Mike Lohner: Direct sales guru sells fine jewelry

Mike Lohner, CEO of Burlingame-based Luxe Jewels, admits he’s a bit of amateur when it comes to identifying the traits of fine jewelry.

“I usually have to rely on my wife as a test for what jewelry is considered fashionable,” said Lohner, who was hired at Luxe in April. “But I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hired for my fashion expertise. I was brought here to build our brand, and to help solidify our direct selling strategy.”

Lohner attracted the attention of Luxe founder Jessica Herrin after he took over at Home Interiors, a foundering party supply franchise, and transformed it into a billion dollar business with 150,000 employees, mainly by employing progressive direct sales methods.

Luxe expects Lohner to make a similar impact with their company, which was founded in 2004, and whose products — exclusively created by established designer Maya Goldberg — have been seen on celebrities such as Teri Hatcher and Rebecca Romijn.

Almost all of Luxe’s revenue comes courtesy of independent contractors hired by the company to sell the products in grass-roots fashion. The vast majority of the company’s contractors are women who often use their earnings as a form of supplemental income.

One of the most popular selling methods employed by Luxe is the Jewelry Party — a gathering of interested customers who learn more about the latest products and designs by meeting personally with the company’s hired contractors.

“We really feel that our direct sales approach is a great way of empowering women in the workplace,” Lohner said. “This is truly an entrepreneurial enterprise for them. They are professionals who have either found a way to completely support themselves with this company, or have used it as a great way to make some extra income.”

Along with improving Luxe’s sales figures, which were more than $150,000 in March, Lohner is committed to establishing the company as a known commodity in the jewelry industry.

“We’ve been heavily discussing our overall strategies since I’ve been here,” Lohner said. “We’re investigating our marketing, sourcing, and manufacturing plans, as well as ideas of helping out our sales force, because they are truly the backbone of this company. I honestly see Luxe as a company with the potential to really thrive in the same fashion as Home Interiors, we just have to make sure we continue to stay true to our unique brand identity.”

Business

New project: Luxe Jewels, LLC

Last project: Home Interiors and Gifts

Number of e-mails a day: 150, not counting spam

Number of voice mails a day: 25 on a slow day

Essential Web site: Google

Education: BA in economics from BYU, MBA from Stanford; four kids — that’s an education!

First job: Door-to-door sales in Southern California selling home insulation

Original aspiration: To be a professional athlete.

Career objective: To make a positive difference for people.

Personal

Details: I make breakfast and box lunches for my little girls every day. I eat ice cream with a glass of milk almost every night, and my family tells me that when I am focused, I can’t hear them even when they are yelling from two feet away.

Hometown: Provo, Utah

Sports/hobbies: Golf, playing the saxophone

Transportation: I drive a BMW 550i or a black Toyota FJ

Favorite restaurant: Three Forks Steakhouse in Dallas

Vacation spot: Punta Mita, Mexico

Favorite clothier: Georgio Armani

Role Model: My father, Richard Lohner

businessBusiness & Real Estate

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