The figure jumped from boat deck to pier to boat deck. Watching the boat rise and fall with the storm, he perfectly times his jump and leaps, like a real-life Indiana Jones.
A messenger bag filled with today's collection slams against his hip as his sneakers slip for a second before gripping the rain-soaked pier.
It's a scene repeated many times as Kevin Canning travels the world with three goals:
So far he's succeeding…
"Pearl lovers are a special breed," says Canning, owner of Pearls of Joy. "They're different from people who are into other gems such as diamonds and emeralds."
The reason for the difference is that Kevin's gems are alive. Created within a living organism that only thrives in pristine waters. Not an inert stone or metal ripped from the ground, milled and burnished until valuable.
It's easy to understand Canning when he says, "I'm not saying pearl people are better. I'm just saying pearl people are different."
His quest for pearls has taken him to the Orient, Australia, Indonesia, and The Philippines. Asia is especially close to Kevin's heart. He started looking there as he zeroed in on the small and underrepresented pearl/jewelry niche.
Back at his shop Canning grins as he sets another shipment on his battered wooden workbench. A veteran pearl buyer, Canning is based in California where he sells direct to the public through his website www.PearlsOfJoy.com.
At the start of the twentieth century, Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto Kokichi began commercializing cultured pearls. Scarce, natural pearls plucked by hand from sea beds, were replaced by science.
The economics of the pearl industry changed forever.
The global market for pearls is approximately $10 billion dollars. Canning intends to grab a large portion of the market as he continues to thrive on a direct-to-consumer business model.
Pearls Of Joy offers high caliber pearls at surprising prices. What Kevin doesn't offer is pushy sales staff and fancy displays in an expensive showroom.
Canning found that by cutting overhead and 'leapfrogging' the standard supply channels he could offer a product comparable to luxury brands and reduce the cost by 80-percent.
Pearls for 1/5th the price of tradition retail?
Jewelry often has margins of 300%. That increases for luxury retailers where the customer also pays for the displays, carpeting, fancy wall prints and sales staff. "Our pricing model can create problems for the new client as they sometimes begin to wonder how quality can be so inexpensive", admits Canning.
With the direct-to-consumer business model employed by Canning, a strand which commands $2000+ at a traditional jewelry store, he can sell for around $500. The gap between Pearls of Joy's price point and traditional jeweler is wide and growing. Much to the delight of the over 30,000 customers he's served.
And people are noticing...
A pearl necklace created by Pearls Of Joy was central to the plot in the 2007 movie "Freedom Writers" and was worn by Hillary Swank. Kevin and his pearls have also been featured on "Today Show," "The View", Forbes, Huffington Post, INC. Magazine and more.
Educating the Masses…
Kevin sees educational content as fundamental to Pearls of Joy's growth. After all, an educated buyer will recognize the quality and value of his products.
"We're different in that we spend huge amounts of time putting together educational content," Canning told Inc.com.
"While a customer will risk $30, they may think twice before spending $300 - $10,000, unless you earn their trust." Building confidence through consumer education is a key part of Canning's strategy.
But it's not a 'quick-fix' for Canning. Educating the consumer is a long-term strategy which began in 2004 when Kevin co-founded the largest pearl resource globally. The "Pearl Guide" has thousands of pearl farmers, dealers, consumers, and collectors.
Kevin's latest project — a "pearl specialist" training program. Co-produced with the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA) at PearlsAsOne.org, the program is an educational endeavour aimed at giving jewelry professionals needed skills as they promote pearls within their markets.
With a goal to certify over 25,000 peal specialists, the CPAA has already certified several thousand pearl specialists.