoenfeld.

Between taking on more responsibility at Shop One and the new knowledge gained through her MBA coursework, the future of Madison Sophia Jewelry became more tangible and full of possibility.

“Now, I can see where my business could go. I never really had that gallery experience before selling in Shop One and I didn’t really know what I was doing when I started the business. All of these experiences have helped me to be able to approach other retail locations. I also expanded into more wholesale this year, which has been interesting,” said Schoenfeld. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but being able to see the perspective of business owners has changed how I approach selling my own work.”

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