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Bloomfield firm delivers memorable proposals
Detroit News [ by Karen Dybis ]
Phillip Locke is something of a romantic: For his 10-year wedding anniversary, he took his wife to Hawaii and surprised her with the diamond ring of her dreams.
Escapades like this have made Locke well known among friends and business associates for his winsome ways. Locke, who thinks of himself more as an entrepreneur than a Valentino, decided to make the most of his reputation and turn it into a business.
The result is Engagements Made Easy, a Bloomfield Hills-based business that helps men find special ways to propose marriage to their girlfriends. Locke and his Michigan-based partner businesses use the client’s input along with their own ideas to create memorable proposals — including dining locations, flowers, transportation and other key details. Packages run from a few hundred dollars to up to $5,000 or more.
If the girlfriend says yes, Locke also can help the happy couple with engagement party ideas, announcements and wedding ideas.
The concept is even more appropriate when you find out Locke also has a background in jewelry and owns Premiere Jewelry and Loan, a Pontiac pawn and retail store. So he can provide engagement clients with advice as well as reasonably priced diamonds or other favorite gems to seal the deal.
Locke said he feels this new company is the ideal partner to his retail business. Not only do they work well together, but Engagements Made Easy could help him pick up additional clients, something that is very helpful in an otherwise sluggish market for luxury items like diamonds and jewelry.
Locke said the business, which he launched in April, has already spurred the interest of two potential buyers, one of which is looking at a two-carat diamond. He also has inquiries from four other people, a sign he believes that “the ball is rolling in the right direction.”
Indeed, Locke feels like he has hit upon such a novel service that he plans on creating a secondary yet complimentary business on planning anniversaries. The startup costs would be minimal largely because he already has an office and a basic Web site design. He also says he could use the same vendors as he does for the engagement firm.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” Locke said. “If you love what you do, it’s not work.”
It’s an idea that appeals to men and women, especially those who like to use the Web to buy diamonds, said Bob Epstein, chief executive of New York-based Jewelry Advisors Group, a sales strategy and promotions company for jewelers.
“Anything that can distinguish you from the competition is a great idea,” Epstein said. “People are savvy buyers and they’re doing a lot of price comparisons online. So if you can find a way to give them additional services and keep your overhead low, this is a winner.”
Meeting with clients and vendors in the Bloomfield office gives the experience a tony feel and is one more way Locke said he hopes to differentiate the firm from its retail business.
One of his early success stories is Allison Schneberger, who said she loved her surprise proposal thanks to Locke’s intervention. (Oh, and she said, “yes.”)
“I really had no idea and did not expect an official proposal because we had already planned the whole wedding. I can’t even describe the happiness I felt,” Schneberger said. “I felt so special and felt so much love in my heart I could hardly breathe.”
To gain free publicity, the firm developed a page on the social networking site Facebook, where it has nearly 100 fans after less than two months. Locke also is running a contest on the firm’s Web site to gather more ideas for proposals, helping him add to his list at minimum cost.
To aid the engagement, Locke created what he calls the “ring test drive.” A client who puts down a $1,000 deposit can show up to five rings to his beloved’s sisters, mother or friends to find out which ring she might like.
“If you can’t decide which one is right,” Locke said, “my jeweler can come up with a custom design based on what aspects of the rings you liked the best.”
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