Women in Business: Amy Greenberg Leads a Century-Old Business
This is Part 4 of our series featuring successful women business owners throughout Iowa
In the year 1900, Amy Greenberg’s grandfather's cousin opened a crockery shop in Sioux City, Iowa, after emigrating to the United States from Lithuania. In that crockery shop, Amy’s grandfather also worked as a certified railroad watch repairman. When the crockery shop closed, he took over the commercial space and started buying gold. That was the beginning of the century-long legacy that is Greenberg’s Jewelers.
Today, under the leadership of Amy, her husband and her sister, Greenberg’s Jewelers operates seven locations in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. In this Q&A session, we asked Amy about her experience in the family business and the group that has helped mentor her along the way.
Q: What inspired you to join the family business?
Amy Greenberg: My parents were very generous in the way they offered us positions in the company. We all had careers before this, but not everyone has the amazing opportunity to be a part of a legacy business like this. My sister was a CPA, I had a finance degree and my husband worked in retail, so we all had business backgrounds. Joining the family business allowed us to spread our wings and my parents allowed us to also take part in running the company from day one.
Q: What financial resources have you found to be most helpful?
Greenberg: Honestly, ourselves and our education. After I got my degree in finance, I worked as a corporate lender for a major bank in Chicago. During that time I went through a lending training program and worked for three years as a lender. That helped me understand cash flow, budgets and costs, and other things related to running a business. And my sister was already a CPA when we came into the business, so she was able to handle the finances right away.
Q: Who are the people who have helped you along the way?
Greenberg: We had a really strong team within the family but collaborating with people all over the world has led to a much broader understanding of our industry and business. We have worked closely with a jewelry buying group based in California. The group is comprised of 38 companies of all different sizes. I have been able to learn a lot from that group. My dad had a good relationship with Glenn Rothman, who started the diamond brand Hearts on Fire. My dad was a mentor to him, and now he is a mentor to me.
Q: What have been some of the most rewarding parts of business ownership for you?
Greenberg: The financial rewards are a great motivator, but the most rewarding part is seeing the success of the people that are a part of your company and how they have grown over the years. There is a very significant group of people that have been with our company for a very long time and that dedication is very rewarding.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a business owner?
Greenberg: The biggest thing is, obviously, the coronavirus pandemic. My grandfather guided the company through the pandemic of 1918, but this one has been particularly challenging. We had to close all our stores for seven weeks. I worried about our people and how we were going to keep the company afloat. Our business has always been well-run and fiscally responsible, so those kinds of things never came into play until COVID-19. Aside from the pandemic, another challenge we have faced over the years is staying relevant to new and evolving customers. You must have what they want when they want it, but you also have to be there to support their choices and help them out.
Q: What have you learned about leadership as a business owner?
Greenberg: Leadership is always evolving, so you have to continually improve yourself and be the best you can be by improving your skill set. You need to be transparent and honest with your teams. Collaboration is a big part of leadership. You need to listen to and understand what other people express. Also, you can’t be afraid to make a mistake and, when you do, learn how to pivot and make it right.
Q: How do you achieve work-life balance?
Greenberg: First off, you must know yourself and what you need to be successful. I have had a nanny at home since my kids were born. She’s like family now. My husband has also been very supportive. He does all the marketing for the business and he works a lot, so it’s not just all on me. I also have a person who has worked with me for 25 years, and we are truly a team. Surrounding myself with people who support me and I trust is how I’ve been able to handle it all. I work all the time, but I’m not stressed by it.
Q: What advice would you give another woman who is thinking about starting her own business?
Greenberg: You have to understand the business you’re going into and you have to have a plan. Make sure you have a support group around you, whether it’s an accountant to help with finances or a women’s organization that can give you advice along the way. If you have a great idea, but don’t have a financial background, let the experts help you. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t figure out how to get it done and how to make it work, it’s not going to work.
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This has been Part 4 of our series featuring successful Iowa women business owners. Check back in a few weeks for Part 5.
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